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By Brien O’Donal
The news out today is that left tackle Duane Brown will be holding out from training camp due to contract issues. Namely that his next two years are not guaranteed. He has base salaries of $9.4 million in 2017 and $9.75 million in 2018 but can be released before playing a game without seeing any of it. On its face, this is a power move by the veteran tackle. There is no reason for him to risk injury to himself by participating in camp and preseason when he could be cut with a minimal injury settlement and less prospects to sign on with another team this season should the injury be minor or ever should the injury be major.
Brown has anchored the Texans line for the past nine seasons and should have no problem being ready to resume his duties once the season starts. The Texans are probably most interested in seeing him for the sake of evaluating his health and fitness. He missed the first four games of the 2016 season because of a quadriceps injury that required surgery after the 2015 season. He returned from that injury to finish the season and after a full offseason should be even further recovered from it. He knows the offense and knows his job. Besides, it’s not like they have anyone who is threatening to take his position. Think of it as a chance for his backup to get more reps.
If I was Rick Smith, I would begin looking at turning some of his contract into guaranteed money. If you want to appease your best offensive lineman, who is now 31 by the way; then maybe a 3-year deal should be in the works. The Texans have the cap space to absorb that money if it is structured correctly.
I would offer this:
2017: $7.5 million guaranteed, performance and roster incentives up to $10.5 million.
2018: $5 million guaranteed, performance and roster incentives up to $10.5 million.
2019: $5 million guaranteed, performance and roster incentives up to $9 million.
If the contract situation has reached a point where Brown feels it necessary to hold out from training camp, then a slight raise in overall earnings potential may entice him to be reasonable with the contract structure. As a 31-year old tackle there is potential of injury that may keep him out of games and that is probably why the Texans are hesitant. But one bad injury does not beget another. Three years is about what they should expect before his performance has the potential to really taper off.
By giving him the largest portion of the guaranteed money this year and lowering it the final two years the dead money becomes less of a hit if he gets cut after the 2017 season. Filling the back of the earnings with incentives will allow the Texans to spread them out over the years if they consider some of them “not likely to be earned.” If Brown is simply seeking guaranteed money then these numbers, or some approximation thereof, should be a good middle ground. I’m no GM, but looking at the other players on that offensive line I would consider it imperative to at least bring something to the table immediately and in good faith so that my player doesn’t hold out longer than training camp.
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