Bill Barnwell of ESPN ranked the bottom eight teams in regards to their offseason performance yesterday. You wouldn’t believe where your Houston Texans ended up. Take a guess. They were ranked... 32nd out of 32 teams. In other words, DEAD LAST.
Now, these power rankings are usually subjective. Except for Weston’s; his rankings are perfect and extremely accurate. However, Mr. Barnwell lays it out pretty straightforward and on the nose. He begins with what the team got right this offseason.
What went right: Hmm. We’re starting this series with the toughest question, huh? I suppose the two-year, $3 million deal the Texans gave former Eagles and Chargers defensive back Jaylen Watkins could be decent value if they slot him in the correct role. They also upgraded their special-teams coverage units by importing players such as Eric Murray and Michael Thomas. Second-round pick Ross Blacklock, Houston’s first selection in the 2020 draft, could turn into a useful interior disrupter and third pass-rusher for a team that had the league’s fourth-worst adjusted sack rate.
One could see where Barnwell is coming from on the Watkins deal and drafting Ross Blacklock. Much love was shown to the defensive side of the ball in the 2020 NFL Draft, and for good reason. However, I’m not sure I’d include Eric Murray in detailing what went right this offseason. His contract is pricey for a relatively unknown player. Jonathan Greenard was also a solid pickup in the third-round and should have been included. Strap in folks; this is as nice as it's going to get. The next topic is what the team got wrong.
What went wrong: The Texans traded away arguably their second-best player for pennies on the dollar because he wanted a new contract and then overpaid for just about every one of their offseason additions. Even if they hadn’t traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a swap of fourth-rounders for a second-round pick and running back David Johnson’s bloated contract, this would be a disaster.
Coach Bill O’Brien misread the market and handed out significant deals to cornerback Bradley Roby (three years, $36 million), wide receiver Randall Cobb (three years, $27 million), kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn (four years, $17.7 million) and Murray (three years, $18 million) and even threw in a one-year, $4 million pact for backup quarterback AJ McCarron. O’Brien finished up by giving agentless left tackle Laremy Tunsil a three-year, $66 million extension, a market-shifting deal everyone saw coming from the moment the Texans traded away multiple first-round picks to acquire Tunsil without negotiating an extension as part of the pact.
It’s refreshing to see the criticism of this offseason not just hinging on the Deandre Hopkins- David Johnson trade. The Cobb and Murray contracts fit right in here as well. Signing Fairbairn and Roby does hurt the wallet a bit, but they are hardly offseason killers. Especially Roby; with him being one of the better parts of a bad secondary, retaining him makes sense. Paying McCarron on a one-year deal at that price is relatively inconsequential, but it would be in the Texans’ best interest to find a backup that mimics Deshaun Watson’s skill set sooner rather than later. It’s well documented how Laremy Tunsil was mishandled from the get-go. An extension should have been negotiated before Bill O’Brien decided to sell the farm to the Dolphins to acquire him. Look on the bright side, though: Watson’s blind side will be covered until 2023!
Finally, Barnwell suggests the Texans consider a trade to finish the offseason.
What’s left to do: Trade Kenny Stills. The Texans don’t really have a need for Stills as their fourth wide receiver behind Cobb, Brandin Cooks and Will Fuller, and the former Dolphins wideout has $7 million in unguaranteed money due on the final year of his deal. There’s an obvious fit here with the Packers, who didn’t get all of their shopping done this offseason.
The Kenny Stills trade idea has been floated around in the past. Personally, I’m not quite sold on it. The wide receiver group is currently composed of Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, Keke Coutee, Will Fuller V, DeAndre Carter, Kenny Stills, and Isaiah Coulter. Most of the receivers on that list have had extensive injury histories to say the least. I like Stills as an insurance policy in case Brandin Cooks or Will Fuller V are out of commission for a while. Watson seems to also have chemistry with him, so why not let him finish out his contract here?
For the most part, the Houston Texans’ offseason is in the books. The dog days of summer are rapidly approaching. Pins and needles will be sat on as everyone waits to hear the NFL’s plans for the upcoming season. We’ll see traditional media outlets do rankings for everything. Power rankings, uniform rankings, player rankings, sports movie rankings, just to name a few. As a result, there will surely be more of these in the coming days and weeks. It’s going to be a blast.
How do you feel about this ranking? Has the team earned it? Was there any aspect that was unwarranted? What could have improved our rank?