What a roller coaster of an offseason it’s been for the Houston Texans. You can link what transpired on Saturday all the way back to free agency and even beyond that. The Texans entered this past offseason with among the most cap space in the NFL. With glaring holes on the offensive line and the funds to support the need, Houston was expected to be active within the open market. Instead, they sat back and observed the top linemen sign deals elsewhere while settling for Matt Kalil.
Fast forward to the 2019 NFL Draft. The Texans were strongly linked to Andre Dillard predraft. Again, they sat back and this time allowed the Philadelphia Eagles to leapfrog in front of them to snag Dillard. A monumental move at the cost of two day three picks. The Texans didn’t perform any draft day trades, but that should’ve been the one.
Instead, they settled for Tytus Howard, a significant downgrade from Dillard. Plus, Howard has been getting the majority of his work at left guard, where he projects to start the season. To follow up the Howard selection, the Texans selected Max Scharping with their second of two second-round picks. While Scharping posted a strong preseason, he’s another interior guy.
Soon after Brian Gaine dropped the ball on Houston’s offseason, he was abruptly fired. Thus, the current ensemble Texans general managers came to fruition. No one quite knows what exactly is going on, but it’s sure been entertaining thus far.
Had to give the people what they want.
My Film Review of Laremy Tunsil
I thoroughly enjoyed it. Some thoughts…
— Wade Smith (@Smitty74allday) September 1, 2019
Laremy Tunsil addition
Through the early parts of the Houston Texans franchise, they haven’t particularly been a team carried by their offensive line. This was evident last season. Over the first six seasons of Houston Texans existence, they compiled a 32-64 record. Once they drafted Duane Brown in 2008, they nearly doubled their win total over the ensuing six years.
Granted, this was deeper into the expansion rebuild. However, Brown was able to keep their heads above water as a unit. I look at the addition of Tunsil in a similar light. During Brown’s prime years he often carried Houston upfront. Based off what we’ve seen in recent years, that very well could be the case this season. Although, there’s reason to be optimistic.
While Howard and Scharping were both reaches in the 2019 NFL Draft, they each turned in strong preseasons. The Texans seem to have their young core on the interior with a stud offensive tackle protecting the blindside. The offensive line can build astute continuity over these next few years. As Tunsil hits his prime and the young guys develop around him, this unit could emerge as a strength on offense.
The biggest beneficiary from this deal is undoubtedly Deshaun Watson. You knew at some point the Texans needed to prioritize protecting him. He now has a bodyguard at his blindside and should be much more comfortable in the pocket. Tunsil fits right in on a Houston roster which is fairly top-heavy and includes a bunch of other stars.
Coming out of Ole Miss, Tunsil was praised for his clean technique and superb athleticism, among other skills. Those traits have certainly translated to the next level. Tunsil has a silky smooth kick step working the arch. He’s a tremendous drive blocker as the leverage battle comes easy to him. Tunsil is the total package in a franchise tackle and still hasn’t reached his ceiling. Hungry for his Pro Bowl debut, that would be an optimal way to start his career in Houston.
Jadeveon Clowney: still not about that life against Laremy Tunsil. pic.twitter.com/4WIXpqDMPK
— Matt Hammond (@MattHammondShow) September 1, 2019
Was Tunsil worth the cost?
It’s not very often you can acquire one of the best, young offensive tackles in the game. In that case, of course, it’ll cost you quite the ransom. Looking back on previous trades involving the league’s best tackles, you’ll find the Texans paid much more than we’ve seen before.
Philadelphia acquired a 27-year-old Jason Peters for a first, fourth and future sixth. Looking back, you could say the Eagles could’ve given even more and still won the trade. More recently in ironic fashion, the Texans traded Duane Brown to the Seattle Seahawks for a third and future second. A decent return, considering Brown was 33-years-old at the time of the trade with a lingering injury.
Laremy Tunsil is a fresh 25 and entering the prime of his career. Giving up a pair of first-round picks and a future second-round pick mortgages your future. At least the Texans were able to scavenge a couple of day three picks. Plus, Kenny Stills makes that offense even more dynamic.
Some may say the Texans gave up too much. That may be true, but we won’t know for sure until this plays out over the next few years at least. Over time, we tend to lend a blind eye to the debt as that gets paid off. Especially if the newly acquired players goes out and helps win football games.
The Houston Texans are in a prime Super Bowl window. With Andrew Luck’s retirement, the expected shift in the division could shift right back down to Houston. Everyone knows the Texans were a star linemen away from drastically altering the outlook of that team. Deshaun Watson absorbed a league-high 62 sacks last season. Drastic times call for drastic measures. Forking over three premium draft picks may be a bit dramatic, but something clearly had to be done.
This trade is Houston going all or nothing. Tunsil has enjoyed tremendous success so far in his career. However, there have been some low points. Combined with the fact that he’s never played a full 16 game season, there’s certainly some risk there. To pile on, it’s not a guarantee Tunsil even plays in Houston for more than two seasons. If all they get out of this deal is a two-year rental, consider it a major failure. Unless of course, they win a Lombardi Trophy in that span.
Laremy Tunsil gets inside leverage, turns Aaron Lynch and gets the seal.
Common theme: if the guard doesn’t blow his assignment, Frank Gore doesn’t get stuffed and Tunsil’s successfully made his man a non-factor. pic.twitter.com/WftlACnn5F
— Matt Hammond (@MattHammondShow) September 1, 2019
Kenny Stills cements league’s best receiving corps
The underrated piece of this trade is Kenny Stills. While the assets given up are hard to swallow, Stills softens the blow a tad. Only 27-years-old, Stills remains one of the game’s premier deep-ball specialists. He’ll fit right into Houston in an offense which likes to attack vertically.
Desperate for an insurance policy, the stability Stills provides will pay dividends for Houston. Will Fuller has a well-documented injury history. Keke Coutee missed most of last season and enters 2019 dealing with an ankle injury. Stills has proven unquestionable durability over his career.
When this group gets together on the field, big things are going to happen. The addition of Stills cements Houston’s receiving corps as arguably the best in the league. They’ll have tremendous flexibility from various personnel groupings. Moving the rock through the air should present a minimal challenge. However, can they play small ball?
Jonathan Valencia is an AFC South writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter @JonValenciaPFN.