A loss in the Divisional Round is a tough pill for DeMeco Ryans’ and his unit. Momentum from an impressive wild card performance seemed irrelevant against the Baltimore Ravens. The Houston Texans entered the locker room at halftime with the game tied and a chance to pull off an upset. The odds slowly declined as the game progressed. In the end, C.J. Stroud and his teammates were behind on the scoreboard and forced to begin thinking about the off-season. Evaluating the contracts on the roster is the first step for the front office.
Who has the heaviest contracts on the Houston Texans?
Houston Texans Contract #3: QB, C.J Stroud
The 2023 NFL Draft was the best thing that has happened to the franchise in a long time. The Houston Texans used their first-round pick to secure a quarterback they believed could change the future. C.J. Stroud lived up to expectations during his rookie campaign. He entered prepared, and it reflected on the gridiron. This season, the second overall pick ranked 13th in passing touchdowns (23) and 16th in big-time time throws (23). His poise and leadership helped Bobby Slowik’s offense (13th) overcome obstacles and persevere through the campaign. Stroud earned 4,109 passing yards (8th) - 265 yards shy of Andrew Luck's rookie single-season record. There are a lot of positives to take away from No.7’s first year under center. Propelling the Texans to the playoffs was the biggest one of them all.
Clinching a playoff berth was a farfetched goal for DeMeco Ryans’ squad. Fans entered the season without expectations. A victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4 began to show viewers what the team could do. Stroud threw 306 passing yards and two touchdowns against a consistent defense. This win showed the Texans a glimpse of their potential. It was validation that the Stroud needed to be under center. He later led the Texans to their first playoff berth in five years and earned every penny of his four-year contract.
Houston Texans Contract #2: G, Tytus Howard
Protecting the quarterback is vital for success in the NFL. The Houston Texans used their primary resources to reconstruct their offense. They used draft capital to secure a franchise quarterback. Liquid capital secured a piece of the offensive line. In 2022, Houston's front office signed Tytus Howard to a 3-year $56 million deal. It was a great decision at the time. The former first-round pick (2019) struggled to show promise early during his rookie season. He earned a 59.4 offensive grade on 488 offensive snaps. In 2020, Howard improved his grade (62.1) - earning more reps. His growth convinced Houston he was keeping on the roster.
Injuries have always been a problem for the former Alabama State Hornet. In 2019, Howard experienced a hand and knee injury. Later in 2020, he injured his ankle followed by a concussion two years later. The Texans' second-highest-paid offensive lineman had missed a significant amount of time. None compared to the 2023 campaign. A knee injury against the Jacksonville Jaguars placed Howard on injured reserve. He was sidelined the entire season but can make a convincing comeback.
Houston Texans Contract #1: LT, Laremy Tunsil
Left Tackle is one of the hardest potions to learn in football. It also pays the most in the NFL. Protecting the blindside is essential. Jason Peters, Joe Thomas, and Orlando Pace earned every penny in their contract by keeping the gunslinger upright. The Houston Texans believe Laremy Tonsil can replicate the results. An impressive 2022 season was enough evidence for the front office to re-sign the former first-round pick to a three year $75 million deal. Tunsil earned his highest offensive rating (80) in his career while playing the second most reps (1,061) in his career. He had a tremendous season, but the effort did not show in the final record.
A chance to build something great led Houston to resign their best offensive linemen early in the off-season. Tunsil’s pass-blocking abilities (91.7) from the previous season convinced Caserio’s front office that he was worth keeping during the rebuild. The veteran’s presence made an impact in 2023. Tunsil earned his second-highest offense rating (75.5) and run block rating (66.8). He ranked fourth among Tackles in pass blocking (85.4) despite missing a few games due to injury.
The off-season is a time for the front office to reflect on the regular season. It is here weaknesses become strengths for the season to follow. DeMeco Ryans and his unit can compete at a high level for several years. They must evaluate all contracts and figure out the first move for the next phase of the season.
All statistics courtesy off pff.com