Sean Pendergast

Houston Texans 2020 Offseason Position Preview: Offensive Line

The offensive line needs to become a strength of the 2020 season.
The offensive line needs to become a strength of the 2020 season. Photo by Eric Sauseda
We talked earlier in the week about the instantaneous transformation of the Texans' running back position literally DURING training camp, and how amazing that was. Incredibly enough, that wasn't even the most incredible positional metamorphosis on the offensive side of the ball for the Texans. That would be the offensive line, where three new starters who have ten year staying power were added at left tackle, left guard, and right tackle.

Now, this three players — Laremy Tunsil, Max Scharping, and Tytus Howard, reactively — came at a pretty stiff price, with tons of draft equity, present and future, invested, and several million more dollars about to be thrown their way, specifically Tunsil's way, but it after watching two seasons of Julien Davenport, Jeff Allen, and Breno Giacomini, it was worth it.

Here are three burning Texan questions on the offensive line for the 2020 offseason:

When does Laremy Tunsil get a new deal?
The two big deals that need to get nailed down for essential building blocks for the next decade are Deshaun Watson's deal and then the one for the man protecting his blind side, Tunsil. There may be no NFL player with more leverage in history than Tunsil, for whom the Texans traded a king's ransom (two first round picks and then some) and did so without inking a long term deal. The worst thing that could happen to Bill O'Brien the general manager, other than getting sideways with Watson, would be for Tunsil to find a way to leverage himself out of Houston, like Jadeveon Clowney did this past offseason. That would be a fireable offense, although O'Brien is amassing so much power, by the time this became an issue, it might be O'Brien firing himself.

How is Tytus Howard's health?
Great question! Bill O'Brien was asked about this at his combine press conference last week, and here is what he had to say:

"Doing well. I would say that to put a timetable on it, I probably wouldn't be able to tell you. I think he'll be able to do some things in the offseason program, though. He's doing really well. He got married a couple weeks ago. I don't even think he took a honeymoon. I think he went right back into the training room to rehab. I don't know, I'm just kidding, but he's doing really well. He's a great kid. We're glad he's on our team."

Howard had the look of a guy the Texans want to keep for a long, long time, and the difference with and without him last season long the offensive line was noticeable. For as much grief as the Texans got for drafting Howard, instead of moving up one spot to take Andre Dillard (who was very inconsistent as a rookie in Philadelphia), it looks like they're getting the last laugh.

Will Zach Fulton be cut for cap space?
Four of the five spots along the offensive line are solid, probably for the next four or five years — Tunsil, Scharping, center Nick Martin, and Howard. Right guard is the one spot where we could see it flip this season, and the veteran Fulton, the starting right guard, is an ideal cap casualty candidate, as he is set to make $7 million next season with no dead money left on his deal. The Texans could very easily release Fulton, save $7 million against the cap, and plug in Greg Mancz for not even half the cap hit. This would have been a more reckless move in 2017 or 2018 with all the mediocre, moving parts along the offensive line, but with those other four spots solidified with first and second round talent, they may be able to piece together right guard with a mere solid journeyman, like Mancz, and be okay.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast