As the Houston Texans went through the 2019 offseason sitting on oodles of salary cap space (over $40 million worth, to be exact), being so careful with it that you'd think it actually accrued interest or something, it's been fair to wonder just how they would eventually deploy this spending ability.
With Brian Gaine fired and Bill O'Brien now running the show, and with the "football character" tells that come from the dumping of Jadeveon Clowney, things are beginning to take shape with the long term outlook for the Texans' roster. On Tuesday afternoon, one big piece of news came down that furthered O'Brien's football character crusade:
The Texans have signed C Nick Martin to a three-year, $33M extension with $18.35M guaranteed, per source.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 10, 2019
Ok, I have a few thoughts on this bit of news, the Texans marrying themselves to Nick Martin as the next long term piece along the offensive line:
Wow, $11 million per year... really?
Well, I did contract extension predictions a few months back and, for Martin, I was pretty close on the guaranteed money (predicted $16 million, he got $18.35 million), and I was WAY off on the average annual salary (predicted $6 million, he got $11 million). The $11 million average annual salary puts Martin third on the Texans behind J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins (although, he will soon trail Laremy Tunsil and Deshaun Watson, too, for sure). My problem with this deal is that I'm not even sure if Martin is among the Texans three best offensive linemen, let alone worthy of the third best overall salary. This feels like Bill O'Brien vastly overrating the "touchy feely," worker bee traits, the absence of which ultimately doomed the head coach's relationship with Clowney.
Those pesky AFC South center rankings
Also, it is worth noting, that league wide, the $11 million AAV (Average Annual Value) for Martin's deal puts him among the top five centers in all of football. Again, this seems like a massive overpay by de facto GM O'Brien, as Martin was actually ranked fifth among centers in his OWN DIVISION by Pro Football Focus' player performance rankings (taking those rankings with whatever grains fo salt you see fit). Yes, Martin was ranked fifth among centers in a four team division. Starting next season, he will make $11 million per year.
Deshaun Watson's influence
In assessing any moves made by the Houston Texans, I've said that the question must be asked "Is this in the best interest of Deshaun Watson?" as the third year quarterback is the most important employee in the building. While I'm not so sure that Martin is the best choice for this team's center going forward, he does have a strong relationship with Watson, who Martin roomed with at training camp in West Virginia in Watson's rookie season in 2017.
So, who else is in contractual limbo?
If the Texans are going to continue with their long standing policy of eschewing contract extensions during the regular season, barring another delayed news dump, it would appear that D.J. Reader and Whitney Mercilus are headed to free agency after the season. Will Fuller would appear to be on his way to playing 2020 on his fifth year option, and I'm guessing there will be large contract extensions for Tunsil and Watson following the 2020 season.
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