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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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It's easy to blame Bill O'Brien for the Texans woes. He is a lousy GM, a below average play caller and his offense is boring, predictable and ineffective. Not once has he had a top 10 offense in the league. So he does not get a pass here.

But Deshaun Watson shouldn't, either.

Last year, Watson was in the MVP conversation entering the game in Baltimore. Four of the nine games he played before that, Watson had an ESPN Total QBR over 85, which is playing at an elite level.

Since that 41-7 debacle (where his QBR was 13.6), Watson has played 10 games. He has topped 85 just once (and barely - 85.6) in the win over the Patriots. While QBR is not the be all end all, it shows a trend. And before you blame the talent around him or the ridiculously stupid DeAndre Hopkins trade, eight of those games were with Hopkins in the lineup.

Over his last 10 games, Patrick Mahomes has done it five times (and just missed last week at 84.7). Lamar Jackson has done it six times in his last 10. Russell Wilson is six for his last 10. Dak Prescott? Three. Aaron Rodgers? Three. Ryan Tannehill? Three. Josh Allen? Two. Lamar Jackson led the league last year with an 83 for the season. Watson was sixth at 71.3. To be a top 10 quarterback, you had to average 64.1. In two games this season, Watson sits 20th, about where he was over the last six regular season games and two playoff games last year.

In essence, Deshaun Watson - who often gets compared to those players - is not on their level. Yes, O'Brien has a lot to do with it, but it's also time to start looking at Watson's performance and regression as an NFL quarterback.

In 2018, Watson had four such games. In 2017, four in six starts. And now ONE since that Baltimore game. In fact, he has topped 80 just once in that stretch, and 60 just three times.

What it tells us is Watson has been an average quarterback over his last 10 starts. The Texans invested heavily in an offensive line to protect him. They have added depth at WR but a net loss without Hopkins. Elite quarterbacks turn in performances like that roughly half the time. Getting more consistent has always been an issue for Watson. But since that Baltimore game, he has not been close. And he is being paid to be elite.

In the end, O'Brien is still the main culprit. He has hand picked all the players around Watson, he designed the offense, and he controls everything.

But it's time to quit giving Watson a pass. Right now, he is part of the problem.

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