It's been fun watching Houston Texans second year GM Brian Gaine do his work in trying to construct a Super Bowl winner here in Houston. Certainly, there were hits (his first draft class, with no first or second round pick) and misses (Aaron Colvin), but perhaps the most encouraging sign that Gaine is a "new age" NFL thinker came when wide receiver Will Fuller went down with a torn ACL, and Gaine decided to flip a 2019 fourth round pick to the Denver Broncos for veteran wideout Demaryius Thomas.
While Thomas was sporadically productive and a very solid veteran presence in the locker room, the "Demaryius Thomas as a Texan" saga, on the field, ended with Thomas limping off the field with a torn right Achilles in the Week 16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Off the field, the saga ended yesterday with the news from James Palmer of the NFL Network that the Texans would be releasing Thomas:
The #Texans are expected to release WR Demaryius Thomas today per source. Thomas tore his left Achilles in Week 16. It’s too early for a time table, but he’s returned from the injury quickly in the past. He tore his right Achilles after his rookie season and came back in 6 months— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) February 12, 2019
Football can be cruel, man. Here are my thoughts on the book now closing, presumably for good, on Thomas' time as a Houston Texan:
4. I stand by my trade grade of B-
When I graded all of Gaine's 2018 transactions a few weeks back, I gave the Thomas trade a B-, despite the fact that he ended the season on injured reserve. A few weeks after giving that grade, and after digesting the news today, I stand by the B-. Thomas' overall production was more in the C range, but I love Gaine's aggressiveness in addressing a need, and I don't think anybody could have seen a season ending injury coming, given Thomas' stellar durability for all those years in Denver.
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3. Oh, what could have been in 2019
In releasing Thomas, the Texans are free and clear of his non-guaranteed $14 million salary for 2019, with no dead money on the cap (another reason this was a good deal for the Texans). One of the things I was hoping for, though, had Thomas stayed healthy, was a chance for the Texans (who were never going to pay Thomas $14 million for 2019) to re-work Thomas' deal to a more team friendly number, and allow him to continue to be that veteran reserve, alongside DeAndre Hopkins, and with a healthy Fuller and Keke Coutee in 2019. I'm a little sad we won't get to see that.
2. Look at all this cap space!
That said, the Texans, who were already one of the more salary cap dollar rich teams in the league with free agency approaching in exactly a month, now pick up another $14 million in cap space to go spend. This gives the Texans around $78 million to go find reinforcements on the offensive line and in the secondary. However, let's not ignore.....
1. Time to go WR shopping
.... the wide receiver position! Yes, DeAndre Hopkins is a freak, probably the best receiver in the league, and yes, with Fuller and Coutee healthy, this has a chance to be a really scary unit, with Deshaun Watson pulling the trigger. However, you can't ignore the health issues and youth in this room. The team needs another veteran playmaker at wide receiver. They should use some of that freed up money from Thomas' release to backfill his position, specifically. Names I would kick tires on — Golden Tate, John Brown, Donte Moncrief (who's only 25 years old, but still), Jamison Crowder, or Andre Roberts (possible return guy, if DeAndre Carter doesn't stick).