Down here in doldrums, swimming in the deadzone, embarking upon the planes of the NFL offseason, ESPN turned to its beat reporters to have each one rate their respective teams’ offseason. They covered a quick summary, the main offseason goal, and the biggest question left to be answered. Here’s what Sarah Barshop had to say:
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Lots of change. Not only do the Texans have a new coach and general manager, but they also have 49 new players on their roster. Houston could also have a new quarterback, whether it’s because Deshaun Watson is suspended, on the commissioner’s exempt list, sits out or is traded. J.J. Watt, the face of the franchise, asked to be released to try to win a Super Bowl elsewhere.
Don’t Screw Up. The Texans did exactly this, past what was under their control, and what wasn’t. They alienated Deshaun Watson—leading to his trade request, further entrenched themselves to Jack Easterby, hired a general manager and a head coach without Watson’s input after promising to do so, released J.J. Watt without getting anything in return, held onto David Johnson, didn’t chase after young prospects to help the future of a rebuilding team, restructured contracts to create cap space this season to sign seventeen linebackers, traded up in the draft, and almost entirely ignored the UDFA pool after the NFL Draft. Nick Caserio was hamstrung by Watson, by their draft capital, but his total offseason was a mess. It lacked cohesion. There wasn’t an overall plan. The Texans tried and failed to improve their roster by chasing the cultural dragon.
Offseason goals: Find a new quarterback. Between Watson facing 22 active lawsuits alleging sexual assault and inappropriate behavior and him asking for a trade, it seemed unlikely he would return as the Texans’ Week 1 starting quarterback. On March 16, hours before the first lawsuit was filed against Watson, the Texans signed Tyrod Taylor to a one-year, incentive-laden deal. Houston also drafted quarterback Davis Mills with their first pick, but he’s expected to start the season as Taylor’s backup.
With Watson on the roster, the original goal was to appease him and build around him. But after the trade request and sexual assault Damocles, this changed. Finding a new quarterback shouldn’t have been the goal. Tyrod Taylor, fine whatever. The goal instead should have been to build the empty gaps in the roster with young talent in a search for cornerstone talent. The Texans found a backup quarterback in Davis Mills, not the future franchise fist pumping could have been a first round pick they have lied themselves into. Building a cohesive roster to make things easy for the next quarterback, whether a high draft pick in the draft, or a veteran making a change, should have been the goal. The Texans botched his too.
Biggest question still to be answered: What will Watson’s status be in 2021? The NFL’s investigation into the lawsuits and any possible criminal charges is ongoing, so it could be a long time before we know the answer. If the investigation is still going when training camp or the regular season begins, Roger Goodell could put Watson on the commissioner’s exempt list, which would mean Watson could not play while on the list but would be paid.
It doesn’t really matter. Houston is going to trade Watson after this season. The assault allegations are for the next team to deal with. At the heart of it, these allegations, and a possible suspension may only slightly limit what Houston can get for him. Watson is a top five quarterback. No matter what he’s accused of, someone will take a shot on him.
The entire roster has to be answered. Houston has position battles throughout the roster. Hopefully younger players step up to cement themselves here. If not, Houston is going to be bad, old, and banal, instead of bad, young, and possibly intriguing.
Training camps will open next month. Until then, these are the things we have to discuss.