Houston Texans: Quarterback hunt, part 1

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Since the dreaded wheels-off 2013 season, the Houston Texans have gone through a slew of quarterbacks leading the team on the field – leading, of course, being used very lightly. That season, we benched our so-called franchise QB, Matt Schaub, shortly after his feat of shattering the consecutive games with a pick 6 record in the league. After Schaub was benched as the starter in 2013, the carousel began,and hasn’t stopped. Starting in that season, the Texans utilized T.J. Yates, Case Keenum, Matt Schaub again, Case Keenum again, Matt Schaub again, Case Keenum again, Matt Schaub again, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Ryan Fizpatrick again, Tom Savage, Case Keenum again, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett again, Brian Hoyer Again T.J. Yates again, Brandon Weeden,  B.J. Daniels, and again, Brian Hoyer.  Did I miss anyone?

That timeline, since Schaub’s benching, has resulted in a 18-23 record. Ironically, when the Texans QB carousel was in full swing, the Texans produced two consecutive winning seasons, one including a post-season appearance (albeit short). Without a consistent, franchise-level QB, the Texans have shown their scrappiness. Players can adjust, and coaches can create wins with a patchwork process. But enough’s enough. A QB drafted in the higher rounds in the 2016 draft is not only anticipated, but it’s straight-up mandatory. With 45 college QB prospects who have declared for the 2016 NFL draft, and several other teams in position 1-21 in the draft (well, maybe 2-21), O’Brien and Smith have some serious thinking to do. The question of “is there a franchise QB in this draft” happens every year, so let’s ditch that thought.

Before looking into draft prospects, let’s look at the current roster, and what changes should be made.

Currently, the Texans have three QBs on the roster: Brian Hoyer, Tom Savage, and B.J. Daniels. Hoyer will be in his final year, with a $4,000,000 salary plus a $1,250,000 roster bonus. Tom Savage will be in his 3rd year of his 4 year contract, with a salary of $600,000 and a prorated bonus of $75,146. B.J. Daniels is also in his final year of his contract, with a salary of $600,000. There are also two QBs headed into free agency: T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden. Yates previous salary with the Texans was $745,000. Weeden’s salary for 2015 was $615,000, with the Texans picking up his remaining salary from the Dallas contract late in 2015. Both, if signed to another contract, would be looking for a pay raise. So, what should be done with the current QBs on the roster?

Brian Hoyer has shown that he can hang, and his best season has been as a Texan. I don’t know if that speaks more toward the QB conditioning for the Texans or for the lack of any organization with the Browns, but the success of recent ex-Texan QBs, namely Fitzpatrick and Keenum, leans more toward the former. However, Hoyer has shown a tendency to completely buckle under pressure, throw inconsistently, and he lacks the arm strength needed to continue to be the journeyman we need. While Hoyer doesn’t have a painfully high cap hit, his 2016 salary and cap hit is simply too high to justify keeping him, with the other options on the roster. Texans should trade or release. A few more compensatory picks would be nice to pick up.

Tom Savage is the QB drafted in 2014; O’Brien’s first QB decision as head coach for the Texans. Savage isn’t likely to go anywhere. He had a shaky start when thrown in as a back-up in the 2014 season (remember that snap fumble?), but has shown major improvement going into the 2015 pre-season. An unfortunate injury in the last minutes of the last pre-season game cost him the season where he would have likely seen his first career start as an NFL QB. In the 2014 draft, he was a talked about newcomer, with arguably the best arm strength and consistency, as well as other intangibles that made him an interesting draft prospect. His limited play meant he’d be sitting a year or two in development. Well, 2016 is going to make or break his future with the Texans. Keep him, start him by week 3.

B.J. Daniels is a versatile player, with both QB and wide receiver experience. In 2015, the Seattle Seahawks made the move to switch Daniels from QB to wide receiver, but he’s been kept on a practice squad for most of his NFL career. The Texans utilized him as a QB, mainly in the wildcat formation, which does not spell out for a lasting gig. He may be looked at to develop in his last year as a complementary WR to DeAndre Hopkins, while being tagged to utilize trick plays with the wildcat. I don’t see him as a legitimate contender for even a journeyman QB spot on the roster, however. He has a final year of practice squad eligibility, as well. The Texans should hold onto Daniels in his final contract year and see how he can develop as a WR in training camp and the pre-season. If he doesn’t make the final cut, he can still make it on the practice squad.

T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden have similar stock on this team as a can-do journeyman who can get the job done while (Tom Savage/future draft pick) ready themselves as a starter, and as a quality back-up when needed. I don’t feel the need to break either down individually, as they both have similar upsides and downsides. Bottom line for these two is that they’re cheap and reliable, and know the system. Weeden has the slight advantage for consistency, and Yates has our hearts. If looking for a bargain back-up, the Texans should consider a 1 year extension for Weeden. However, with a few veteran free agent QBs hitting the market this year, one could play devil’s advocate and bargain for releasing Hoyer, Yates, and Weeden to make room for the likes of Kaepernick, RGIII (gulp), or even start a bidding war with the Jets to bring Fitzpatrick back in for another round.

If the Texans want to bring a new journeyman in for the 2016 season, I’d champion for Fitzpatrick – but that’s gonna be tough. Otherwise, I’d go with Weeden to continue to be the journeyman, Savage to develop and get a shot as the starter, and a draft pick. Do we really want to bring yet another veteran QB into the system? I’d think not. Look for the Texans to keep 2, maybe Daniels as a practice squad/WR plug-in (he could help out the special teams unit, too). Realistically, I see the Texans keeping Hoyer one more year, but I hope they surprise me and go for Weeden instead. In Part 2, we’ll discuss the draft prospects.

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