Old narratives die hard. As compared to most expansion franchises, the Houston Texans have done pretty well. In fact, their last three seasons have been the worst stretch of Texans football and that includes the expansion season. However, it could be said that the Texans have always struggled to build a competent offensive line. Yet, that narrative might not be an accurate one for the current state of the Texans.
While they were 31st in rushing yards and yards per carry, a lot of that could be attributed to the offense as a whole and in particular the play caller. Dameon Pierce was a revelation, but he was all the Texans had at running back. Once he went down, it wasn’t going to be smooth. The Texans were in the top half of the league in sacks allowed and that was with Davis Mills under center.
This isn’t to say that the line was perfect. Justin Britt went on a sabbatical after week one and left Scott Quessenberry to hold down the fort for the rest of the season. Quessenberry was the worst rated center in the NFL. That doesn’t even do it justice. The 35th ranked center scored a 51.3 PFF overall grade. Quessenberry slid in at 36.6. This includes an absolution abysmal 25.8 pass blocking grade. 90.2 was the league high in that category with nearly a third of the league garnering 70.0 or more. 26 of the 36 guys scored 60.0 or better in pass blocking. The Texans need a new center and there really is no getting around it.
Free Agency Options
Ethan Pocic— Cleveland Browns (PFF #58)
Projected contract: 3 years, $21 million
Pocic was the third rated center according to PFF. That’s a little better than 36th. If we consider him a borderline Pro Bowl performer, then getting one for only seven million per season feels like a bargain. Pocic rated 79.1 as a run blocker and 71.5 in pass protection. If we are to believe PFF then that makes him a little better than the other two guys on the list. Plus, he is only 27, so he could be a fixture for four or five seasons.
Connor McGovern— New York Jets (PFF #73)
Projected Contract: 3 years, $22.5 million
Essentially we are getting into a territory of who you like more. Linemen usually don’t have a lot of counting statistics that we can hang our hat on. The 29 year old ranked as the 10th best center out of 36 qualifiers. I’m not sure how he can be worse than Pocic and older than Pocic and somehow get more money. He scored at nearly 70 in both run blocking and pass protection. That makes him a legit starter. From there it is simply a point of personal preference.
Garrett Bradbury— Minnesota Vikings (PFF #90)
Projected Contract: 3 years, $18.75 million
Bradbury was the 11th rated center according to PFF. He scored better as a run blocker than as a pass blocker, but he was certainly worlds better than Quessenberry. His projected cost comes in at a little less than the other two, but it really isn’t enough to make a big fuss over. This is where you lean on your coaches and scouts to tell you who they think fits better in your new system.
The Final Verdict
Center is one of those rare positions that’s pretty important, but is not handsomely compensated. So, you pick the best of the three and camp out on his doorstep the night before free agency opens. Getting a starting quality center means you have four legitimate starters and an emerging second year player in Kenyon Green. A new offensive system may unlock Green. Having a competent center and All-Pro tackle on either side of him could also unlock him. Maybe a new coach also lights a fire under him. Either way, you are potentially a center away from having a really good offensive line. You have to leave free agency or the draft with a new one. It’s really just that simple.