The Texans are unlikely to place the ~$14.297MM franchise tag on pending free agent A.J. Bouye, which the cornerback understands. “Like my agent told me, it’s about the market value. If you’re not set to make that amount in the franchise tag, then the Texans have to do what they have to do,” Bouye told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “We made some moves last offseason and spent some money. We have guys, other corners, No. 25 [Kareem Jackson], No. 24 [Johnathan Joseph] and No. 30 [Kevin Johnson]. On top of trying to bring me back, they also have to take care of Hopkins, take care of Clowney when his deal is up.” If the Texans don’t tag Bouye, the 25-year-old could price himself off the team on a long-term deal once he reaches the open market. Even though he only has 19 starts to his name, Bouye’s “going to get paid a lot of money” because “everybody in the league knows how good he is,” an NFL personnel department executive informed Wilson.
Last summer, linebacker DeMeco Ryans pushed hard to continue his NFL career. Unfortunately, he was unable to find a landing spot in 2016. Now on the verge of his 33rd birthday, Ryans is apparently done playing. Ryans has signed on with the 49ers’ coaching staff as a defensive quality control coach, which signifies that he is officially retired.
Ryans, released by the Eagles this time last year, spent four seasons in Philadelphia after playing for the Texans for his first six years in the NFL. A two-time Pro Bowler in Houston, Ryans had two strong seasons with the Eagles before an Achilles injury and a reduced role slowed him down. In 2015, he recorded 49 tackles to go along with an interception, a forced fumble, and five passes defended.
When he was unable to find a gig last summer, Ryans indicated that he was comfortable with calling it quits. In July, Dallas Robinson of PFR proposed Ryans as a replacement for Rolando McClain, but Dallas went in a different direction. After a lack of real interest from around the league, Ryans will now begin the next chapter of his football life.
- A trade of J.J. Watt would be one of the more earth-shattering scenarios the NFL could produce, but Joel Corry of CBSSports.com discussed this hypothetical gargantuan Texans deal with executives who didn’t think it was laughably unrealistic. Houston’s defense improved statistically without Watt, finishing first in total defense, and the team needs help offensively. One exec said it would take two first-round picks for the Texans to consider it, likening a Watt return package similar to that of a franchise quarterback. Another hypothetical deal involved the Texans including Brock Osweiler‘s contract in a trade and accepting less compensation in return. Corry adds that Jadeveon Clowney will likely receive a contract extension in 2018 for an amount eclipsing Watt’s six-year, $100MM deal. Corry projects that would induce a new Watt contract since it wouldn’t be realistic to have a three-time defensive player of the year be the second-highest-paid defender on his own team.
- Taking said Internet-breaking premise further: Corry discussed with execs a Watt-for-Rob Gronkowski exchange, with the Patriots — in the mind of a league exec — needing to include more than just their No. 32 overall pick in addition to Gronk to make the Texans consider that deal. Another exec couldn’t picture the teams doing this trade due to Gronkowski’s extensive injury history.
The University of Alabama is hiring Patriots tight ends coach Brian Daboll as its new offensive coordinator, according to Chris Low of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Daboll, who has led offenses at the NFL level for the Browns, Dolphins, and Chiefs, was first linked to the Crimson Tide earlier this week by Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports. Former Texans play-caller George Godsey was also in consideration for the vacancy in Tuscaloosa, per Feldman.
- Veteran safety Quintin Demps hasn’t engaged in contract negotiations with the Texans as of yet, and although the pending free agent would prefer to return to Houston in 2017, he’s not interested in offering the club any sort of hometown discount, Demps told SiriusXM NFL Radio today (Twitter links). Demps is entering his age-32 campaign, which could depress his value, but he’s started 26 games over the past two years and is coming off a season in which he graded as the league’s No. 12 safety, according to Pro Football Focus. After earning only $1.5MM in 2016, Demps should be in a for raise, but he’s not going to break the bank in a safety market that also includes Eric Berry, Tony Jefferson, and T.J. McDonald.
Although the Texans want to retain pending free agent cornerback A.J. Bouye, they’re not expected to use the franchise tag to do so, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. The Texans have just under $25MM in available cap space, so deploying a tender that’s likely to come in around $14.297MM simply isn’t tenable.
An undrafted free agent out of Central Florida in 2013, Bouye had started only eight games during his first three years in the league, but was pressed into duty in 2016 and ended up starting 11 contests. During that time, Bouye managed one interception and 16 passes defensed, and graded as the NFL’s third-best corner behind Denver’s Chris Harris and Aqib Talib, per Pro Football Focus. In the most recent edition of PFR’s Free Agent Power Rankings, Bouye ranked seventh overall, and was the only defensive back listed within the top 10.
Bouye has expressed an interest in returning to Houston, but he could be poised to cash in on the open market — earlier this month, Wilson predicted Bouye could earn as much as $13MM annually via free agency. Given that he’s only 25 years old and has just a single season of elite production, Bouye is viewed by rival general managers as the “most intriguing” free agent on the board, per Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link). As such, front offices must weigh the risk of Bouye being a one-year wonder versus his potential as a shutdown cornerback.
If he does reach free agency, Bouye will join a corner class that features several other high-profile defensive backs, including Trumaine Johnson, Stephon Gilmore, Morris Claiborne, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Brandon Carr.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Starting today, NFL teams will be able to place franchise and transition tags on potential free agents for the first time. While the window for franchise tags is open, most clubs won’t actually tag any players right away.
As our list of important dates for the 2017 offseason shows, the deadline for teams to assign those tags doesn’t come until Wednesday, March 1st. Usually, when it comes to NFL contract discussions, deadlines spur action, so teams will wait until that deadline approaches to officially use franchise tags, once it becomes clear that they won’t be able to strike a longer-term deal yet with their respective free-agents-to-be.
Even though the action might not heat up for a couple more weeks, it’s worth taking a closer look at what to expect during 2017’s franchise tag period. The NFL hasn’t officially announced the salary cap figure for 2017, but former agent Joel Corry of CBSSports.com recently projected the 2017 franchise tag salaries based on a presumed $168MM cap. Here are the expected non-exclusive franchise tag amounts:
- Quarterback: $21.395MM
- Running back: $12.377MM
- Wide receiver: $15.826MM
- Tight end: $9.894MM
- Offensive line: $14.444MM
- Defensive end: $16.955MM
- Defensive tackle: $13.468MM
- Linebacker: $14.754MM
- Cornerback: $14.297MM
- Safety: $10.961MM
- Punter/kicker: $4.863MM
(For a refresher on the characteristics of the exclusive and non-exclusive franchise tags, as well as the transition tag, be sure to check out PFR’s glossary entry on the subject.)
Here’s our look at the most likely candidates to be tagged, along with several more outside possibilities:
Chandler Jones, DE, Cardinals: Maybe Jones should headline a category titled “Super Duper Virtual Locks.” In January, coach Bruce Arians said that the Cards would apply the franchise tag to Jones if they were unable to immediately lock him up to a long-term deal. Then, just this week, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill offered additional confirmation of that plan. The $16.955MM tag will be applied to Jones in the next couple of weeks and the two sides will then have until the summer to work out a long-term deal. The odds of a longer pact coming together seem pretty good, considering the Cardinals knew what they were getting themselves into when they traded for Jones last year.
Kawann Short, DT, Panthers: Panthers head coach Ron Rivera admits that Short will “probably” be tagged and, unlike ex-teammate Josh Norman, Short doesn’t have a problem with it. The 28-year-old was the third-best defensive tackle in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus, and the Panthers will gladly pay him ~$13.5MM on a one-year deal. A multi-year agreement could require an average annual value of $17MM, so our early guess is that Short will wind up actually playing on the tender.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers: We’ve known for a while now that the Steelers will use the franchise tag on Bell. For all of his off-the-field headaches, Bell still stands as one of the league’s most dynamic running backs and a one-year, $12.3MM deal would suit Pittsburgh just fine. Sometime after the tag is in place, we’re expecting the two sides to agree on a long-term deal. As I wrote in our most recent edition of the Free Agent Power Rankings, Bell will top LeSean McCoy‘s ~$8MM AAV and Doug Martin‘s $15MM in guarantees on a new multiyear pact. Of course, other factors such as cash flow will be pivotal in talks, particularly given the limited shelf life of running backs.
While upgrading at quarterback will be a priority for the Texans, reaching an agreement to keep A.J. Bouye in Houston will be the AFC South champions’ top priority, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle notes. This gels with what came out of Houston last week, with a report indicating the team eyes a Bouye re-up and a DeAndre Hopkins extension. Finishing behind only the Broncos’ standout pair on Pro Football Focus’ 2016 cornerback rankings, Bouye emerged as one of 2016’s top breakout players, and McClain Chronicle comrade Aaron Wilson expects the fifth-year player to secure a deal that pays him upwards of $13MM annually. Bouye comes in at No. 7 on PFR’s Free Agent Power Rankings.
- Bob McNair said the Texans will target a young quarterback in the draft after an investment in Brock Osweiler did not generate much this season. This means the team does not stand to be a player in the Tony Romo sweepstakes. At least, that was the last update coming out of Houston. But McClain expects the Texans to take a look at Romo if he hits free agency. McClain agrees with NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport by saying the Texans won’t be interested in trading for Romo, and the longtime Houston reporter notes the soon-to-be 37-year-old quarterback will have to take a big pay cut if he wants to play for the Texans. However, McClain doesn’t expect the team to bypass this potentially high-caliber stopgap solution entirely.
With the Super Bowl in the rear view mirror, the offseason is officially underway for all 32 teams. We now have the complete draft order for the entire first round, with one exception which is noted below.
The Patriots, of course, will have the honor of having the last pick. The Falcons, after losing in heartbreaking fashion, will have the penultimate selection in the first round.
T-14. Eagles (via the Vikings)
T-14. Colts (Note: The Vikings and Colts have identical records and the same strength of schedule. The tie will be broke by coin flip with the winner getting pick No. 14 and the other team getting the No. 15 pick.)
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Patriots ultimately traded linebacker Jamie Collins to the Browns in late October for a third-round pick, but the Pats initially had their sights set much higher. We learned back in December that New England tried to deal Collins to New Orleans for receiver Brandin Cooks, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com wrote today that the Patriots also tried to trade Collins to the Texans for DeAndre Hopkins. Unsurprisingly, Houston was unwilling to entertain that offer, but New England also attempted to pry Johnathan Joseph from the Texans in exchange for Collins. Houston was more intrigued by that proposal but valued Joseph too highly to pull the trigger.
Nick Novak had a career-year in 2016, and some members of the Texans organization believe he played a major role in the team clinching a playoff birth.
The 35-year-old played last season on a one-year, $965K contract, and the impending free agent would like to return to Houston for the 2017 campaign.
“I want to be back,” Novak told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “I’m really proud of what we’ve done and I’m excited to be back with the same guys. I really feel like I can help the Texans get to where they want to go. I leave it up to my agent and the personnel department to get a deal done.
“I don’t know what kind of progress is being made, but it’s all positive. I’ve heard some really good things from [general manager] Rick Smith, [coach] Bill O’Brien, [special teams coordinator] Larry Izzo. We’ll see what happens.”
Let’s check out some more notes coming out of Houston…
- The Texans passing offense was among the worst in the league this past season, and Smith understands that the team needs more out of the quarterback position if they want to contend. “We’ve got to get better production from the quarterback position,” Smith told Wilson. “We’ve got to get better production from all across our football team. We’ve got to do a good job of analyzing our football team, and that’s what we’re doing now, trying to figure out where we’re strong, where we’re weak and how we can go about improving.” Of course, Smith did note that he still believes in starter Brock Osweiler, who is owed $16MM next season. Reports from earlier this week indicated that the organization would likely take a quarterback in the upcoming draft.
- Despite having one of the worse seasons of his career, wideout DeAndre Hopkins is still to eager to stick around Houston. “I love this organization and what this team is doing,” Hopkins told Wilson. “It seems like we’re getting better and better every year, so why not?” We learned earlier this week that the Texans would like to extend Hopkins, who finished last season with 78 receptions for 954 yards and four touchdowns.
- A.J. Bouye is in line for a well-deserved payday, writes Wilson. Instead of taking a less-lucrative, multi-year offer last offseason, the cornerback decided to opt for a one-year, $1.6MM contract with the Texans. The 25-year-old clearly made the right decision, as he’s projected to be the best free agent defensive back. Wilson expects that the Texans will have around $25MM in cap space, and he projects Bouye to receive an offer that pays around $13MM annually.