The Houston Texans were a complete mess at quarterback in 2016. As hard as it is to believe, they’re even worse off now than they were last season.
Brock Osweiler wasn’t good, but at least he had potential. Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden would be backups on just about every other team, but in Houston, they’ll likely compete for the starting job in 2017.
Tony Romo figured to be the Texans’ fallback plan -- they were likely waiting for him get released by Dallas -- but he’s moved on to the next venture in his career. As a result, the Texans are left with very little at the most important position in sports.
Here are their seven best outside options at quarterback for next season.
A mid-round pick
Everyone wants to find “the next Dak Prescott.” Unfortunately, he probably doesn’t exist. Prescott was an anomaly, stepping into the perfect situation with the Cowboys. He had an All-Pro running back, a star-studded offensive line, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten to throw to and a coaching staff that put him in position to succeed.
Finding the Rookie of the Year in the middle rounds isn’t likely, and the Texans shouldn’t bank on that happening. However, there are options to be had. Brad Kaaya (pictured), Nathan Peterman and Josh Dobbs could all be taken from the third to fifth rounds, and while they wouldn’t be surefire starters they could surprise a lot of people.
No one expected Prescott to go 13-3 and be the Rookie of the Year, and he went into camp as the third-string guy. Who’s to say one of those three quarterbacks can’t have success in Year 1?
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All indications point to the Broncos holding an open competition in training camp, giving Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian an equal opportunity to win the starting job. Lynch should win that competition after having a year to learn the nuances of being an NFL quarterback, which could set things in motion.
Assuming Lynch wins the job, the Broncos could look to move Siemian. It’s not entirely likely, but if Lynch blows away the coaching staff, Siemian will have little value to Denver. If he can be had for a mid-round pick – say a 2018 fourth-rounder – I’d have a hard time believing the Broncos would turn that down.
Denver went 8-6 with Siemian at the helm last season, fielding a very similar team to that of Houston. Like the Texans, the Broncos have a terrific defense and great playmakers on the outside. What they don't have is a good offensive line, which Houston does.
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The Bengals have said they’re not shopping McCarron, but things can change. Teams sometimes get desperate after the draft, especially if they don’t land a player at a certain position. If the Texans fail to draft their desired quarterback, they could offer the Bengals enough to change their stance on dealing McCarron.
That’s not to say McCarron is the answer for Houston. He’s a top-tier backup and a serviceable starter, which is similar to what the Texans already have. However, he does a good job of protecting the football, throwing just two interceptions on 119 attempts so far in his career. He also has six touchdown passes and has completed 66.4 percent of his throws.
McCarron would probably be one of their last options at quarterback, but if the Texans are looking for competition, he’d be a good addition in exchange for a mid-round pick.
A first-round pick
Since 1936, there have been four quarterbacks taken with the 25th overall pick – the selection the Texans hold. Tim Tebow, Jason Campbell, Tommy Maddox and Don Horn. None of them ever made the Pro Bowl, and they combined for just nine years as a primary starter. There have been 29 quarterbacks taken between pick No. 25 and 32 in that span, and only eight have made the Pro Bowl.
That’s not to say the Texans can’t find a franchise quarterback at 25, but it’ll be difficult. Most of the top quarterbacks – Mitchell Trubisky, DeShone Kizer, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson – will likely be picked ahead of Houston, leaving it with few options at that spot.
If there’s an early run at quarterback, the Texans could opt to trade up to, say, No. 20 to ensure they land their guy. That guy could be Mahomes, who probably has the highest ceiling of any incoming quarterback. If the Texans can land him in the first round, he’d push Savage for the starting job.
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Cutler, like Colin Kaepernick, remains a free agent and is generating very little interest from teams. The Jets were one team that figured to at least bring him in for a look, but they opted to sign Josh McCown instead – so that tells you everything you need to know about Cutler's dwindling prospects.
That shouldn’t cause the Texans to shy from giving him a chance. After all, he’s better than Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden. While he may not be a great “veteran leader,” as many say around the NFL, he is a veteran – someone with starting experience.
The Texans will at least know what they’re getting with him: a gunslinger who will make highlight-reel throws and also toss double-digit interceptions with eight-plus fumbles. The Texans have a defense that can make up for his mistakes, which the Bears never had.
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Kaepernick remains a free agent in what’s been a mildly surprising story line. Yes, there are concerns about the distraction Kaepernick might create due to his anthem protest of last year, but there are no character issues to be worried about. He’s great in the community, has donated more than $1 million to charity and has secured a plane to deliver food and water to Somalia.
The supposed concerns about his character are not realistic, though the team that signs him will undoubtedly face scrutiny after last season’s protest.
The Texans shouldn’t be concerned about that, considering their desperate need for a quarterback. Kaepernick is one of their best options and is one of the top two free-agent quarterbacks available. While he did go 1-10 last season, his supporting cast was the worst in the NFL. He did, however, have 16 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.
Though he’s not a long-term answer or a franchise quarterback, he would be an upgrade over Tom Savage.
There’s not a great chance the Texans will be able to trade for Garoppolo, but he’s undoubtedly their best option. There are a couple of reasons it’ll be difficult for them to work a deal, and it begins with New England’s reluctance to do so. Reports have suggested the Patriots won’t be trading him this offseason, and to think they’d trade him to a contender like the Texans makes the idea even harder to imagine.
Not to mention, the Texans are without a 2018 second-rounder thanks to the Brock Osweiler trade, so dealing another second-rounder might be difficult for Houston to do.
If the Patriots were somehow willing to trade Garoppolo, the Texans would be the ideal landing spot. They have a Super Bowl-caliber defense, great playmakers on the outside and a running game that can complement his play.
He would be a huge upgrade over Tom Savage and Brock Osweiler, and as long as he realizes his potential, he could be the long-term answer Houston’s been looking for.