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Barry Laminack: Texans Face Decision With Clowney

Jadeveon Clowney is about to get paid. Houstontexans.com

Jadeveon Clowney has made it clear that he wants to get an extension done sooner rather than later, and with new Texans GM Brian Gaine at the helm, there's optimism (at least within the Clowney camp) that a deal can get done. 

Clowney's 2016 and 2017 seasons went a long way in silencing many critics (yours truly included) who suggested he had all the potential in the world, but had yet to live up to the hype worthy of the number one pick in the 2014 NFL draft. With back to back  seasons of dominant play under his belt (including playing in all 16 games in 2017), Clowney has received high praise from many within the NFL world, and looks poised to command top 3 money for his position. 

The decision for the Texans is: do you extend Clowney now (as he has requested) or franchise him over the next two seasons and risk getting into a bidding war when he hits free agency?

From a football perspective, it makes sense to extend him now. Top level pass rushers are not easy to find, and there's a risk that refusing to extend (and thus franchising) Clowney could have a negative impact on his desire to remain with the team long term. 

Then there's what's going on on the other side of the line. If JJ Watt isn't able to return to his pre-injury level of play, having Clowney on the opposite Watt as he plays out his career would be huge. Without Clowney, offensive lines would have a much easier time scheming against the Texans, so from a tactical perspective keeping Clowney could make Watt better (it sounds weird when I type it, but it's true). 

From a money standpoint, estimates show Clowney could get about $16M in 2019 if hit with the franchise tag, and about $19.5M in 2020 if franchised. Combine that with his 2018 salary ($13.8M) and that's about $49M over the next 3 years.

The website Spotrac estimates Clowney's value at around $16.5 million/year and surmises that he would be worth a six-year deal. Doing the math, that's $100M over 6 years. 

If the Texans could sign him to a 6 year, $100 million dollar deal (or in that neighborhood) and offer him more than the $50M guaranteed he would earn if franchised through 2020, it could be just the solution both sides are looking for. Clowney would get the security and payday he wants, and the Texans would get a premier pass rusher in the prime of his career, and at a bit of discount.

Do you think the Texans should extend Clowney or franchise him for the next couple of years? Let me know on Twitter @BarryIsFunny.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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