With nothing better to do than re-imagine every draft since 1882, or take one word from a press conference and blow it into a giant rumor, people who write about football right now are starving for content. Dovetailing with that, Houston Texans head coach/general manager/football czar Bill O’Brien has made it clear the team isn’t done making roster moves for the 2020 season. So it makes perfect sense that we’d go down the road of who might become the next player labeled “your newest Houston Texan.”
With that, here’s the question I posed to the group:
The Texans still have cap space to make another solid roster move or two. Of the remaining free agents and players possibly acquired via trade with whatever Houston could offer up in said deal, what one player who isn’t a Texan right now would you love to see in battle red this season? If it takes a trade, how do you see that playing out?
Since this is a bit of fantasy and not reality—I mean, we are talking about the worst trade negotiator in NFL history in Bill O’Brien—I’d love to see them get a disruptive force inside the defensive line. Akiem Hicks could fit that bill nicely for another couple of seasons (he’s 30 years old now) and help Houston’s atrocious edge production to be more effective.
The Bears still need speed at wide receiver, so a straight up trade for Will Fuller would be a win-win for both teams. Especially since their respective contracts have roughly the same burn rate per year at $10 million. Hicks is a free agent after the 2021 season, and Will Fuller is an undrafted free agent after 2020, when the fifth year option from his rookie contract expires.
The catch might be for Houston to renegotiate Hicks’ current contract to provide more guaranteed money in the form of a signing bonus and perhaps add another year to take him through 2022. The Bears could make Fuller prove he can stay healthy and contribute in his final fifth year of his rookie contract, or they could offer him a team-friendly extension in case he finally notches a 16+ game season and sets the stat world on fire.
Alright, I know that usually going back to exes leads to nothing but heartbreak. However, if I could pick one player to shell out for, it would be Jadeveon Clowney.
Outside of the stat sheet, Clowney is an impact player. He adds a dimension to our front seven that demands attention and accountability from opposing defenses. With his recent “curving” of the Cleveland Browns, maybe the door to Houston is cracked open.
Money wise, we’ve seen that Clowney’s perceived value has dropped. Especially since he apparently wants to join a legitimate contender. Teams will take notice and shave off some money on any offer as a result. Odds are we’ll see Clowney join the BESFs, but bringing him back wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
In regards to a trade, I don’t want to see another trade made by this team under the current regime. Well, maybe just for this offseason. It’s all my little heart can take.
Signing Clowney is the correct answer. But he’s not coming here. He’s not an O’Brien guy, and I don’t think he has any desire to come back here after the way last summer played out. He did the right thing by not signing with the Browns, who are a perpetual disaster; he is better off just hanging out and waiting until the Titans realize Vic Beasley isn’t going to dramatically improve their pass rush or until the Colt feels they are another player away from having a dominant defense.
As far as a trade goes, I do think a move is coming this summer. The Texans have too many mouths and there’s only one ball. They can’t keep four tight ends. They can’t keep eight receivers who all pretty much do the same thing. It’s just impossible to get a feel for what Houston’s players are worth because of management’s previous decisions. My guess is the Texans will wait and see if they are hit by injuries this preseason and then go from there. Personally, I see Jordan Thomas and Keke Coutee getting cut at the end of August and scooped up pretty quickly by another squad after Houston struggles to find a trade partner for either one.
They still have holes in their pass defense. Somehow Eric Murray was the biggest free agent addition to that unit, a defense that finished 26th in defensive DVOA, lost D.J. Reader, and lost Tashaun Gipson this offseason. They could use another pass rusher.
You’re insane if you love the secondary. The pass defense can use more talent. Houston should look to add either Markus Golden or Everson Griffen; of the two, Griffen would be the better option. Griffen has consistently been one of the best pass rushers in the league, a guy who can win with inside moves and can occasionally win on the interior as well. Golden is a pure speed and bend guy. Either one could be used as a bullpen pass rusher, saved for passing situations to win one-on-one blocks and terrorize the quarterback. The Texans’ pass rush as it is currently constructed is J.J. Watt and a whole lot of hoping and wishing. Either Golden or Griffen would give it a much needed jolt.
Ultimately the way I’m looking this free agency period is “Where are we willing to spend to get incrementally better?”. The Texans under BOB have proven time and again they will not overpay for a top-tier free agent and instead will seek value from an aging talent looking to rejuvenate their career. Do not expect Logan Ryan to be a target. Get Jadeveon Clowney out of your thoughts. Everson Griffen may be a good fit, but he’s simply too expensive for our taste
Tony Jefferson (S) is my top target. He’d provide veteran leadership and instant run support. An ACL injury cut his season short last year, and the Ravens’ surplus of secondary talent made Jefferson expendable. He would be an ideal one year, $10M contract player to put alongside Justin Reid. Gaining knowledge of the Ravens’ defense would be an added bonus. Plus Jefferson is only 28, which means if he plays well, there’s room for a second contract.
Darqueze Dennard (CB), a former first round pick, finds himself available after six seasons in Cincinnati. Dennard never started more than nine games in any of his first six years in the league. Dennard was potentially going to Jacksonville, but the Jags backed out. Dennard would be more of a special teams and rotational piece for the Texans in the slot.
Vinny Curry (DE), who has spent his career with the Eagles, was a strong rotational player when they won the Super Bowl in 2018. He was a consistent sack producer in limited snaps and could help spell some of the younger pass rushers the Texans are developing.
Considering Timmy Jernigan won’t be coming to the Texans as originally thought, the team needs to address the DT position. Rookie Ross Blacklock should get the majority of the snaps there, but he shouldn’t be expected to carry so much of the load this early in his career.
Snacks Harrison is my personal choice for someone who the Texans could go out and get. He’s an accomplished veteran, a former All-Pro, and a great person to tutor a young rookie like Blacklock.
I also think that the team would be smart to go out and get Eric Reid. The team let go of Tashaun Gipson too soon. But in a year where teams may not grow familiar with one another until training camp, it would be awesome to get a guy like Reid, who has a lot of natural chemistry with younger brother Justin.
From where I sit, the Texans still have a glaring need in the pass rush and pass coverage segments of the defense. While adding one player to the secondary might not maximize the rising tide of both units, bringing back Jadeveon Clowney could. This is most certainly a pipe dream, but imagine for a minute if it happened. Bill O’Brien, now basking in the shade of his great, thought-provoking message to the world the other day, would look like a mad scientist turned super genius if he brought JD back. O’Brien partially dodged Clowney’s massive paycheck in 2019. Clowney has learned no one is paying $20+ mil a year for his services. In this pandemic-abridged offseason, having a Pro Bowl player who already knows the system is a major plus.
But it most likely won’t happen.
What seems highly likely at this point, particularly after the aforementioned speech from O’Brien, is Houston bringing in Eric Reid. He and little brother Justin might instantly become the best safety tandem in the NFL. It would open up all sorts of scheme possibilities for new defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver and go a long way to showing the world O’Brien is on the right side of social injustice to boot.
Trading anyone or anything at his point doesn’t make much sense in light of O’Brien’s prior wheeling and dealing, which mostly seemed to leave the Texans holding a bag of magic beans in exchange for valuable assets.
Houston should sign Eric Reid immediately and at least bring Clowney in for a conversation, if for nothing more than to keep him from joining the Tennessee Titans or Indianapolis Colts.
Frontal lobe fireworks from the braintrust of cutting edge football, better known as those clowns who write for Battle Red Blog.
What’s your one move?