After sending the Dolphins two first-round picks and change in last summer’s Laremy Tunsil-centered swap, the Texans are prepared to negotiate with their prized left tackle. These talks will be interesting.
Tunsil and the Texans have engaged in preliminary talks and met with the fifth-year blocker’s agent at the Combine, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. While the sides are not deep in negotiations yet, the recent trade acquisition is expected to set an eye-opening price point.
Tunsil is expected to pursue a deal that pays him between $19-$20MM per year, Wilson adds. That would eclipse Lane Johnson‘s recent offensive line-record $18MM-AAV pact. Although Tunsil is not as accomplished as Philadelphia’s top tackle, the Texans sending two first-rounders for him — and the salary cap potentially set to vault into previously unforeseen territory in the near future –support Tunsil shooting for this price range.
Johnson represents the only offensive lineman earning more than $16.5MM per year presently. Tunsil joining him should be anticipated, however. The 25-year-old tackle is attached to a $10.3MM fifth-year option in 2020. The Texans would have the option of a franchise tag in 2021, but as more information about future salary caps comes out, Tunsil’s price may continue to rise.
The Texans received a Pro Bowl season from Tunsil in 2019; the ex-Ole Miss standout became the first Texans Pro Bowl offensive lineman since Duane Brown in 2014. Houston dealt Brown in 2017 and experienced considerable trouble replacing him over the next 1 1/2 seasons, with Deshaun Watson taking a 2010s-high 62 sacks in 2018. Pro Football Focus graded Tunsil as its No. 21 overall tackle but slotted him third overall in pass protection.
Houston enters the offseason with $61MM-plus in cap space and has some key needs on defense, but this will be a centerpiece priority for the team — one that will not have the luxury of upgrading too much in this year’s draft. The Texans traded four first-, second- or third-round 2020 picks last year, placing a premium on how they handle veteran contracts this year.
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