The Texans have claimed offensive tackle Roderick Johnson off of waivers from the Browns, a league source tells Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Johnson was released by Cleveland on this week to make room for the addition of former No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson.
Johnson, a fifth-round pick in the 2017 draft, missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury. The new regime, led by GM John Dorsey, preferred to the potential of Robinson over that of Johnson, even though Johnson is ostensibly back to full health.
The Texans will assume the remainder of Johnson’s rookie contract, which has three years remaining. He’ll carry a cap number of just $547K if he sticks on the roster.
Four years ago today, we had a rare June NFL trade. In a relatively interesting move (at the time), the Texans sent quarterback T.J. Yates to the Falcons for linebacker AkeemDent.
Houston had actually planned on releasing Yates, their 2011 fifth-round pick. The North Carolina product had failed to show much during his first three years in the NFL, throwing three touchdowns and six interceptions in 13 games. With coach Bill O’Brien deciding to roll with the trio of RyanFitzpatrick, CaseKeenum, and Tom Savage, Yates was set to be released and hit free agency. However, once word of Yates’ impending release got around the NFL, teams started calling in on the young signal-caller.
Houston ended up landing on a deal with the Falcons, receiving the intriguing Dent in return. The 2011 third-round pick had looked solid during his stint in Atlanta, starting 10 games and compiling 136 tackles in three years. While the Georgia product failed to progress during his time in Houston, the trade still appears to be a win for the Texans. Dent collected 38 tackles and one sacks in 15 games (seven starts) during his first season in Houston, earning himself a two-year extension. However, over the next two seasons, Dent only managed to compile a combined 29 tackles and zero sacks. The 30-year-old hasn’t appeared in the NFL since 2016.
Yates’ tenure with the Falcons was short-lived. The quarterback appeared in only a single game for the franchise, completing three of four passes for 64 yards and one interception. He was released by Atlanta prior to the 2015 season, and he ended up catching on again with… the Texans. Yates looked a bit better during his second (and third) stint in Houston, and he earned a chance to play this past season due to injuries. He finished the 2017 campaign having completed 48.5-percent of his passes for 523 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions.
The Patriots deny having shopped Rob Gronkowski this offseason, but evidence to the contrary is mounting. The Pats engaged in trade talks with the Lions, Titans, Texans, and 49ers, Albert Breer of The MMQB told FS1 (transcription via NESN).
Breer hears that the Patriots only discussed a potential Gronkowski trade with teams they “trust.” The tentacles of the Patriots extend to all four teams: Lions GM Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia used to work for the Pats, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien previously served as the Pats’ offensive coordinator, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel played for the Pats and GM Jon Robinson spent more than ten years in New England, and BillBelichick has a solid relationship with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.
For now, it seems like Gronk is staying put, but the Patriots weren’t entirely truthful when they threw water on the latest round of trade rumors. The two sides will likely hammer out a revised contract between now and the start of the season, but it’s still a situation worth monitoring.
These proceedings differ from the Texans’ approaches with past offseason extension recipients Matt Schaub, Eric Winston or DeAndre Hopkins, per McClain, with dialogue ramping up prior to those deals being finalized. Clowney, though, is again dealing with an injury that could be causing the Texans to pause these seminal negotiations. Though, McClain notes Clowney assured Bill O’Brien he’d be ready by the time the Texans open camp July 26.
Although Clowney’s shaken off his rookie-year injury and been largely available since, he’s been more prone to physical ailments than Donald or Mack. With the Texans seeing J.J. Watt‘s prime being threatened by severe setbacks, the franchise may want to see Clowney provide further proof the injuries are in his past.
To be fair, Clowney has only missed two games in the past two seasons combined and five in the past three. The 25-year-old standout missed 12 as a rookie, though, with a knee injury and needed arthroscopic knee surgery this offseason. He finished with a career-high 9.5 sacks last season and spearheaded a Houston defense that saw both Watt and Whitney Mercilus go down early in the season. Clowney holding out could leave the Texans vulnerable considering Watt’s recent history and Mercilus also missing extensive time in 2017.
This franchise has a history of completing major extensions in the offseason, as the deals for Watt, Hopkins and now McKinney show, and Gaine is following Rick Smith‘s policy of no in-season negotiations. But McClain does not expect a Clowney deal to come to fruition before the season begins.
Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle provides an in-depth look at Texans RB D’Onta Foreman‘s recovery from a torn Achilles, which ended his rookie campaign prematurely in November. There is still no specific date for Foreman’s return, and it is unlikely he will be a full participant at the beginning of training camp next month (even the 2018 regular season opener is up in the air at this point). However, the former Texas standout remains confident that he will eventually regain the form that made him a 2017 third-round pick and the heir apparent to Lamar Miller.
The star power from the 2014 draft is driving part of this spree of holdouts, and this summer figures to produce at least one mega-contract for a defender (and likely more). By the time this offseason concludes, the defensive contract landscape will look different. Who will be the league’s new standard-bearer here?
Von Miller‘s held that title for two years, since signing his six-year, $114.6MM extension at the 2016 franchise tag deadline. Multiple stars drafted in the 2014 first round are gunning for contracts that would surpass Miller’s.
Will it be Aaron Donald? Despite playing a position that has not been traditionally compensated as well as Miller’s, Ndamukong Suh‘s 2015 free agency windfall notwithstanding, Donald has been the league’s most dominant interior defender for a bit now. With quarterbacks’ release times steadily accelerating, defenders lined up closer to the ball have seen a change in compensation patterns. Defensive tackles like Fletcher Cox and Kawann Short are each paid more than $16MM annually, and Donald’s operated on a higher level than each during his four-year career.
Holding out for a second straight year, Donald is a key component to a Rams operation that’s taking a more aggressive approach to contention than it did last year. While no deal is imminent, talks will presumably heat up soon. Les Snead‘s already said a Donald resolution will need to involve an NFL-high defender contract, but will other defenders end up with a better deal?
Khalil Mack didn’t follow Donald’s lead and hold out last year, despite both being on the same timeline and the Raiders defensive end beating the Rams defensive tackle to the defensive player of the year throne. Now, Mack’s stayed away from the Raiders throughout the offseason. While the Raiders may be a tad behind the Rams on the preseason hype scale, Mack has been vital to their defense — a perennially shaky unit despite his dominance — and plays the game’s most valuable defensive role.
At 27, Mack is two years younger than Miller. And the cap is now $22MM higher than it was when the Broncos signed their edge-rushing phenom. It stands to reason Mack will sign a more lucrative deal. However, Derek Carr accepted less than market value at $25MM per year to help Oakland be in better position to keep its core together. With that contract on the books, and a situation the Rams do not have to navigate with Jared Goff just yet, will Mack end up just behind Donald in this pursuit? The Raiders also signed Carr in June of last year. Mack signing in June, to conclude a less contentious process than Donald’s, would open the door for Donald to come in and exceed whatever deal the Bay Area parties reach.
What about Jadeveon Clowney? Not as accomplished as the California-dwelling duo, the No. 1 pick in 2014 has become a star in his own right. And at 25, he’s two years younger than both. As injuries have sidetracked J.J. Watt‘s otherworldly career, Clowney’s become one of the league’s best players. The Texans have a history of authorizing this kind of contract — as they did with Watt’s six-year, $100MM pact in 2014 — and have a quarterback at least two years away from an extension.
While Watt’s maladies have clouded his future and made Clowney more indispensable in the process, might Houston be leery of paying league-record money to another injury-prone performer? Clowney is not holding out, but he did not participate in minicamp while recovering from another surgery.
So, which defender will assume Miller’s position? What will it take to finalize such a deal? Will this derby end with a $20MM- or $21MM-per-year contract? Is there a darkhorse player (perhaps the franchise-tagged Demarcus Lawrence?) that could swoop in here? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your view in the comments section!
The Texans traded away their first- and second-round selections in this year’s draft, leaving the three third-rounders in the class as the top rookie investments. It will now be a bit before the Texans can again gauge the development of these rookies.
A tackle out of Mississippi State, Martinas Rankin suffered a foot injury during rookie minicamp and needed surgery. He underwent that procedure and now may not be able to participate in training camp. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports the Texans expect Rankin to be ready by the start of the regular season.
Rankin is part of a retooled Texans offensive front. The team signed Senio Kelemete, Zach Fulton and Seantrel Henderson before selecting Rankin. The latter may be in for some developmental time, especially after a surgery will deprive him of extensive offseason work this year.
The Texans have signed third-round offensive tackle Martinas Rankin, completing their draft class. The Mississippi State product had a breakout campaign in 2017, earning the Kent Hull Trophy (awarded to the best college offensive lineman in Mississippi) and first team All-ACC honors. With Julie’n Davenportand SeantrelHenderson penciled in as the Texans’ starting offensive tackles, Rankin will have to compete with JeffAllen, KendallLamm, and DavidQuessenberry for playing time.
BenardrickMcKinney is about to be a whole lot richer. Mark Berman of Fox26 in Houston reports (via Twitter) that the Texans have signed the linebacker to a five-year, $50MM deal ($21MM guaranteed). The 25-year-old’s contract was set to expire at the end of the 2018 campaign.
“Bernardrick plays a key role in our defense and has been highly productive, but more importantly he is a core player who has developed into a team leader within our program,” said general manager BrianGaine (via HoustonTexans.com) “We are excited to have him a part of our long term future here at the Texans.”
The 2015 second-round pick out of Mississippi State has emerged as one of the Texans’ top defenders over the past two seasons. Following a solid rookie campaign in 2015, McKinney earned a second-team All-Pro nod in 2016 after compiling 129 tackles, five sacks, and one forced fumble.
This past season, the linebacker finished with 95 tackles and three sacks, with Pro Football Focus ranking him 24th among qualifying linebackers. For 2018, he’ll presumably start alongside Jadeveon Clowney, ZachCunningham, and WhitneyMercilus.
While signing McKinney was surely a priority for the organization, the Texans are still trying to ink at least one of his teammates to a long-term deal. We heard back in April that a long-term deal withClowney was inevitable but not imminent.