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HOUSTON (CBS Houston) — It still just doesn’t seem right.
DeMeco Ryans without the Texans. The Texans without “Cap.”
If ever there was a player and organization synonymous with each other it was Ryans and the Texans. But in a move to relieve some salary cap pressure for the future and to avoid cutting a beloved player, the Texans traded their star linebacker and team leader to the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday night.
It still seemed unreal until Ryan, the man nicknamed “Cap” as in captain in the Texans locker room, made his way to the podium in Philadelphia on Wednesday dressed in a dark blue suit with a green tie and flanked by Eagles coach Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman. Yep, it’s real.
What’s amazing is that none of us imagined this coming. Not even Ryans. But for every practical reason the move made sense.
The Texans are going to next cap room next year if they hope to re-sign quarterback Matt Schaub, left tackle Duane Brown and outside linebacker Connor. Making this difficult decision now at least gives them a chance.
Then on the field, the Eagles run a 4-3 defense with a need for a playmaking middle linebacker. Ryans is a prototype middle linebacker defense made for the 4-3. That’s what the Texans had ran until this past season when Wade Phillips came in and installed the 3-4 defense and promptly turned Ryans into one-down weakside inside linebacker.
Ryans, because he is a football player in every sense, made the best of it last season but certainly never seemed comfortable to the level that had seem him be a two-time Pro Bowler in years past. Part of the drop in production was likely due to the Achilles injury suffered in 2010 but much of it was being in a system that just didn’t fit Ryans run-stuffing style.
We could see the need for a change, but couldn’t bring ourselves to imagine it. That burden fell to Texans general manager Rick Smith, who hatched out a win-win deal for all parties with the Eagles sending a fourth round draft pick to Houston and the two teams swapping third round draft picks in exchange for Ryans.
“It was a little surprising when I first heard of the move, but at the same time it was good because I knew I was coming to a good team,” Ryans said Wednesday. “I was excited about that because I know how good this team was in previous years and last year.
“I knew I was coming to a good team so it was a perfect fit for me.”
The Eagles receive a solid linebacker, who will put a stop to the carousel they’ve had a middle linebacker the last few years. But even bigger they get a natural leader in a locker room that may have been as talented as any in the NFL last season but fell way short of its “Dream Team” expectations.
The Texans, meanwhile, are left a little disillusioned after seeing defensive end/outside linebacker Mario Williams and offensive linemen Eric Winston and Mike Brisiel depart within the last week.
Williams, Ryans and Winston were members the Texans incredible 2006 NFL Draft class, which has prompted some to warn tight end Owen Daniels to watch his back as the last standing member of that class.
That class along with receiver Andre Johnson had been the cornerstones of an incredible building project that had seen the Texans rise from mediocrity to a team that made the playoffs for the first time this past season and perhaps was going to push for the Super Bowl this upcoming season.
It could still happen with the pieces still in place and with some luck in next month’s draft, but it just might not be as sweet with ¾ of the 2006 class missing.
“Houston is a place where we were building to that playoff run and it took us a while to get there,” Ryans said. “Once we had the core guys in place and we did what winning teams do, we practiced the way winning teams practice. We went about our way the way winning teams do. You seen it come to life with us making the playoffs and having a good run.”
Ryans was asked Wednesday if he was offered any explanation as to why he was traded. The consummate pro that he is, Ryans knew the deal without anyone having to sit him down.
“I think it was pretty much salary cap issues,” he said.”They had to make a move.”
It was probably the right move for all the right reasons but it still just doesn’t seem right.