ON THE OUTS?

Del Olaleye: 3 players you may not see on the Texans after 2018

Jonathan Joseph might be in his last go round with the Texans. Bob Levey/Getty Images

The NFL draft is a weird dichotomy. It means new hope for over 250 players and maybe the beginning of the end for countless others. Teams are afforded seven picks not including compensatory picks and others acquired through trades and those new players have to go somewhere. That means plenty of guys who had roster spots in 2017 may not have them in 2018. The NFL isn’t a game, but a business and with this influx of cheap labor somebody has to go. This cycle repeats itself every year so let’s talk about some Texans who may not call Houston home after the 2018 season.

Kareem Jackson CB

Jackson was a first round pick in 2010. That designation in itself provides plenty of job security. Under Rick Smith it meant you were going to be given every opportunity to prove your worth. The first round pick out of Alabama struggled mightily early in his career but to his credit improved and became a solid member of a top-flight defense. At age 30, with rumblings of a switch to safety, Jackson’s time with Texans could be coming to end. Specifically because any move to safety could be short-circuited by the Texans drafting Justin Reid, the safety from Stanford. Signing Tyrann Mathieu doesn’t make a position switch more likely for Jackson. Mathieu is only on a one-year deal but a big year in Romeo Crennel’s defense would make him an attractive player for the Texans to sign long-term.

Jackson is in the final year of his deal and his 2018 salary will be $6.5 million. Corners who are considered solid at best and who have lost a step don’t usually get paid what they think they’re worth. An average to subpar year from Jackson in Houston could see him looking to sign a final big deal someplace else.

Johnathan Joseph CB

Joseph at points appears to be teflon but his recent contract extension really just amounts to a one-year deal with a club option for an extra year. If Joseph were to be cut after the 2018 season it would cost the Texans nothing. The 2011 free agent acquisition from the Bengals helped turn a defense that everyone saw as a glaring weakness into the backbone of a team that won four division titles in six seasons. At 34-years-old Joseph’s play has declined as you’d expect and the Texans should be looking for a long-term replacement. Though the organization signed Aaron Colvin in the offseason, the pressing need for a young No. 1 corner still remains. While the team did pick up the 5th-year option on 2015 first round CB Kevin Johnson, his inconsistent play and injuries mean the Texans are still hoping he becomes a long-term answer. A first round CB should be high on the list of priorities for the Texans. Paying Joseph in 2019 at 35-years-old shouldn’t be.

Lamar Miller RB

It wouldn’t surprise me if what Miller did in a Week 6 matchup in 2015 against the Texans as member of the Miami Dolphins is the reason the Texans signed him. That day he accounted for 241 total yards and two touchdowns. In a game that the Dolphins led 41-0 at the half, Miller ran for an 85-yard touchdown and caught a screen pass for a 54-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Coupled with Arian Foster tearing his achilles tendon in the same game it almost seemed like Miller’s dominance that day was enough for him to be viewed as Foster’s replacement. Unfortunately the explosive all-purpose threat the Texans saw that day has not manifested itself in Houston.

The University of Miami product only carried the ball 20 times or more in a game twice in his entire career with the Dolphins. He carried the ball 20 times or more three times in his first three games with the Texans. Miscast as a workhorse back in his first season in Houston, the big-play capabilities Miller showed on the college level and with the Dolphins have not been evident in Houston. Miller’s cap hit is $7.25 million in 2019 while cutting him would save the Texans $6 million. Miller will be 28-years-old when the 2019 season begins and barring a year that far exceeds his first two years in Houston he could be another core member of the Texans to be looking for work elsewhere.

 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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