Last week the Texans began what may be a two to three year process of rebuilding their roster by releasing two starting offensive linemen in Senio Kelemete and Nick Martin. They were joined by running back Duke Johnson and inside linebacker Peter Kalambayi in what soon may be come a sweeping dismissal of Bill O’Brien era players.
When a regime takes over after the previous one has been overthrown, it’s customary to see loyal, overvalued constituents be ripped out root and stem. Keeping followers of the old system only slows progress. However, releasing two offensive linemen from a team that has historically been incompetent on the offensive line insinuates more than intended regarding the organization’s disposition to trade disgruntled star QB Deshaun Watson.
To put it simply, why would the Texans need to keep an expensive offensive line if it doesn’t have an expensive quarterback to protect? You don’t need a pricey insurance policy if you are driving a 2003 Volvo.
Nick Martin was drafted in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Rick Smith regime after the Texans let Ben Jones depart in free agency. Martin’s consistent performance was worthy of a starting role in the NFL as a center, but he never lived up to the expectations set by his six time Pro Bowl, four-time All Pro older brother Zach Martin. Nick did earn himself a contract extension in September of 2019 that made him one of the most expensive centers in the league, but he failed to play at the level his salary demanded by plateauing over the past three seasons. According to Aaron Wilson of the Chronicle, releasing Martin frees up $6.25 million for the Texans to spend as effectively as Frito Lay puts chips into bags.
Veteran center Nick Martin was due a $7.25 million base salary and had an $8.75 million salary-cap figure. Texans saved $6.25 million in salary-cap space by releasing him:https://t.co/5SIaWDuGOo— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) February 26, 2021
For Kelemete, his short-lived career in Houston was fraught with inconsistency and continuous attempts by the Texans to replace him. Left guard has been a weakness since Wade Smith left in 2013. Kelemete was an upgrade from Xavier Su’a Filo, but at times Senio could be regarded as the worst starter on the offense. Cutting Kelemete thrusts equally inconsistent Max Scharping into the starting left guard spot and frees up an additional $1.5 million of cap space.
The #Texans are releasing versatile veteran OL Senio Kelemete today, per the wire, creating about $1.5M in cap space. The 30-year-old has started 42 games in his career. They also released LB Peter Kalambayi.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 23, 2021
Without Kelemete or Martin on the line, the Texans are left with a skeleton crew of offensive linemen. Tytus Howard is batting .1000 on ending his seasons on Injured Reserve. Laremy Tunsil is making over $44k a day in 2021. Scharping was benched more frequently last season than the Texans won games. Zach Fulton apparently is going to be the new starting center, and there’s no reason to believe that’ll be a smashing success. Charlie Heck is what vanilla ice cream would look like if it was a football player.
Releasing two starting offensive linemen passively signals the Texans’ resignation of their ability to keep Watson. If Watson was already fed up with being the most hit quarterback in the NFL, do you think he’d stick around to play in a pocket with this cast of players? You couldn’t pay me the approximately $3 million that Watson could lose if he holds out for the entire preseason to come back behind this line.