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

ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome