Sean Pendergast

Five More Bill O'Brien Era Texans Who Will Be Gone After 2021 Season

Laremy Tunsil may have played his last down as a Houston Texan.
Laremy Tunsil may have played his last down as a Houston Texan. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Despite what the Houston Texans' most prominent skeptics would say — and trust me, the Texans deserve each and every one of their skeptics — there are multiple purposes the franchise is currently pursuing, even during a miserable 3-11 season. While wining football games is their stated primary purpose, the fact is they're not very good at that.

Thus, the sub-purposes to THIS season, are all about FUTURE seasons, getting this roster cleaned up and reset so that they can add an influx of young talent in 2022 and 2023. Yes, it was left behind THAT badly by Bill O'Brien that they essentially had to sacrifice a FULL SEASON just to clean up the damn mess.

Part of any cleanup is discarding stuff you no longer need, and for the Houston Texans this season, more often than not, that has meant discarding players from the O'Brien Era who were either signed to ridiculously expensive contracts or who were poor "culture fits." Or both.

Whitney Mercilus, Randall Cobb, Nick Martin, Zach Cunningham, I could go on and on. Just know that the purge is not over yet. The offseason will come and the few O'Brien holdovers remaining will be gone. Most of them will be, at least. Brandin Cooks might survive an apocalypse, but other than him, we will be waving "bye bye" to several more Bill O'Brien acquisitions and bad contracts.

Here are five that I think will be gone this coming offseason:

This one gets more and more obvious with every week. Combine the "Tytus Howard at left tackle" trial balloon (which was put on hold for one week, as Howard moved back to guard to help with a COVID ravaged line) with the fact that Tunsil hasn't played a down since October, despite presumably being healthy enough to, and all signs point to the Texans trying to recoup a fraction of the exorbitant draft capital they gave up to get Tunsil before the 2019 season. Tunsil is a good player, but he is expensive and I'm not all that certain that he loves football.

Reid is a weird one. On the one hand, he seems to be as positive a human being as you can find, and he is quite philanthropic, recently named the Texans' nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. On the other hand, he was also benched for a game earlier this month for getting into a spat with coaches and teammates in meetings. I love Justin Reid as a player and a person, and perhaps because of that, I am kind of rooting for him to land somewhere else, where he can experience some winning. Now, who know? Maybe a deal gets done before he hits free agency in March, but I doubt it.

Along with Reid, Akins is the only holdover from the Texans' 2018 draft. The fourth year tight end, who's routinely been a training camp sensation that never really translates into regular season productivity, is winding down his rookie contract over the next few weeks. Akins is not finishing with a flourish, as he has spent most of the post-bye week portion of the season behind rookie Brevin Jordan on the depth chart. Given the fact that Akins got a late start on his football career (29 years old, currently), due to a professional baseball career in his early 20s, he is probably not viewed as a future piece of this team.

I will caveat this one by saying that I was virtually certain that David Johnson would be gone after 2020, where he came in, ran soft for a whole season, and was a walking, talking daily reminder of the DeAndre Hopkins trade. Instead, Nick Caserio brought Johnson back on a $4 million guarantee, and he's been even less productive in 2021. So why did I make that caveat? Because anything is possible when it comes to Johnson, who for some reason, this organization pushed as a top line NFL player. (His jersey is one of the few in the team's store.) I will guess that his time as a Texan, and possibly as an NFL player, runs out in 2022.

On the one hand, Fairbairn has recovered kind of nicely from his early season injuries and inconsistency, where he was routinely missing extra points and had limited range on his field goals. In the last two games, he has kicked 51, 52, and 61 yard field goals. That's pretty damn sweet. On the other hand, he is slated to be paid like a top five kicker in 2022 (with very little dead cap money, if he were to get cut), and even with the bump up lately in performance, he is most definitely not an ACTUAL top five kicker. This is a few easy million to save on the cap next season.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at
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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