Free agency in the NFL officially began when the clock struck 3 p.m. Houston time on Wednesday, but it was a couple hours before that when the Texans' new general manager Brian Gaine officially had his first perceived — and that is a very key word here, PERCEIVED — crisis in his new job, for it was then that left tackle Nate Solder, after seven seasons with the Patriots, agreed to terms to sign with the New York Giants on a five year, $62 million contract.
The contract made Solder the richest offensive lineman in the history of the game, which is more a function of timing than performance, as Solder's career thus far could best be described as "steady and average." To wit, he is still awaiting his first Pro Bowl invitation. More to the point, here are some specific and recent stats...
"The gigantic left tackle has seen his pass-blocking production dip considerable in recent seasons. In 2017, Solder allowed 51 total pressures – 41 hurries, six QB hits, four sacks — which was tied for the fifth-most among all offensive tackles."— John V. Armstrong (@RKNCRU) March 15, 2018
On one hand, Solder's decision prevented what has all the earmarks of a "buyer's remorse" situation in, like, Year 3 of that contract, as giving an average player the richest deal for a position in league history is not exactly a sound recipe for roster management. It reeks of desperation.
On the other hand, the Texans are pretty damn desperate right now. There is a gaping hole that remains at left tackle for a team that (a) needs to protect the most valuable cargo in the league in Deshaun Watson, and (b) allowed one of the better left tackles in the league to go via trade (and a soured relationship post-holdout) in Duane Brown. Right now, a viable solution doesn't exist for this team at left tackle, which is awfully scary.
The Texans did make a couple of moves on Wednesday, First, they signed offensive lineman Senio Kelemete away from the New Orleans Saints on a three year, $12.5 million deal. Kelemete played both guard and tackle in New Orleans, but is probably best suited for guard with the Texans. The combination of Kelemete and Zach Fulton signing with the Texans means the Xavier Su'a-Filo Era is, thankfully, probably over.
The Texans also brought back wide receiver Bruce Ellington on a one year deal. Ellington was signed off the street in training camp last preseason, and stuck with the team after a productive training camp. When healthy, he was able to catch 29 balls out of the slot receiver position, and proved to be a viable secondary threat behind DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller.
In other news related to 2017 Houston Texans, former backup quarterback Tom Savage found a home, signing a one year, $1.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Savage, who was the Texans' opening week starter before being replaced by Watson at halftime of the season opener, will compete for a backup role behind Drew Brees. The relatively paltry amount of Savage's contract accentuates how absurd it was for him to be named the unquestioned starter for this team in training camp last season.
As the vultures swirl just a few days into Gaine's first real offseason as general manager, there is one "Get out of jail free" card that he has to reclaim the confidence of the impatient masses — signing Tyrann Mathieu. Arizona released the sixth year defensive back on Wednesday afternoon after the two sides couldn't agree on a revised contract. The Cardinals wanted Mathieu to take a pay cut.
Mathieu, a Heisman Trophy finalist at LSU in 2011 before being dismissed for off field issues in 2012, and a third round pick in the 2013 draft, was one of the best players in football in 2015, earning All-Pro honors for a team that made the NFC title game. According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans are in on the Mathieu sweepstakes:
Texans are seriously interested in S Tyrann Mathieu, as are many others. Imagine Mathieu and CB Aaron Colvin improving their secondary.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 14, 2018
Perhaps more importantly, J.J. Watt appears to be all in on the Mathieu sweepstakes:
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I want to THANK the entire cardinals organization for everything they have done for me over the past 5years. Personally thanking Michael, Steve & B.A for believing in me. I will miss the fans and my teammates more than anything! My work in the Arizona community will continue!— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) March 14, 2018
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