Howard agreed to a three-year, $56MM extension Wednesday morning, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). This $18.67MM-per-year agreement will give the 2019 first-round pick $36.5MM guaranteed. An $18MM signing bonus comprises part of that guarantee, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson adds.
It is unclear if Howard that guarantee total represents Thomas’ locked-in number at signing, but after an inconsistent start to his career, the Division I-FCS product will be part of a suddenly expensive Houston offensive line. As the Texans prepare to give C.J. Stroud the reins, they are fortifying his protection corps.
Tunsil agreed to a three-year, $75MM extension, while Mason landed a three-year, $36MM contract shortly thereafter. Texans GM Nick Caserio has shown a willingness to offer short-term extensions, as he also did for defensive tackle Maliek Collins this offseason. Expensive medium-term contacts now flood his O-line. But the Texans’ front previously featured a big-ticket Tunsil contract and a host of lower-cost agreements. No more. In terms of average annual value, Tunsil and Howard double as the NFL’s highest-paid tackle tandem.
Howard, 27, had been going into his fifth-year option season. This extension will allow the Texans to reduce that $13.2MM cap hit for 2023, and they now have their right tackle signed through 2026.
Neither Tunsil nor Howard were Caserio-era pickups. Howard arrived first, joining the team as a first-round pick during a Brian Gaine-run draft. The Texans fired Gaine shortly after that 2019 draft, leading to the eventful Bill O’Brien period in charge. O’Brien signed off on the monster Tunsil trade package months later and greenlit a record-setting extension for the left tackle in 2020. Tunsil scored big again under Caserio this offseason. The Texans acquired Mason, a Patriots draftee during Caserio’s lengthy New England run, from the Buccaneers in March.
Wednesday’s deal makes Howard the league’s fourth-highest-paid right tackle, checking in just ahead of Brian O’Neill but behind the new accords given to Lane Johnson and Jawaan Taylor. The Saints’ Ryan Ramczyk deal also checks in above Howard’s. Considering Ramczyk and Johnson are All-Pros, Howard being in this neighborhood represents a substantial win. While Howard has not achieved what those two right-siders have, the Texans had begun to view him as a long-term piece recently.
Howard had spent time at guard and replaced Tunsil at left tackle down the stretch in 2021. With Tunsil healthy last year, Howard returned to his right tackle post and started all 17 games. While 2022 brought another dismal Texans performance as a whole, Howard excelled. ESPN’s pass block win rate metric placed the Alabama State alum sixth among tackles. Pro Football Focus was less bullish, slotting Howard 41st. But the Texans are rolling with the Tunsil-Howard tandem for the foreseeable future.
With Stroud’s rookie contract on the books, the Texans will be able to make big investments at other positions. The team has not acquired much talent worthy of said re-ups at other spots just yet, having gone multiple years — due to the Tunsil trade — without first- or second-round picks. But plenty will be expected of Houston’s O-line in Stroud’s first season.