Labor Day weekend is meant to be a time where everyone can sit back and relax. If you’re a fan of the Houston Texans, I really don’t know what to tell you.
The final 53-man rosters are always expected to look different come start of the new year. Houston took that saying to the next level with all the moves made over the past weekend. While most NFL general managers are playing chess, Bill O’Brien is playing checkers; jumping around with hopes he’ll be kinged at the end.
As Houston prepares for the start of the regular season, it’s clear they’re looking to win now. Despite trading a franchise piece to their defense, O’Brien finally found a serviceable left tackle for the present and long-term future. Throw in a secondary receiver just to sweeten the deal and the Texans offense should be one of the best in football.
But through all the moves and travel arrangements for the new Texans player, another thing became clear in the making. While Houston hopes to become the next AFC contender for the foreseeable future, O’Brien is on his last life down at NRG Drive.
This is plain and simple Bill; if this doesn’t pan out, you better start packing. Either O’Brien is a genius or a straight idiot. Guess what? There is no middle ground.
The method of madness
Within a span of 24 hours, Houston found a trading partner for Clowney. According to multiple reports, the former number one overall pick was not expected to sign his franchise tender. Despite being an underwhelming pass rusher, Clowney transformed himself into an elite run defender that any defense would love to have.
Throw in his pass-rushing ability from a defensive end perspective and the Texans were sure to get a high end pick back right? Well, sure, a third-round pick makes sense, but at least O’Brien could add an offensive lineman.
Nope. A third-round pick, Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin were all it took for O’Brien to pull the trigger. In return, he pissed off the entire city of Houston and became the laughing stock of the NFL.
Mingo, a former first-round draft pick who never panned out, was expected to be cut by Seattle that afternoon. Martin has some upside, but is unproven as a pass rusher, collecting just three sacks during the 2018 season. So O’Brien gave up an elite run defender for a pick the Texans fail to draft each season and two unproven pass rushers.
Bold move Cotton. Oh, and for anyone wondering about the Texans third-round picks, here’s a list of how bad it’s been in the O’Brien era:
- 2014: TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (medically forced to retire due to multiple concussion)
- 2015: WR Jaelen Strong (released after two underwhelming seasons)
- 2016: WR Braxton Miller (released after undrafted rookie beat him out for the final spot)
- 2017: RB D’Onta Foreman (released this past offseason for “maturity issues)
- 2018: FS Justin Reid (starting safety with expectations to lead secondary)
- 2018: OL Martinas Rankin (traded for Carlos Hyde. Originally expected to be waived)
- 2018: TE Jordan Akins (third-string tight end)
- 2018: Te Khale Warring (still in concussion protocol)
While we thought O’Brien couldn’t be any crazier as the team’s de-facto GM, he doubled down on the insanity. Trading away two first-round picks and a 2020 second-round selection, the Texans acquired Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills.
Method to the madness?
On one side, the Tunsil trade looks good. The 25-year-old pass protector had a career year at left tackle according to Pro Football Focus. A former offensive guard, the versatile lineman can play multiple roles for Houston’s troubling offensive line. But one look at the trade and questions will begin to arise.
Last season, the Chicago Bears traded two first-round picks and a 2020 third-round selection to the Oakland Raiders for outside linebacker Khalil Mack. The former top-five selection had collected double-digit sacks in three of the last four seasons. The Bears then wisely inked their new pass rusher to a six-year $141 million deal to keep him in the Windy City.
Houston meanwhile has no deal in place for Tunsil and gave up pretty much a second-round pick for an underachieving wide receiver who is in his prime. While Stills does bring value to a position of somewhat need, he’s yet to have a 1,000-yard season.
Should the Texans have offered the same deal to Washington to Trent Williams, it would be justifiable. Despite the success of Tunsil in two years, consistency will be key for this deal to look promising. Even then, Houston won’t have a first-round pick until 2022.
The Texans offensive line allowed a league-high 62 sacks last season. It should be lower with the additions of Tunsil, first-round pick Tytus Howard, and second-rounder Max Scharping. Should is the keyword.
While Tunsil is a serviceable offensive tackle, the team could have packaged a first and late-round pick to move up and draft their top selection in Andre Dillard. They then could have used the Warring and Scharping picks to select Howard on day two.
But no, Houston wants to do things the hard way.
Winner take all or nothing
Should Tunsil sign a long-term deal and Still produce as the team’s third receiver, this looks like a win for both parties. With Miami clearly tanking and Houston looking to win now. Watson gains another receiver and finally, a franchise left tackle.
But the Clowney deal will never sit well with fans. Even though the team probably wasn’t going to get him to sign long-term, Seattle fleeced the team into giving up nothing for a player with his caliber. Try making that trade in Madden. You couldn’t? Exactly.
Houston will need to bring home a championship before the end of Watson’s rookie contract. With players hoping to be paid and several key members looking for new contracts, the window to win is now.
Who knows, maybe Houston struggles and 2019 and bounces back next season. It won’t matter to O’Brien, however. If the Texans fail to make a postseason push, he’ll be watching his moves from a new city next season.
Much like the rest of the world, I took some time for myself this week. With multiple jobs, being sick, and my fantasy draft, I stepped away from everything yesterday to take of myself. Anyways, this Two Minute Warning is all about the upcoming season. Football is back Thursday so here’s everything you need to know.
A bust finds a new home
The 2016 NFL Draft was supposed to be the year of the wide receivers. Six players graded out with at least a mid to late first-round grade and four ended up being drafted on day one. None of them has really panned although Will Fuller still could be effective with the Houston Texans if healthy.
Former Washington Redskins wide receiver signed a one-year deal to join the Minnesota Vikings on Monday morning. The team recently released Laquon Treadwell, the player the selected one pick later.
Doctson perhaps has the most upside of the recently cut players. Part of the reason for his sloppy play in Washington was due to injury. Over the course of three seasons, Doctson missed 15 games and never really recovered from his injury-plagued rookie seasons.
It’s a low risk, high reward for Minnesota, so at least there’s one positive. Should he pan out, at least the Vikings found their future stud receiver from 2016 after all.
Run up on the running backs
Despite the reports that the Dallas Cowboys and Elliott were close to agreeing on a long-term extension, that has changed over the past 48 hours. According to NFL Network’s Jane Slater, Dallas and the two time league-leading rusher are “still not close” to an agreeable fact.
In Los Angeles, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that Gordon will not report for the start of the season. The Chargers have allowed Gordon and his agent to explore trade options, but he is still under their contract for now. General Manager Tom Telesco stated that a long-term deal between the two parties will not come until the end of the season.
Both running backs are entering their primes and deserved to be paid. Unlike Dallas, Los Angeles likely will be able to survive on offense with Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson. The Cowboys could wait several weeks, see what Tony Pollard is made of and then come to terms with their franchise back.
Either way, just wait to draft these two if you can.
Walk away Williams
The Washington Redskins have yet to hear from offensive tackle Trent Williams as the season is just days away. The time to start panicking on if he will ever return passed ages ago. But perhaps the biggest reason for concern is not because he is holding out, but rather is he just done?
Williams stated, according to CBS’s Jason La Canfora over the summer, that he “vowed” to never play for Washington again. Later that month, NBC Sports Washington’s JP Finlay reported that the 31-year-old tackle would “not be coming back. Period.” And even though teams have inquired about potentially trading for him, Washington has stood their ground stating that he was not on the table.
Over the course of his career, Williams collected $97.1 million in career earnings. With players such as Andrew Luck calling it a career, is there a point for Williams to play? Entering his thirties, Williams has enough to live a comfortable life without the risk of suffering an injury. Plus, if he is adamant about never playing for Washington again, this could be his only way out.
It’s unlikely that Williams will never play another snap of football. The top left tackle in football to some, his skills are too good to call it quits now. But if Washington doesn’t move him and continues to play the hardball game, anything is possible.
The football world was rocked when Luck announced last week he’d be stepping away from the game. Williams could double down just to make sure he no longer has to play in Washington. Besides the Dolphins Tunsil, Williams might be the best left tackle in football.
This is going to be a bit different this week. Go check out the Pro Football Network’s staff predictions for the 2019 season. All the selections were based on a majority vote, so here are just my personal thoughts on who will be taking home the hardware.
10.) Comeback Player of the Year: QB Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
Wentz could have been an MVP type quarterback over the past two seasons had he not been hurt. The offense got better in the offseason and he’ll have multiple options in the passing game. Unless he suffers yet another season-ending injury, just give him the award now.
9.) Coach of the Year: Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts
I’m one of the few people who believe that the Colts are still going to win the division. Yes, Andrew Luck won’t be under center, but Jacoby Brissett would likely be a starter on several other NFL teams. If Indianapolis wins the division, it’ll be because of the man calling the shots. There’s no way the league can pass on Reich back to back years.
8.) Defensive Rookie of the Year: DL Ed Oliver, Buffalo Bills
The Bills got the second-best player in the draft with the ninth overall selection. That’s a huge win for the team’s immediate and long-term success. Oliver can play multiple positions on the defensive line and rush from all different angles. He’s a perfect utility player who’s going to be a nightmare for offensive linemen to block.
7.) Offensive Rookie of the Year: WR Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs
When your quarterback is Patrick Mahomes, you’re going to be pretty good. Hardman was drafted for his speed and as a potential replacement for Tyreek Hill. Now, both will be one the field at the same time. Expect the Georgia product to in the end zone a ton this season for Kansas City.
6.) Defensive Player of the Year: Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns
This is the year where Myles Garrett finally becomes elite. Last season, the former top pick finished with 13.5 sacks. Expect him to be in the low to mid-20 range next year. A quick first step and brute force on the line of scrimmage, no one is going to be able to contain Garrett consistently this year.
5.) Offensive Player of the Year: Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
Christian McCaffery could give him a run for his money, but Alvin Kamara is going to see his role expand in 2019. With Mark Ingram now in Baltimore, Kamara will have plenty of opportunities for breakaway carries, big gains in passing yards and multiple scoring games. Expect him to reach over 2,000 all-purpose yards thanks to the MVP.
4.) MVP: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
What is the one thing Drew Brees is missing from his Hall of Fame resume? Oh, that’s right, an MVP trophy. With the Saints looking like the most complete roster in football, Brees will have another chance to take his team deep into the playoffs. As he quickly approaches another record, expect this season to be the year he finally takes home the hardware.
3.) Surprise Team: Buffalo Bills
Buffalo is not getting enough credit heading into the regular season. Despite one rough game from Josh Allen, the second-year quarterback has improved overall with his mechanics. The offense now has two reliable weapons and growth on the offense line. Plus, the defense is a top-five unit in the league. It won’t be shocking if they make the playoffs.
2.) Biggest disappointment: Tennessee Titans
It’s hard to buy into the Titans with their quarterback situation. Marcus Mariota has to take the right steps and even with a good preseason, Ryan Tannehill is not the long-term option. Taylor Lewan will miss four games, which could lead to issues on the offensive line. It’s a shame since the defense is legit, but I just can’t see Tennessee being a good team this year.
1) Make sure you check out the PFN’s Podcast network. This week, Ryan and Jason speak about which teams are the best “bang for buck” while Kai’Chen and Corey speak about the Tunsil, Stills and Clowney trades.
Cole Thompson is the Lead NFL writer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter at @MrColeThompson.