The Five Toughest Decisions the Houston Texans Will Have to Make This Offseason
When owner Bob McNair put Bill O'Brien in charge, all of Houston pretty much knew they were getting a guy who was ready to get things done.
Already in just a few weeks O'Brien has been as cutthroat as it gets. The firing of former defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was a must, and so will be an offseason of good decisions if the Texans are going to get this thing back on track.
The decisions won't stop at just filling coaching positions, though. There's still a lot of players on this roster who aren't up to scratch, and coming of a disastrous 2-14 team should ensure that the franchise remains open to trying new things.
Here's the five biggest decisions confronting O'Brien and the rest of the Texans' front office over the next few months.
5. Saying Good Riddance
Saving coin and making cap room aside, the Texans rebuilding stage will officially begin when they cut the slack that still remains on the roster.
For a defense that was shredded last year, cornerback Brice McCain has a lot to answer for. Whether it was zone coverage or man, he struggled staying with even some of the weaker receivers and was constantly caught out of position.
In the same category is offensive tackle Derek Newton. He's due a cap number that exceeds the level of his production in three years with the team.
If the Texans want to make up for lost time, parting ways with players who have been continually disappointing is the necessary way to go.
4. Switching to the 4-3
The 3-4 defense has worked well since 2011 for the Texans, but with Romeo Crennell now running things, things might get different.
It's up to O'Brien on this, but a switch to the 4-3 isn't out of the question. O'Brien ran the 4-3 at Penn State, but Crennell is a veteran of the 3-4, meaning the successful implementation of the Texans' defensive system won't come without discipline and accommodation from players and coaches alike.
On paper, this could work though. A healthy Brian Cushing might fit in at middle linebacker, and veteran Antonio Smith is familiar with the 4-3 from his earlier days in the league. The secondary should receive a boost early in the draft, and Earl Mitchell moving from nose tackle to defensive tackle looks like an easy enough transition.
Then again, the Texans still ranked sixth in overall defense this year, so if it ain't broke, don't fix it?
Maybe, but after the Texans struggled so badly with creating turnovers last season, this could be just what they need.
3. Manziel, Bortles or Bridgewater?
O'Brien told the Houston Chronicle on Monday what he thinks of all three quarterbacks. High on his list was former Central Florida signal-caller Blake Bortles, while Johnny Manziel was praised for his footwork and excitement factor.
O'Brien admitted he hadn't seen any of Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, but that means little in the early stage of the scouting process.
What it does mean, though, is that O'Brien realizes how important it is to draft a smart quarterback with a good set of feet to get himself away from trouble. It was something Matt Schaub never had, and so fresh out of the college football world, O'Brien could better equipped than some to make a sound decision on taking the new face of the franchise.
There's still five months to decide between one of these guys...or even someone else. With such a skilled offensive set already, however, boning up on Bridgewater might be smart for the Texans coach if he wants to secure someone who can lead the offense.
2. Looking After J.J.
This is only an urgent issue if the Texans want to make it one, but with a year left on his rookie contract, J.J. Watt has a big pay check coming soon.
The biggest fear the Texans have to have right now is Watt hitting the market. At some point in time he'll be the highest-paid defender in the league, and the Texans want to make sure they're the ones paying him the big figures and not someone else.
If nothing happens this offseason, Watt will make $3.5 million next year on the remainder of his deal. What needs to happen, though, is some major roster cuts to clear the cap space necessary to offer Watt a big-time extension sometime before June.
The Texans won't what this problem to linger around through to next season, or even after the draft as they make salary commitments to rookies. Watt isn't the kind of player who will hold out or cause a fuss, but why low-ball your best player?
The biggest decision here is deciding how much the Texans will pay him.
1. Choosing Foster or the Other
Say bye to Arian Foster—save $1.25 million in cap room.
Sign Ben Tate to a long-term deal—be left with a running back who has only three years experience and just under 2,000 rushing yards to his name.
That's the problem the Texans have this offseason. And with money needed elsewhere, keeping a running back around who has been injured the past two seasons might not seem like a good idea to Bill O'Brien.
Be careful, though, because the Texans could lose big here. Left with a running back who is injured isn't great, but neither is signing Tate to a deal and then watching him struggle again should the Texans retain their zone-blocking scheme.
There's a lot of money at stake here, and if saving some cash by cutting Foster leaves the Texans' new rookie quarterback without a decent blocker and a run game to fall back on, it's probably not worth it.
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