Editor’s note: Brien is a well-traveled Houstonian and Army Combat Veteran with an extremely wide range of talents and interests including the NFL (Packers), Irish History, and writing. Follow him on twitter @ODonalsVanguard
By BRIEN O’DONAL
With the first part of NFL free agency gone and the remaining market filled mostly with contributors; it’s a shame the Texans are not being very active. It’s understood that Jerry Jones’ confinement of Tony Romo has something to do with it, but there were some players on the market at positions of great need that landed nowhere near Houston. Going into the offseason it was understood that the greatest weakness was the quarterback position, but in my opinion it was not the position of greatest need. I consider that label reserved for the offensive line. There were plenty of reasons Brock Osweiler couldn’t get the passing game to be mediocre but getting better blocking up front might have helped give him an extra second or two to get the ball out. The NFL is a game of inches and seconds. Brock is a moot point now that he has been sent packing but it will still make life miserable for the next man under center.
The Texans were able to clear up the necessary cap space to pursue Romo when he becomes available, but not setting a number for him and using money left over to find more big men to compete on the o-line has to be a mistake. This mistake could be further compounded if they have chosen to give Romo more money that he should really earn at this point in his career. His ability to come in right away and boost the offense significantly should justify a $20 million contract. His injury history should probably knock that number down to the $16 million that Brock was making. That’s a risky bet to set the number there, but you have to think that cap space is needed to add to the talent protecting him. Part of being smart with the salary cap is setting player values and sticking to them. If Bob McNair and Rick Smith are trying to go all in for the best quarterback like they did last year, there’s a chance they wind up with the same record and same chance at playing in a Super Bowl. You have to have “The Man” to win in this league. If Romo is on the field he will be that player, but his fragility may force someone who isn’t to lead the offense.
As serious as they are about Romo, they had to have known that getting the big name lineman like Kevin Zeitler, Riley Reiff, or Ricky Wagner was out of the question. But names like Marshall Newhouse, Chance Warmack, and Andre Smith were all low money contracts that would have brought in depth at the position or maybe even a slight upgrade. The fact that none of these players seemed to be seriously considered shows that they must be pretty confident about their current roster or the young players in the draft. Both of those choices don’t seem likely to help the play up front. The 25th pick of the draft will probably be too far down the order to get one of the tackles deemed worthy of a 1st round grade and the drop off in talent after that may force them to reach for a player in the 2nd or 3rd round. If the talent isn’t there then they should wait and find a guy later. It’s not unheard of for later round offensive line draft picks to earn significant playing time. But gambling on that is too risky when there is no proven quarterback, or if they acquire Romo; he is injury prone.
Aside from finding depth necessary at other positions like corner back, defensive line, linebacker and running back; the next week should at least see the Texans pursuing more offensive line players in for talks about signing. Even if all that is left are guys like Jahri Evans, Jake Long, and Sebastian Vollmer they have to be evaluated as players that could help. It might be too much to think they could afford Nick Mangold but a phone call has to be placed to his agent anyways. The point is; they have to get some guys in there to compete. No matter who lines up to take snaps, he will surely appreciate the effort by the Texans to better protect him. Their absence in free agency is noticeable and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a turn off for the quarterback they’ve been saving money to sign.