The Houston Texans need to make some personnel moves for 2017, and that may entail leveraging some of the talent on the roster to make some deals.
Boasting one of the most solid defenses in the NFL, the Houston Texans are capable of getting to the playoffs on its strength alone. Yet the team continually falters when it reaches the playoffs, often due to the shortcomings on the other side of the ball.
With an excess of talent on the defensive side and a clear need to improve on the offensive side, the Texans need to keep some players in mind to leverage for deals. This could mean trade bait in the build up to 2017 NFL free agency or for the 2017 NFL Draft.
The key is identifying which players are expendable and which players are still critical to the operations. Calls for J.J. Watt’s trade as he is redundant to the excellent defense (as evidenced by the team’s success despite his absence in 2016) have begun, despite being a cornerstone for the team.
Instead, finding a player the team is less reliant on, like cornerback Johnathan Joseph, may be a better option. Joseph, a former first-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals, has spent the last six seasons with the Texans and added two Pro Bowls to his name. As pointed out by Paul Jackiewicz of Toro Times, Joseph is past his prime (age 33 for the 2017 season) and has a bloated contract ($6.9 million cap hit in 2017m per Spotrac) that could be used to re-sign the younger A.J. Bouye or extend wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
The other clear options to leverage would be Brock Osweiler, assuming he still has some value, who currently has the biggest cap hit (per Spotrac) on the team, despite not being a capable quarterback. Osweiler could realistically ride the bench for the entirety of 2017, despite being made a big-time signing the year before.
There is a shortage of even competent starters in the NFL and if a team gets desperate, Osweiler should be on the table for the Texans. They would do wise to advertise that immediately. While Osweiler is mostly a guarantee to make the roster in 2017 (a dead cap hit of $25 million means he isn’t going anywhere), a trade possibility would instantly change the calculus.
Another player that appears expendable after a down season is linebacker Brian Cushing. While producing, Cushing has been a reliable tackler for the Texans over eight seasons. However, Cushing hasn’t been named to a Pro Bowl since his rookie season in 2009 and his 65 tackles he was involved in were his lowest in any season in which he has played 12 or more games (he has two seasons with seven and eight games played, respectively). At this point Cushing should be facing the possibility that he is no longer particularly valuable to the Texans championship-level defense.
For Texans fans that have seen some of these players help turn the Texans into contenders, it may be difficult to talk about trading them away. Yet it’s the difficult decisions that a team has to face in order to get better. Trimming some branches to help the rest of the team grow.
A player is only valuable to a team so long as he is the most useful player in his role. There is a case to be made that any one of those three players can be surpassed by others either on the roster already, hitting free agency, or entering through the 2017 NFL Draft.