Overview of the wide receivers
One question that will immediately need answering regards the future of standout wide receiver Will Fuller. In the wake of the departure of DeAndre Hopkins, Fuller stepped up in a big way this season. In 11 games, Fuller had set new career-highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns (53, 879, 8.)
Fuller was setting himself up for a nice payday, that was until his season was cut short after receiving a suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing policy. Fuller still has not made it through the entirety of a 16-game NFL schedule. Through five years, the former first round pick has now missed a whopping 27 games due to injury or suspensions.
Fuller’s talent is undeniable, he had firmly established himself as Watson’s favorite target before his suspension. But Houston is not really in a situation where they can hand out big contracts to players that are still unreliable. Even after the suspension, I would be amazed if some team out there loaded with space (Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots) is not willing to give Fuller a contract worth somewhere in the range of $12 million per year. Considering Houston’s current cap situation, can they take on this sort of liability?
With the way that the game has evolved, wide receiver is one of the five most important positions in the sport. I am a firm believer that you need premium talent at the position if you want to be competitive.
Fuller was in the midst of a breakout season, and this is truly a situation where I will probably understand whichever path Houston chooses regarding Fuller, with the exception of a gross overpay.
My writing will feature a theme: Give Deshaun Watson what he wants.
If Watson feels comfortable throwing to Fuller and does not want to lose his favorite target for the second consecutive offseason, create the cap space to keep Fuller around long-term.
I have also emphasized that Houston is preparing to undergo a rebuild. Fuller has been unreliable to contribute for an entire season, and Brandin Cooks (81,1,150, 6) is under contract for three more seasons. Cooks had some huge performances down the stretch in the absence of Fuller, and he has publicly said he wants to return to Houston for 2021.
With Cooks set to return and a roster littered with holes, the most sensible approach could be to cut your losses with Fuller and let him walk then use whatever money you are able to spend to address other parts of the roster.
There will most likely be cheaper options on the free agency market that the Houston Texans could bring in to replicate some of Fuller’s production. Or how about an expanded role for Keke Coutee? Perhaps it is time to truly evaluate what you have in the 2018 draft selection from Texas Tech after he put together some quality performances to close out the 2020 campaign.
In short, I would LEAN towards letting Fuller walk because I am not sure Houston is in a situation where it would be smart to shell out the money to keep him right now. I could certainly be talked into an extension if that is the route they pursue, though.