Jan 14, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) reacts in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
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The Houston Texans are in a quarterback bind and need to consider all of their options, not just Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys.
While the news that Tony Romo has an interest in coming to the Houston Texans was like a breath of fresh air for the team, the Texans cannot put all of their eggs in one basket. There are a multitude of other quarterbacks available in free agency (or that will likely be free agents) that could put the Texans in a position to win immediately.
This in no way means that the Texans should simply move on from the Romo situation, though. With the odds currently in their favor (per FanSided’s Toro Times) to sign Romo, things are still looking nice. But any good general manager knows that a potential deal is far from complete, especially one with so many complications like Romo’s.
There are also a multitude of options in the 2017 NFL Draft. While that may not be ideal for a franchise that has a playoff and, maybe, Super Bowl window opening now, it’s clear the answer is not on the roster now. If the Texans see a player they think could be a Dak Prescott or some other version of “the guy,” they should take him.
As the NFL Combine gets nearer and 2017 free agency rumors continue to heat up in anticipation for the new league year, it’s important to nail down viable options early. For Brock Osweiler, this obviously isn’t good news. But he had his chance to prove himself to the Texans and ended up riding the bench behind Tom Savage.
Nov 20, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) looks to pass in the first half while chased by New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon (54) at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
5. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
A prominent gunslinger with a rocket arm, the Chicago Bears have finally grown weary of Jay Cutler’s penchant for tossing interceptions to the other team. Without Cutler starting, the Bears actually looked competent with Brian Hoyer at quarterback. Unfortunately, it all came crashing down due to injury. What the Bears did learn, however, was that Cutler is not the cornerstone they need. They scraped by without him in 2016 and it’s time to move on.
What Cutler wants it to land with a contender, which the Houston Texans are. While his 146 interceptions over 11 years may scare teams away, his 208 touchdowns are a nice balance. For the Texans, moving the ball was the bigger concern with Brock Osweiler at quarterback (29th in passing yards, 30th in scoring).
With that in mind, Cutler may be a bitter pill to swallow but he would give the Texans a much more lively aerial attack, especially when compared to 2016’s anemic one. If the 33-year-old Cutler was capable of even a minor renaissance, the Texans may even be able to reap the rewards.
Even with the potential production that Cutler offers, there’s no way the Texans should trade for him. If Cutler is released, then he should be fair game. But with his large contract and high liabilities as a passer, Cutler simply is not worth giving up valuable draft picks or current players on the roster.
Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) looks to pass during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
4. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
Kirk Cousins’ wild NFL ride continues as he works with the Washington Redskins to get a monster deal done to keep him around. After having the franchise tag used on him in 2016, it’s unlikely (though still possible) that Washington would use it on him again.
That game of chicken may result in another franchise tag for Cousins or it may result in him being forced onto the free market. Per Pro Football Talk, in 2016 Cousins was leveraging a big deal based on the $44 million guaranteed that he would be worth based on the franchise tag numbers for 2016 and 2017. Now, that number may jump up to over $58 million guaranteed based on 2017 and 2018 franchise tag rules.
While Cousins wants a big-time deal, he is at least worth it. The 28-year-old quarterback still has his best football in front of him and he has put together a stellar resume already. Boasting a 65.9 career completion percentage, 72 touchdowns to 42 interceptions (29-11 and 25-12 in the last two seasons), and an impressive 93.6 career quarterback rating, it’s now safe to say that Cousins is for real.
Unlike Brock Osweiler, the Houston Texans can bank on it. When a quarterback is legitimate, no amount of money is off the table. If Cousins even gets close to free agency, the Texans need to be ready to spring. It may be a long shot following Cousins’ game of chicken, but it’s one that’s worth considering.
Sep 17, 2016; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) attempts to throw the ball against the Michigan State Spartans during the first quarter of a game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
3. DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame (NFL Draft)
Failing to get a top option in free agency (or Tony Romo) would leave the door open for the Houston Texans to target a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft. Assuming an early run on quarterbacks doesn’t stack up the front end of the first round, the Texans can sit back and take whichever top talent is available at 25th overall. That quarterback may end up being Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer.
With just two years under his belt, Kizer may not be a popular option to win immediately. Yet he has the physical tools that make him a tempting option and the mental capacity that indicates he could grow quickly.
With a better supporting cast like the Texans can provide, Kizer can make plays. He has the ability to make all of the throws, including those with touch, and can deliver in the face of a strong pass rush. With a receiving corps headed by DeAndre Hopkins, Kizer shouldn’t have any issues stepping up early.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
2. DeShaun Watson, Clemson (NFL Draft)
Perhaps the opposite of what the Houston Texans have at quarterback right now, DeShaun Watson is a bonafide leader. He can instantly bring leadership and poise to the quarterback position, which is something the Texans have lacked for years.
While Watson does not have the history of working in a pro-style offense, the Texans may be willing to bet on his intangibles and physical ability. He has high upside, which makes him a steal if he falls to the late second or third round. But if the Texans are comfortable with him, they would be wise to grab him whenever possible.
What makes Watson an interesting fit for the Texans is that they can get creative with him as a passer. While this was made most famous by Colin Kaepernick with the San Francisco 49ers and Robert Griffin III with the Washington Redskins, the popularity quickly waned. Head coach Bill O’Brien could find a way to make it work, however, tailoring the offense to Watson’s physical traits and using the team’s excellent skill players in support.
The fact that Watson could be a franchise quarterback after a bit more coaching and massaging will be an added benefit when trying to win now with him. Starting Watson immediately may not be ideal, but there is a winnable upside with him. His 41 touchdowns last season were often manufactured, but there’s no reason to think the Texans couldn’t also find a way to manufacture some points off Watson’s abilities at the NFL level, too.
Dec 24, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage (3) attempts a pass during the second quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
He took a beating at Pitt, but he continued to stand in the pocket. He’s a natural thrower of the football. He’s got all the mechanics, so now it’s all about developing the kid’s ability.
After sitting on the bench for a couple of seasons, Savage got to show what he could do with that ability at the end of the 2016 season. He completed 63 percent of his passes in three games for 461 yards, with zero touchdowns and interceptions. It wasn’t beautiful, but it also wasn’t torturous like Osweiler’s performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars that led to Savage’s brief time as a starter.
It may not be popular to think of Savage as becoming the starter for the Texans, but it also wouldn’t be a complete mistake. Savage did enough to warrant consideration as a playoff starter for the Texans, despite being injured in Week 17. Seeing what Savage can do for the team before investing heavily in a Kirk Cousins or Jay Cutler may be the more prudent move.
The added benefit of sticking with Savage is that the Texans don’t need to use draft picks to get him or risk getting burned by throwing big money his way. They can simply see how he performs and, worst-case scenario, go back to Osweiler if need be.
There are many paths to become an NFL starting quarterback and Savage may find himself the improbable man to do it for the Texans. It’s almost laughable when thinking about it now, but there is a lot of offseason left before the 2017 season kicks off and there have been weirder paths taken by other quarterbacks in the past.