If you'd given me one reasonable wish before the Houston Texans' 2020 season, I would wish for something that would best guarantee a successful season, and a a trip to (and possibly a deep run in) the playoffs. Thus, I'm fairly certain that a fully healthy season for Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt would have been at or near the top of the list.
Well, the Texans have gotten just that. Watson and Watt have been healthy, engaged, productive, and unfortunately (and especially in the case of Watt) outwardly frustrated with the direction of the season. The Texans are 4-9, and most likely to finish 5-11 with both of their marquee players healthy and having good seasons. It's yet another indication of just how abjectly terrible Bill O'Brien was at being an NFL general manager.
Watson and Watt are fully healthy, and the Texans are 4-9. I am getting angry just typing that. So like any NFL season, there have been players who haven't been as lucky as Watson or Watt. Whether because of injury or suspension, seasons have ended and/or been severely truncated due to both instances. Here is how the players who are currently out, most of them for the rest of the season, likely figure into the future beyond 2020 (which is really all that matters at this point):
THE SUSPENDED TWO
WILL FULLER, WR
Fuller was another player who, prior to his PED suspension after Week 12, had enjoyed a healthy 2020, to the shock of many, maybe even Fuller himself. The offense clearly runs at a higher level with Fuller on the field, and he is a free agent after the season. The franchise tag is an expensive option to keep him for one more year, and there WILL be a market for Fuller, despite the suspension. For what it's worth, Watson wants Fuller back in 2021.
BRADLEY ROBY, CB
Roby was actually one of O'Brien's better moves (three-year, $30 million contract in the offseason), until HE, too, got hit with a six game PED suspension. Roby is guaranteed $8 million in 2021, and should be back, in no small part due to the complete lack of competent corners on this team.
THE OFT INJURED and OVERPRICED
DAVID JOHNSON, RB
Johnson is currently on the COVID list due to close contact to a person with a COVID positive test outside of the building. He missed three games earlier this season with a concussion. He has been, by any measurement, one of the worst running backs in football, and has a mostly non-guaranteed $9 million salary in 2021. He will be gone, and the only remnants of the DeAndre Hopkins trade will be Ross Blacklock.
BRANDIN COOKS, WR
Cooks missed last week with a neck injury, and may be close to coming back this week. His contract is friendly in that the final three seasons are all non-guaranteed. It is UNFRIENDLY in that his cap figure jumps from $8 million this year to $12 million and higher in each of the next three years. He may be a candidate for a restructuring, as at the right price, he makes a lot of sense to have around.
INJURED RESERVE STARTERS
JUSTIN REID, S
Reid's season is over with a hand injury suffered against the Bears. Before the 2020,season, Reid was damn near a lock to get a sizable contract extension offer after this season. (NOTE: He has one more year left on his rookie deal.) However, with Reid regressing as a player in 2020, and a new GM coming in, I'm guessing he plays out his rookie deal in "prove it" mode.
BENARDRICK McKINNEY, ILB
McKinney went on injured reserve after Week 4 with a shoulder injury. The Texans can save $7 million on the cap by cutting him after the season. With the rise of Tyrell Adams in McKinney's place, I'd be shocked if McKinney played another down for the Texans, barring a serious pay cut.
BRANDON DUNN, DT
Dunn's 2020 season ended on Sunday with a hip injury suffered against the Bears. The quintessential "lunch pail" player (making way more than a "lunch pail" player should), Dunn's underdog story and the respect he garners from his teammates are admirable. That said, he is an easy $3.25 million savings by cutting him. He gone.
P.J. HALL, DT
Hall was one of O'Brien's rare shrewd moves, as the Texans picked him up off the waiver wire during training camp, and the former second round pick out of Sam Houston flashed enough to where, at times, he was the best defensive lineman on the team not named Watt. He's a restricted free agent after the season, so the Texans will have some degree of control over keeping him.
BRENNAN SCARLETT, OLB
Scarlett is another guy who was overvalued by O'Brien for trying hard and showing up to the building on time. In the end, he just wasn't a very impactful outside linebacker. He was a decent special teamer. He's an unrestricted free agent after the season, and my guess is he will be somewhere else in 2021.
GAREON CONLEY, CB
Conley will always be remembered as a tangential piece of the Clowney trade, as the Texans flipped the third round pick they received from Seattle to pick up Conley for the final eight games of 2019. He's missed all of 2020 with a foot injury, and could be a candidate to come back on a one year "prove it" deal if his foot checks out. As of now, his acquisition was a disaster, but because O'Brien was SO bad in his one year as GM, it barely cracks the top five or six on the list of O'Brien disasters.
INJURED RESERVE BACKUPS
MICHAEL THOMAS, S
Thomas, the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, suffered a torn pectoral muscle a month or so ago and is done for the season. He was playing on a one year, veteran's minimum deal, and if he wants to come back on the same deal in 2021, then cool.
DYLAN COLE, ILB
Cole was a fun story when he made the team as an undrafted free agent in 2017. He's become less fun with each passing season, as his suffering a season ending injury has, unfortunately, become an annual tradition. Cole is an unrestricted free agent, and likely gone after the season.
CULLEN GILLASPIA, FB
Gillaspia has had a cursed 2020. He suffered a leg injury in the first practice of training camp, missed most of camp, then suffered a back injury during the season. He is cheap labor, as a former seventh round pick with two years left on his rookie deal, so he will be back, but he is on a serious roster bubble.
DUKE EJIOFOR, OLB
Ejiofor has suffered season ending injuries in or before training camp in each of the last two years. He is under contract for one more year, so he should be in camp, but obviously he cannot be counted on.
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