Mike Meltser’s Early Offseason Thoughts

Overall, we’re in a big wait-and-see mode to really evaluate the offseason. So far, the biggest moves have been to trade Brock Osweiler, and to not place the franchise tag on AJ Bouye, who ended up walking away to Jacksonville

It would be fascinating to know how the Texans internally valued the salary cap space they acquired via trading Osweiler. Based on the Pro Football Talk story about the Bill O’Brien-Osweiler exchange in Week 17, the team was going to rid itself of Osweiler in some form or fashion. Minus a trade, that would have meant a post-June 1st release. Houston would have been on the hook for a $19M cap hit this year, with $6M of dead cap money in 2018. Now, they’ve cleared all that cap money off the books.

How much did Rick Smith value having that extra cap space in 2017? The easiest value would come in the form of signing Tony Romo. If the Cowboys QB gets released anytime soon, the Texans have the ability to structure a contract offer in a more flexible way. Before the Osweiler deal, the team would have likely had to account for Romo’s guaranteed money into the 2018 and 2019 seasons. With $10M extra in salary cap space, Houston can offer that money to him in 2017.

Given Romo’s injury risk, front-loading a deal is likely an ideal way to add him to the team. That contract structure would help mitigate the impact of Romo’s health on the salary cap in future years.

If Romo signs elsewhere, the Texans could theoretically use the extra cap space to sign a veteran quarterback like Jay Cutler, though I can’t imagine that would be a likely avenue. More likely, the team would use the money for a contract extension to DeAndre Hopkins. That money may also prove useful for future extensions to the likes of Jadeveon Clowney, Benardrick McKinney, or Kevin Johnson.

We’ve never really seen a trade quite like the Osweiler trade, which makes the evaluating part tricky. If Houston lands Romo, we will be able to clearly see the value of pulling the trigger on this unique deal. Without Romo, it will be a bit trickier to track the “Osweiler Trade Money” and to examine how it is used.

I also wonder this: if Smith had been able to deal Osweiler before the deadline to apply the franchise tag to players, would he have placed that tag on Bouye? That move would have tied up about $14M on the salary cap, but would have also provided time to work on a long-term extension. This is a question whose answer we may never know, but I view it as an interesting hypothetical.

Looking at the loss of Bouye, I am in a wait-and-see mode to figure out how the Texans fill that hole. While I don’t view him as a superstar cornerback, the idea of heading into the next 3-4 years with Bouye and Johnson was very appealing. Are Smith and O’Brien banking on tapping into a very talented secondary draft in late April? If the team drafts a young, quality CB, the cheap contracts for drafted players will go a long way towards reducing the impact of losing Bouye.

The departures of Quintin Demps and John Simon also leave two starting positions open on defense. Remember, Houston played the divisional round playoff game against the Patriots without Demps and Simon. No team would make a firm judgment off one football game, but the team’s front office and coaching staff was able to see the defense play without those two, and the defense largely held up very well. I wonder if the Texans have more internal confidence in the likes of Corey Moore and Brennan Scarlett than those of us on the outside may realize.

Finally, this team has a giant, gaping hole with no obvious solution: right tackle. I was under the impression that Chris Clark would be a cap cut in February, but that obviously hasn’t been the case. The free agent tackle market blew up, with even mediocre players like Mike Remmers securing $8M per year deals.

The Texans could use their first round pick to select a RT, but this draft class is considered to be historically weak along the edges of the offensive line. Plus, the team would like the flexibility to use the 25th pick to draft a quarterback. Romo or no Romo, investing in a young QB through the draft is a priority this offseason. The need at RT may have to be addressed later, which could make for a very dicey situation at that spot in 2017.

We’ll have a much more clear sense of the offseason in two months. Can the Texans land Romo to gear up for 2017? How do they replace Bouye? How will they use the cap space they just created through the Osweiler deal? These are the questions we will all be closing monitoring in the upcoming weeks.

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