January 19, 2016
O'Brien III: The Search for QB
by Bob Hulsey
The Houston Texans have proven just how far they can get under Bill O'Brien as Head Coach with spotty quarterback play. After the 30-0 beatdown at the hands of the Chiefs in the opening playoff round, the AFC South Champs will begin their third year in search of a starting quarterback that can take them further. The five-turnover performance by Brian Hoyer has probably eliminated him from serious contention for next year. Everyone from the owner to the fans are yelling for better.
As is the case every off-season, the Texans have three ways to solve their dilemma and one huge obstacle standing in the way. That obstacle is the salary cap which currently shows (per Sportrac) about $26 million in cap room for 2016 but that room often evaporates quickly.
(For those curious, if the Texans wanted to part ways with injury-prone RB Arian Foster, they would save almost $9 million and cost $2.3 million in dead money against the cap, freeing up another $6.7 million. It would be the only major roster move of that type which could make sense.)
The three ways to solve the quarterback dilemma is by trade, free agency or in the draft. Trading for an established veteran like Matthew Stafford of the Lions would be expensive in more ways than one but would at least settle the issue. The free agent list reads mostly like a bunch of other Brian Hoyers - suitable backup material but not the guy you want to enter the playoffs with. Keep an eye on Matt McGloin, a former Penn Stater who has understudied Derek Carr in Oakland the past two years that played for O'Brien during his college days.
Sam Bradford, Kirk Cousins and Brock Osweiler are likely to be re-signed by their current clubs. None of them would come cheap if signed by the Texans but there would be no compensation to their current clubs.
The sagas of Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel are likely to get new addresses this spring. Would the Texans take the risk on either?
The draft has no "sure fire" quarterbacks coming out this year and the alleged top two, Jared Goff of California and Paxton Lynch of Memphis, would be unexpected to last to the 22nd draft spot the Texans occupy in the first round. Michigan State's Connor Cook and Carson Wentz of North Dakota St. might be available. In later rounds, the Texans might look for Christian Hackenberg of Penn State, Jake Coker of Alabama or Cardale Jones of Ohio State - the latter two leaders of National Championship teams.
Then there's Tom Savage who was drafted two years ago but has rarely had a chance to play due to inexperience and injuries. Will he occupy a roster spot again next fall?
As for the rest of the 9-7 squad, the Texans will need to sign (or re-sign) both kickers, two interior linemen, DE Jared Crick and several defensive backs that are free agents or sign upgrades at those positions. Finding some better backs and tight ends would also be a big help if the Texans expect to return to the playoffs next year without getting undressed by a better wild card team.
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