FREE AGENT FRENZY

Texans playing high stakes poker for Nate Solder

Texans GM Brian Gaine is in a high stakes poker game for Nate Solder. Houstontexans.com

“Son, I’ve made a life out of reading people’s faces, and knowing what the cards were by the way they held their eyes…”  

- Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

We are about to see how well new Texans GM Brian Gaine plays his cards.

Left tackle is a premium position in the NFL, and this offseason there are several teams desperate to get one, the Texans included.  The problem is there is only one on the free agent market that is any good, and his name is Nate Solder.

The Patriots LT isn’t coming off his best season, but he is a solid player who can be better than he was this past season where injuries early on slowed him, and has started four Super Bowls.  He would be a big upgrade for a Houston team that started five different LTs a year ago, and the only good one they started, they traded to Seattle.

Dealing Duane Brown has left the Texans in a perilous predicament: they must bid against every other team that is just as desperate as they are, namely the Giants, Browns, and Patriots.

The Patriots are infamous for not paying market value, but all the other OTs they had last season were RTs, and they have some guy named Tom Brady who doesn’t like being hit. The Giants offensive line was a sieve, and they are desperate to get help to protect Eli Manning in his advancing age (they also just whiffed on OG Andrew Norwell, which has the front office scrambling).  The Browns have Pro Bowler Joe Thomas, but Thomas hasn’t decided if he will play this year or retire, and won’t tell the team until Wednesday at the earliest. If he chooses to retire, they suddenly have a huge need at LT.

Of course, the Texans have their own young QB in Deshaun Watson they need to protect, and they would like to get their line up to par to get the run game going as well.

Four teams desperate for a LT.  Only one LT that is any good on the market.  Who will blink at the ante?

The Patriots have $22M in cap space avail, the Giants only $20M.  The Texans have $61M and the Browns $77M. Solder’s price tag in this market could exceed $13M per season.

The best thing that can happen to the Texans is that Joe Thomas tells Cleveland he’s coming back, as that will leave them the most money to attack their needs.

In this instance, the Texans cannot blink.  The ante may get large enough to set the market at LT.  Another season of trash line play only further separates them from the Jaguars and the top of the division, neuters their run game, and puts their prize young star QB at risk.

The Texans can’t afford to whiff on Solder.  However many chips it takes, they need to push them to the middle of the table.

We are about to find out if Brian Gaine has the fortitude to call on a biggest hand the Texans will likely play this offseason.

Patrick Creighton is the host of “Nate & Creight” heard Monday-Friday 1-3p on SportsMap 94.1 FM, and “Sports & Shenanigans” Sun 12-5p CT on SB Nation Radio.  Follow him on Twitter: @pcreighton1





 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome