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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Let's make a deal. Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The NFL trade deadline is less than a week away, and the Houston Texans have a significant decision to make regarding their franchise star, J.J. Watt. The Texans are 1-6 through the first seven games of the season, and the next few years of the franchise seem a bit bleak.

No player or staff member has encapsulated Houston's frustration quite like Watt. Excluding the Texans' victory over the Jaguars, the future Hall of Famer has looked miserable in every post-game press conference. Each week, it's the constant look of despair. And in hindsight, closing the chapter on Watt's career in Houston seems to be best for both parties.

At 31-years-old, the All-Pro defensive tackle should be spending the twilight of his career competing for Super Bowls — not playing for a team who is clearly about to hit the reset button at the conclusion of this season.

By departing from Watt, it would allow the Texans to get a jumpstart on their rebuilding project — one that has the potential to bring back quality draft picks, a young prospect, and clear close to $20 million in cap space.

If they decide not to move on from Watt, the Texans risk putting themselves in a situation where they may miss out on obtaining higher draft picks and strapped for cash heading into the 2021 free agency market. And with one year left on his contract following 2020, the Texans also risk losing leverage in a potential deal if forced into trading Watt come next season.

At this stage of his career, the Texans may not receive a haul for Watt's services but could maximize his trade value by dealing him to a championship-contending team. A move that would give Watt the best chances of adding a championship title to his luxurious resume in return.

With the future of the franchise in mind, here are three potential trade ideas that would be best if the Texans are truly considering moving on from Watt.

Watt returns home to Wisconsin and joins the Packers

Texans receive: 2021 first-round pick and LB Kamal Martin

Packer receive: J.J. Watt

The Green Bay Packers are one of a handful of teams who has a realistic chance to stamp their ticket to Super Bowl LV. Following a win over the Texans on Sunday, the Packers stand first in the NFC North with a 5-1 record and possess one of the NFL's best offensive teams.

Green Bay's offense can compete in a shootout with just about any team in the league, but their defense may be the reason why they fall short of representing the NFC in Tampa Bay come February. They have only accumulated a total of 10 quarterback hits and are currently 30th in the league in pass rush through the first six games. The Packers' lack of ability to get to the opposing team's quarterback could be an immense problem during a playoff game that could feature Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson.

So what do the Packers have to lose by acquiring their Wisconsin native?

The addition of Watt would allow the Packers to add one of the best pass rushers of all-time. Although Watt is nowhere near the player that finished second behind Aaron Rogers for league MVP honors in 2015, he has illustrated that he is still a disruptive defensive lineman five years later.

Through the first seven games, Watt has accounted for 11 pressures, six quarterback hits and three sacks — which would make him Green Bay's second most reliable pass rusher trailing only Za'Darius Smith.

For the Texans, receiving a first-round pick for Watt is self-explanatory and would be the most suitable return for the aging star. However, for a team that is building for the future, the Texans should consider obtaining a young and raw prospect to evaluate.

Kamal Martin, a fifth-round draft selection in 2020, made his NFL debut against the Texans on Sunday and left an exceptional first impression. He recorded six tackles and one tackle for loss in 29 snaps inside NRG Stadium, and could be a building block should the Texans begin to make modifications to their linebacking corps.

Seattle sends multiple draft picks for Watt

Texans receive: 2021 second-round pick and fourth-round pick

Seahawks receive: J.J. Watt

If the Packers do not take advantage of improving their pass rush with Watt — perhaps the Seattle Seahawks will. Both NFC teams mirror each other with a high-powered offense, but a feeble defense may hinder one another from advancing to the Super Bowl. In a deal for Watt to the Seahawks, the Texans would miss out on the chance to acquire a first-rounder, but obtaining multiple picks would be just as prominent.

Seattle's general manager John Schneider is no stranger to taking a significant risk, and appears willing to make any moves that will put his organization closer to their long-overdue second title with Russell Wilson. Perhaps, Watt would be that missing key.

The Seahawks are pretty solid at stopping the run but need a tremendous upgrade in their pass defense. Seattle has given up the second-most passing yards on the season (2,212), and the reason seems to be their inability to get to the quarterback. Seattle has only implemented pressure to the opposing team's quarterback on 20.1% of their dropbacks, while only recording a total of nine sacks.

The Seahawks pass defense may not become elite, but the disruption of Watt on their defensive line could be enough to limit the devastation they have experienced through the first seven weeks of the season.

Watt to the Big Easy for Brees' last dance

Texans receive: 2021 second-round pick and Marcus Davenport

Saints receive: J.J. Watt

Seven weeks into the season, the New Orleans Saints are not sitting near the top of the NFC nor their division when compared to recent years. A bevy of injuries have been attributed to their minor decline this season — mainly to their All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas.

However, the Saints have prevailed through the injury bug to march their way to a 4-2 record. If New Orleans can get healthy during the second half of the season, they will be in the running to represent the NFC in Tampa Bay for Super Bowl LV. But unlike the Packers and Seahawks, this could be the Saints last chance to recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy in what is likely Drew Brees' last dance.

The addition of Watt to the Saints would give general manager Mickey Loomis a chance to create the most disruptive defensive line in the league. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen would be able to shift the five-time Pro-Bowler to the interior — allowing the Saints to trot out a d-line of Watt, Cameron Jordan and Trey Hendrickson.

This trade would give Watt arguably the most help he has ever had on the defensive line — which would allow New Orleans to maximize what is left of his career.

This trade would have the Texans missing out on obtaining a first-rounder, but a sound-round pick would be just as valuable for Watt. However, Houston should consider adding a young prospect in a potential swap, and Marcus Davenport would be their best return.

Drafted in 2018, Davenport is a former first-round talent who can help transition the Texans into the post-Watt era. He has showed promise of a bright future through his first two seasons, but injuries have prevented the 24-year-old prodigy of San Antonio from establishing himself as one of the league's top young talents.

This season, elbow and toe injuries have limited Davenport to just a pair of games in 2020. Although there is an immense concern regarding Davenport's health, the Texans cannot pass on adding a player who has already registered 11.5 sacks and 31 quarterback hits through his first 28 career games.

Coty M. Davis is a reporter for ESPN 97.5 Houston/SportsMap covering the Houston Texans. He is also the co-host of Locked On Texans, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network. Follow Coty on Twitter @CotyDavis_24.

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