By Ryan McCredden

It pains me to think this might be a possibility, but the pieces of this off-season puzzle appear that the Texans might already be working on their 2018 plan.

The 2017 season is Coach O’Brien’s 4th on a 5-year contract. Coaches never coach in their last year without an extension. So for all purposes, this is his last year to make him “unfireable” and get that extension. Coach O’Brien has put together three 9-7 seasons with back-to-back AFC South Champions. But rumors of O’Brien and GM Rick Smith not getting along continue to swirl which might explain the rest of this puzzle.

The Texans have only signed one free agent. Andre Johnson, who is signing a one-day ceremonial contract. The lack of free agent moves saves them both cap space for 2018 and awards them extra picks for the 2018 draft.

Unlike your vacation time, where if you don’t use it, you lose it, the salary cap is not something teams have to use all of each year. Salary cap money not used from 2017 will roll over to 2018. There will be a lot of money to be spent in 2018 with Johnathan Joseph, DeAndre Hopkins, Xavier Su’a-Filo, Tom Savage and 10 other contracts coming up. (Plus Jadeveon Clowney’s contract is up in 2019) Also, with the Texans not signing any free agents this year, and losing players like A.J. Bouye, John Simon, Quintin Demps and Oday Aboushi, they are setting themselves up to be awarded extra compensatory picks in the 2018 draft.

These two parts of the puzzle make more sense when we look at the biggest move of the offseason. Getting rid of Brock and his contract. By making this move it saves money this year (which can be rolled over) and money next year. And all it cost was a second round pick which the Texans can get back on a trade by using all these comp picks.

All of this leads me to wonder if this could be the plan:

– The Texans don’t draft a QB in round 1. They’ll wait until the 2nd round for a Davis Webb type or an even later round for a project QB.

– The 2017 season will then be played with the current roster and a lot of rookies. Maybe Tom Savage can stay healthy and be the guy. Then with the top-ranked defense Coach O’Brien will lead them to even bigger and better things. But if the 2017 team and their difficult schedule can only muster 5 or 6 wins, Coach O’Brien will not be here for the 2018 season.

– Then in 2018, Mr. McNair and Rick Smith there will be a new head coach. Rich Smith isn’t going anywhere for a 5 win season, remember, Mr. McNair said the move to get rid of Brock was a shocker and added “I couldn’t believe that Rick was able to pull it off. … It’s unbelievable.” Rick Smith and the new coach will then draft one of the highly touted 2018 QB prospects early in the 1st round.

– With the draft capital they’ll have, and the free agent money they’ll be able to spend to fill other positions, they could move up to draft a QB in what many are saying will be one of the best classes in years.

– Watch a lot of Pac-12 football this year. Sam Darnold – USC, Josh Rosen – UCLA, Luke Falk – Washington State, Jake Browning – Washington. Along with names like Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Jarrett Stidham and the 2018 QB draft class could be something special.

I hope I’m reading the tea leaves wrong. Hopefully, this isn’t GM Rick Smith’s master plan. And if it is, hopefully, Bill O’Brien, Tom Savage and the rest of the team can throw a monkey wrench into this plan by having an 11-5 season and take the next step in the playoffs.

We’ll all start to find out together on April 27th when Roger Goodell steps up to the podium and says “With the 25th pick, of the 2017 NFL draft, the Houston Texans select…”


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