Sometimes the hardest part of completing a to-do list is assembling it in the first place. Once it's been outlined, then there ain't nothin' left to do but to get her done! So from that standpoint, Houston Texans, when it comes to this 2016 offseason, I'm about to do the hard part for you. I am going to put your to-do list together!
Isn't that nice of me?!?
The NFL's offseason consists of a handful of phases — beginning with salary cap cuts, continuing into free agency and culminating with the draft. Once the Super Bowl was finished a couple of Sundays ago, we officially kicked off Phase One (salary shedding/adjusting) with a keen eye on Phase Two (free agency!). With that in mind, and stealing shamelessly from ESPN.com's Bill Barnwell, who posted entries for all of the NFC East and AFC East teams yesterday, here are the five moves I would prioritize for the Houston Texans as the offseason gets under way:
5. Cut Brian Hoyer and sign Brandon Weeden to a modest, Hoyer-like deal.
Of all the veteran stopgap quarterbacks out there in the stopgap universe, Brian Hoyer might be the rootin' tootin' stopgappiest, but it just doesn't matter. The Texans cannot, with a clear conscience, trot Hoyer back out onto the field to start the 2016 season, and I'm fairly certain they're not throwing a rookie in there as a starter right away. (Also, I'm concerned that Tom Savage may have been abducted by aliens.) So they need a new veteran stopgap to hold the QB position warm until [FILL IN NAME OF ROOKIE HERE] is ready to go later in the season. Why not Weeden? He won his only start, has a first-rate arm, knows the system and at age 32 likely isn't expecting to be a long-term solution at this point. (By the way, if you're looking for a litmus test on how far Hoyer has fallen after his debacle against the Chiefs in the playoffs, "falling out of favor for Brandon Weeden" is a pretty good indicator.)
4. Pray Malik Jackson doesn't sign with the Broncos
The Texans enter the offseason with nearly $30 million in salary cap space, and they have the ability to get that number up to around $40 million if they end up cutting some of the expected players (Adios, Rahim... sayonara, Garrett...sorry). So why not take at least ONE big swing in free agency? Ever since Antonio Smith left a couple of seasons ago, the Texans' defensive end spot opposite J.J. Watt has been a heaping helping of below average, and with Watt likely to get more banged up these next few years (law of averages, law of odometers), a playmaker at the other defensive end spot would be very intriguing. Jackson is going to get paid by somebody, and the Broncos are working hard to re-sign him, but if he is available come March 9, the Texans should at least make a phone call. (SECONDARY DEFENSIVE LINE WISH LIST: Cut Vince Wilfork, save $4 million in cap space and sign 49ers free agent nose tackle Ian Williams.)
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3. Find middle "salary cap" ground with Arian Foster
While many have already written off Foster's release from the Texans as a foregone conclusion, I'd like to think that, at the very least, all avenues get explored to find a way to keep the third greatest Houston Texan in team history in a Texans uniform. We know Foster's not going to be a Texan at his current cap figure of around $9 million. Considering that the market for a released Foster might be somewhat frigid with his coming off an Achilles tear, though, I'd hope that both sides are at least amenable to discussing a reworked deal, in which they perhaps split the difference. Arian Foster at a cap figure of around $4 million sharing carries with a rookie drafted in the first three rounds sounds palatable.
2. Sign Ben Jones to an extension
Truth be told, Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks are both priorities for the Texans. I just feel like Brooks will be in higher demand around the league, and therefore would be crazy not to test free agency. Jones feels like an easier putt for the Texans to get locked into some sort of reasonable long-term deal, and signing him secures the brains, eyes and ears of the offensive line for the next few seasons, a wise move with a rookie QB likely coming in.
1. Sign DeAndre Hopkins to a long-term deal
Since drafting Duane Brown in 2008, every eligible Texans first-round pick has at least had the courtesy of a contract extension offer with a year left on his rookie deal — Brown, Brian Cushing, Kareem Jackson, J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. All but Jackson signed their deals with a year to go on their rookie contracts. (Jackson tested free agency last year and wound up re-signing with the Texans.) Hopkins, as recently as last week, said he wants to be a "Texan for life"; however, he's also changed to CAA for representation, which means that making him a Texan for life will be a costly proposition. However, with no signs of Hopkins slowing down, the Texans may as well take care of this now while the marquee receiver market has settled in at around $14 million per year.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.