The team's general manager at the combine discussed the team using the tag

Franchise tag "an option" for Texans with Clowney

Cody Stoots/SportsMap

Texans general manager Brian Gaine said at the NFL Scouting Combine the team won't discuss contracts publicly when he was asked about impending free agents. He did however confirm the Texans would use the franchise tag if necessary.

"It's certainly an option," said the second-year general manager. "It's not the priority, but it's certainly an option."

Defensive standout Jadeveon Clowney is the most-likely candidate though safeties Kareem Jackson and Tyrann Mathieu are also available to be tagged by Houston. Gaine mentioned he will meet with all three player's representation this week.

"We want to make an effort to keep all our good players," he said. "Keep our core players intact. Those guys are valuable guys."

The franchise tag grants the player the average of the top five salaries at their position for one season. The one-year deal is fully guaranteed and hits the team's salary cap as soon as the player signs his franchise tag. The team then has until mid-July to agree on an long-term contract before the player is locked into the one-year deal. A player who signs a franchise tag can be traded by his team.

Clowney's case is interesting because while he is listed as an outside linebacker he plays all over the defense. There is a difference of a few million dollars between being tagged as a linebacker and as a defensive end.

According to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer the NFLPA projects a linebacker to have a tag of $15.59 million while a defensive end carries a tag of $17.29 million. Pro Football Focus places Clowney at end more than linebacker in their assessment of his snaps by detailed position.

Cody's Take

No surprise Brian Gaine was tight-lipped about his next move with a lot of his free agents. He will have to start running the numbers when he begins discussions with the various free agents making sure adding say Mathieu back doesn't restrict what he can pay Clowney or Jackson.

It would seem the Texans aren't going right to the franchise tag with Clowney, but instead are using it for the tag's intended use. It was not put into the NFL's collective bargaining agreement to get out of extending a player. It was placed in there to guarantee the player some level of security while the team continues to negotiate a contract with him.

This is the approach I believe the Texans should be taking with Clowney. The franchise tag should be the last resort. Letting him walk is not an option. Short of an unbelievable haul trading him after tagging him should not be an option. They should be working with Clowney and his agent to keep him in Houston for a long time. The value of the contract will be hotly contested. If Clowney wants Khalil Mack or Aaron Donald money it might be a price too steep for the Texans to spend and ultimately that would lead to a year playing under the franchise tag. Not the worst thing for Clowney but not the best either.

If the Texans truly want him back, and there is no reason to believe they don't as he has been one of their best players for years, negotiating up to the franchise tag deadline (March 5) and using the tag if negotiations need to go further is best for all parties involved. Remember, deadlines get deals done. Next week is the first of two important deadlines for the Texans.

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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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