Long one of the best and most unsung players in the NFL, the Texans managed to avoid letting the lineman see the open market after this season. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle tweeted out the details of the agreement:
Money was tight for Houston this offseason, and led to the team having to make a lot of hard choices. With three big-name free agents to sign and roughly $25 million in cap space to do it, it behooved the team to get a deal done with Brown before the season.
They still have to address the contracts of Connor Barwin and Matt Schaub before next March.
Starting with Brown made sense from multiple levels. While there are questions marks about Barwin's ultimate utility and Schaub's age and health are both issues, inking Brown was an obvious choice. He's still young (only 26) and he's still on the rise.
Brown has been particularly durable, making 60 of 64 starts since entering the league four seasons ago and missing four games with a suspension. At his age and with his sterling record of good health, there's little doubt he'll remain a force throughout the duration of his new deal.
Head coach Gary Kubiak was elated with the news, saying:
Well, you’re around Duane (Brown) every day just watching him handle himself as a pro, how he works and his abilities. That’s easy to look at every day. You’re getting an accountable young man for a long time so it’s an easy situation for us as an organization and it’s a great one for him. I think it’s good for the players because he got rewarded. He’s handled himself the right way, done things the right way and he’s being rewarded so that’s a very positive thing.
For a premium left tackle in his physical prime, paying less than $9 million a year is a good deal. While details of the structure of the contract aren't currently available, the Texans ought to be able to arrange it in such a way to provide plenty of room to maneuver the 2013 offseason. With several big-name tackles making more than Brown, the Texans can feel confident they got their money's worth.
The Brown extension represents the latest in a serious of cap-smart decisions for the Texans' front office. After a spending spree before the 2011 season boosted the franchise to the playoffs for the first time, they were forced to take a necessary step back when free agency hit last March.
By being proactive now, the Texans obviously risk guaranteeing Brown money a season before they have to, but they gain cost certainty and flexibility. Had they not signed Brown early, their odds of retaining all three marquee players were slim.
This wasn't lost on general manager Rick Smith, who said, “It was important for us to do a deal but it’s also important for us in the context in how we put our football team together; to come to an agreement that makes sense for us.”
For Brown's part, he avoids a potential franchise tag and he gets his money promised now, before the perils of the regular season. He loses the chance to for a true free-agent experience that could have netted him an even bigger check, however. He's still looking up at the Browns' Joe Thomas, who got $44 million guaranteed on a seven-year, $84 million deal.
Brown sounded thrilled to have the certainty of a contract as opposed to the allure of the open market, saying that the uncertainty that preceded weighed on him.
A little bit. When you hear that there’s a possibility it could happen, you can’t help but to think about it. The stuff I was saying before about preparing for the season and preparing to have the biggest year of my career, I really meant that.
Brown gets security, and so do the Texans. Both sides gave up something, and the deal got done.
It's a good day for the Texans.
Nate Dunlevy is B/R's AFC South Lead Blogger. All quotes provided by the Houston Texans.
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