What might seem like forever ago, then Houston Texans’ head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien completely ignored the team’s dire need for a left tackle all through the off-season, before giving away entirely too much in a blockbuster trade to right that wrong.
Blockbuster: The #Dolphins are trading franchise LT Laremy Tunsil and WR Kenny Stills to the #Texans in exchange for a huge package of picks, including a first-rounder, sources tell me, @MikeGarafolo, and @TomPelissero. The moves are contingent on players passing physicals.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 31, 2019
Widely panned as one of the worst trades in franchise history, behind the unthinkable DeAndre Hopkins debacle, the Tunsil deal set Houston back years in draft capital and roster building.
Finally, 2022 has arrived and the Texans are out of that Kerith Ravine of O’Brien’s making.
The current roster has Tunsil pencilled in to anchor the left side of the line and another former first round tackle, Tytus Howard on the books as well. Yet that hasn’t stopped all sorts of mock drafters from sending rookie tackle Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu to Houston with the #3 overall pick in next week’s NFL Draft.
For those in the know, this is often panned as lazy mocking, since most who are familiar with the Texans are well aware of the Tunsil/Howard anchored depth chart. If anything, Houston desperately needs a better center as Justin Britt is the answer to a question no one is asking. The struggle to replace Chris Myers is real...
Writers possessing far less familiarity with Houston’s current depth chart are routinely the ones sending Neal or Ekwonu to the Texans.
However, there is some overlap, with mention of kicking either Howard or Ekwonu inside to anchor a guard spot.
Prior to the Texans restructuring Tunsil’s absurdly awful contract last month, there was a growing suspicion that Houston was going to trade Tunsil for more draft capital. Once Deshaun Watson was sent to the Cleveland Browns, and Tunsil was restructured, that notion abated.
But, maybe, just maybe, it still happens.
Tunsil is on the books for $17.7 million in cap hit for the 2022 season. The current franchise tag number for an offensive lineman is $16.6. Tunsil, a top five left tackle, might well be worth the additional $1.1 mil to a tackle needy team.
While it’s hard to imagine any of the other 31 teams are going to hire Bill O’Brien and allow him to give away the farm once again to obtain Tunsil in a lopsided trade, it isn’t out of the realm of reason to see another team cough up a 2nd round pick for Tunsil.
If Nick Caserio could mastermind something like that, Houston would essentially trade the #3 overall pick and Tunsil for a second rounder and Neal or Ekwonu as well as gain a LOT of cap space.
Last year’s #3 pick, Trey Lance, hit the San Francisco 49ers cap for $6.6 million. That’s an $11.1 million cap savings over Tunsil, solid youth move and something of a goodwill gesture to fans as it would sweep the last of O’Brien’s idiotic decisions out the door. Granted, the 2022 #3 pick will cost a bit more than the 2021 version, but not much in the context of NFL salaries.
While I’m still all in on hoping both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions sleep on Aidan Hutchinson and Houston can steal him at #3, odds are one of those two will take the best EDGE in the draft before Houston gets a chance. Behind Hutch, it would seem others touted as top five prospects have a lot of question marks, with the exception of Neal and Ekwonu.
So, if Houston can move Tunsil on draft day for the right price, making it happen wouldn’t be a bad idea.