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Tytus Howard’s Uncertain Future With The Texans

Could an offensive lineman selected in the first round later this month spell the end of the Tytus Howard era in Houston?

NFL: JAN 09 Titans at Texans Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We are less than a month until the 2022 NFL Draft. Mocks are buzzing, prospect visits are being tracked relentlessly, and prospect rankings are being churned out rapidly. Throw that shocking Saints-Eagles trade into the mix, and now you have what was once considered a fairly hard to peg top ten picks suddenly being turned upside down for further confusion.

In Peter King’s latest mock, he has Houston slated to take mammoth offensive tackle Evan Neal with the third overall pick. Neal played a variety of spots along Alabama’s offensive line, from both sides of tackle and a season at guard, never playing the same position a consecutive year. After not testing at the NFL Combine, it becomes a little tricky to evaluate where his best fit could be. Personally, I thought Neal looked his best playing right tackle during the 2020 season, but unless he is viewed as a tall guard, Neal would ultimately displace one of Houston’s seemingly entrenched starting tackles.

Laremy Tunsil has been the subject of many trade rumors pre-draft ever since he was essentially shelved earlier in the year with a hand injury. The most recent restructure of Tunsil’s contract indicates the Texans would rather keep him for another year unless Houston truly wishes to look foolish and take a $16 million hit against the cap for no reason. If Tunsil isfinancially committed for at least next year, the only starting tackle who would truly feel the impact of an early pick spent on an offensive lineman would be fan darling and a guy who has jumped through several hoops looking for a raise, Tytus Howard. You know, the most recent first round draft pick the team has had, thanks to Bill O’Brien.

Howard has changed positions constantly since his rookie year and showed his two biggest flashes at tackle. Unfortunately the writing on the wall tells me Nick Caserio isn’t so smitten with the idea of committing to Howard long-term. Further proof? Just look at how they are handling his fifth-year option on his rookie contract. Nick Caserio will “make a decision when it’s time to make a decision.” Hardly the effusive praise you imagine would be given to a potential building block long term.

Based on how the front office is posturing, especially with the short-term commitment to Tunsil, It wouldn’t even have to be a tackle at the top of the board to displace Howard. The Texans could bite on a rumored trade with the Saints and take somebody like a Trevor Penning or Charles Cross with pick in the middle of the first round. Even if they stay put at three and simply grab another guy later on in Day Two, it appears that Howard’s days in Houston are numbered.

The worst part? If Houston were to take a highly regarded tackle prospect for the right side and subsequently decline Tytus’ fifth-year option, Howard would have to play for his next contract out of position at left guard based on how the current depth chart shakes out. That would leave his solid play during the 2020 season at left tackle a distant fleeting memory for potential suitors and essentially force him to start from square one to prove himself as somebody who can clearly handle tackle duties for more than just four games.

I find myself at a bit of a crossroads with Nick Caserio right now. In my book, it’s far too early to critically judge the general manager’s work after basically an offseason and a half. That said, I take solace in knowing I’m not the only one puzzled by the moves Houston is making to “start up” this new expansion team. Despite a media-echoed narrative that he should build the team around Davis Mills, Caserio finds himself without a single offensive tackle in the long-term scope for the squad. It’s very important to note that if anything, when Caserio took over this roster with a dearth of talent, the ONLY position viewed as a strength or with depth was…offensive tackle.

Fast forward a year, and you will not find spunky Roderick Johnson or grizzled Marcus Cannon (who displaced Howard’s starting position and was swiftly moved on from), Tunsil has looked like a temporary piece,. Geron Christian’s solid but not great play earned him a payday elsewhere. The only tackle this team seems to be behind is the underwhelming Charlie Heck, who Houston turned to at right tackle instead of Howard when Cannon was out of the lineup.

For the umpteenth time in franchise history, the Texans’ offensive line is in flux. For the second year in a row, we are questioning Tytus Howard’s place going into the offseason. Unfortunately for Howard, he does not appear to be part of Houston’s plans beyond the next season.