Former Texans GM Rick Smith traded away several key picks. Bob Levey/Getty Images
The NFL year and official start to the offseason does not officially happen until tomorrow, but there have already been enough moves to make your head spin. Several big-name players have been shipped via trade and with them the free agency blue prints have been set for nearly every team. This volume of deals being made might be a surprise to many; just not me. I can safely say I saw the future and that future was trading. During last year’s offseason I wrote for the now shuttered HoustonSportsandStuff.com about how this might become a trend. Now it seems prophetic because I can’t recall ever seeing this many trades happen in one offseason.
But lo and behold, the Texans are once again not a part of the action. This time it’s not because they don’t want to try. I’m sure if they could, they would. Their predicament while all these shenanigans are going on is the lack of 1st and 2nd round picks. Without the ability to get one of the top 64 players, they need to use what’s left of their picks wisely in the draft. Going after veteran players that other teams are willing to ship off for late round picks is too much of a gamble..
They currently have three picks in the 3rd round of this year’s draft. With any luck they can package two of them to move into the 2nd round and find a quality player where need and value meet. New GM Brian Gaine will be paying close attention, looking for the right trading partner when the moment is right. But looking back at the last years of Rick Smith, I can’t help but wonder if he gave away too much too soon.
When Osweiler was signed as a free agent I was all for the move, just not at that price. I would never outbid an unproven player’s previous team. It cost them an early draft pick just to get out from under that albatross of a contract. I loved the move to get Deshaun Watson, but I wouldn’t have made it. Sometimes you should be willing to step away from the table before you lose your shirt. Watson is a franchise player, no doubt, but the move left them without picks in the first two rounds of the draft and still with several holes to fill on the roster.
Due to unfortunate circumstances, the Texans finished the season with a record that even Osweiler might have achieved. They could have been sitting with the 4th and 35th overall picks this year and plenty of choices at quarterback. And with those picks in hand, they wouldn’t have to hold tightly to their mid rounders. They could have put in offers for players like Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, or Damarious Randall. They might have been able to go after offensive tackle Cordy Glenn from the Bills who was traded to the Bengals. While they may have some movable players in Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Lamar Miller and a package of depth players; the reality is that they need to hold on to all their defensive studs, not too many teams would want Miller, and any trade to gain players they need would involve giving away a draft pick or two. They can’t afford it.
I won’t disparage him too much because I doubt that Rick Smith saw this trading frenzy on the horizon. He used his draft picks in the way they’ve been used for quite some time. It may not have been the best way to go but general managers in the NFL can get caught up in the howl of the fans and try to chase the moon and the stars. There’s an old saying in league circles, “If you listen to the fans, it won’t be long until you’re sitting with them.” Smith will be doing just that this season and his successor will do his best to avoid that fate.
It just pains me to think that I saw this trade craze coming and I’m watching as the Texans sit on the sidelines because they don’t have the chips to sit down at the table with anyone. They still have about $61 million in cap space according to spotrac.com and that gives them wiggle room to chase anyone left on Wednesday. If you’re interested in reading about some of their options you can read Lance Zierlein’s piece on offensive line targets here, or A.J. Hoffman’s piece on free agency needs here.
No matter what happens in the next week or two, the inability to even attempt anything via trade because of the need to hoard draft picks has already hurt the Texans this offseason. The right moves from here on out will save this season and with any luck the trading trend will continue next year when the Texans have more to offer before the league year starts.
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