Davis Mills

Texans To Start Case Keenum In Week 15

Davis Mills has dressed as the Texans’ backup quarterback each week this season with C.J. Stroud operating as the starter. The latter is out for Sunday’s game, though, which led to the expectation Mills would be elevated to the No. 1 role on a temporary basis.

Instead, Houston will give the nod to Case Keenum. As first reported by Aaron Wilson of KPRC2, the veteran is now in line to start after spending every game in 2023 as the Texans’ emergency third-stringer. Keenum last started during a two-game stint with the Browns. His only action since then was a pair of appearances last season with the Bills, during which he attempted a total of seven passes.

Given that light workload, along with Mills’ familiarity with the Texans, the move comes as something of a surprise. Mills started 26 games between 2021-22 after joining the team as a third-rounder. Despite a 2-9 record as a rookie, the Stanford product flashed potential at times, earning the No. 1 role in his second campaign. A regression proved an upgrade under center would be needed in the offseason, however, leading to the decision to draft Stroud second overall in April.

Stroud’s highly impressive rookie campaign has been interrupted by a concussion, leaving the Texans with a decision to make in the heart of a playoff push. Mills and Keenum split first-team reps during the week, Bien-Aime adds, so today’s news points to the latter having impressed over the past few days. Keenum has made 64 starts in his career, which began in 2013 with Houston.

The former UFDA has posted a winning record only twice in a season, though, leaving him to bounce around the NFL over the course of his tenure. The 35-year-old was viewed by some as a luxury in the Texans’ QB room given Mills’ continued presence and the addition of Stroud in the draft. The team made it clear they were not looking to trade him in advance of the deadline, a stance which has now proven to be quite signficant.

Houston is one of six AFC teams which entered Week 15 with a 7-6 record and thus in position to compete for a wild-card spot. The Texans are also one game behind the Jaguars for the lead in the AFC South, leaving plenty to play for on Sunday. Head coach DeMeco Ryans has expressed optimism about Stroud’s progress in recovering from the concussion, so he could return in time for Week 16. For now, though, the Texans’ offense will rely on Keenum’s ability to perform in his season debut.

Texans’ Reserve QBs Drawing Trade Interest

Although the Texans’ Case Keenum signing appeared to place Davis Mills in limbo, the two-year starter took first-team reps this offseason and landed on Houston’s 53-man roster. With the team moving to C.J. Stroud for Week 1, interest in both backups has emerged.

Teams have contacted the Texans on their two backup quarterbacks, Dianna Russini of The Athletic notes. But Houston’s plan for now is to keep both Keenum and Mills on its roster. The Texans gave Keenum a two-year, $6.25MM deal; two years remain on Mills’ rookie contract.

The Keenum addition undoubtedly led to the Mills trade rumors earlier this year, but the Texans’ stance at that point was to retain the former third-round pick. Stroud will unseat Mills, who is 5-19-1 as a starter (albeit on some undermanned teams), and Keenum would seem to represent both a mentor and a capable backup. Mills, 24, would be an interesting flier for a team to take. Even if the Texans are open to moving the Stanford alum, no viable offer has emerged.

Two teams who could be interested reside in the AFC East. The Patriots made the surprising choice to waive Bailey Zappe on Tuesday. The 2022 fourth-rounder had generated momentum to potentially even challenge Mac Jones for his job this offseason; no realistic challenge occurred. As of now, Jones is the only QB on New England’s active roster. That will not be the case for too much longer, and the Patriots are believed to be targeting Colt McCoy. Indeed, a veteran QB2 is preferred, per the Boston Sports Journal’s Mike Giardi.

Meanwhile, the Bills placed Matt Barkley on IR on Tuesday, removing him from their regular-season equation. Buffalo rosters only Kyle Allen, who spent most of last season backing up Mills in Houston, behind Josh Allen. Keenum spent the 2022 season in Buffalo, but the Houston alum agreed to terms with the Texans — his original NFL team — on Day 1 of the legal tampering period.

Texans Not Shopping QB Davis Mills

Deshaun Watson‘s off-field turmoil led to the Texans effectively hitting pause. They did not make a major investment at quarterback in 2021, when Watson spent the year as a healthy scratch, or 2022. This left Davis Mills as the team’s primary starter. The team changed plans this year, leaving Mills in limbo.

Houston signed Case Keenum shortly after this year’s legal tampering period began and then, despite persistent rumors of preferring this class’ top defensive ends compared to the non-Bryce Young QB lot, chose C.J. Stroud second overall. Stroud and Keenum would seem to represent the 1-2 QB depth chart during DeMeco Ryans‘ first HC season, but Mills remains in the picture. For now, at least, the Texans intend to keep it that way.

[RELATED: Cal McNair Denies Influencing Stroud Selection]

Mills is believed to have generated trade interest, according to KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson, who adds the Texans are not eager to deal the former third-round pick. Mills took the first reps at Texans OTAs on Tuesday.

The Texans signed Tyrod Taylor to guide the 2021 team, which was hamstrung by its $39MM-per-year starting QB’s absence, but Mills took over and showed promise to close that season. He did not make much progress last season, with the Texans producing fewer wins. Mills has made 26 career starts; 15 of those came last season. The Stanford product led the league with 15 INTs, despite sitting behind Kyle Allen for two games. Mills’ 78.8 passer rating came in ahead of only Kenny Pickett and Zach Wilson among qualified QBs last year.

Mills, 24, would not seem to hold too much trade value at present. An injury elsewhere could change that, but Mills would profile as a backup option as he enters his third NFL season. Mills struggled despite the return of All-Pro left tackle Laremy Tunsil in 2022, but the Texans still sported a suboptimal supporting cast around their quarterback. Mills piloted the 2021 team to two wins in his final five starts, including an upset of the Chargers that ended up keeping them out of the playoffs, and completed nearly 67% of his passes (6.4 yards per attempt) as a rookie. It is conceivable another team would see him as a capable QB2.

Keenum, 35, signed a two-year, $6.25MM deal ($4MM guaranteed) to return to Houston. Stroud’s four-year rookie deal will be fully guaranteed. Mills is due $1.1MM and $1.4MM base salaries in 2023 and ’24, respectively. It would seem Mills, who engineered the game-winning Week 18 drive that kept the Texans from securing the No. 1 overall pick, no longer fits in Houston. The Texans do not have a fourth QB on their offseason roster, leaving Mills as a regular part of OTAs ahead of what could soon be a move into the background.

Texans To Reinstall Davis Mills As Starter

After two more one-sided losses, the Texans are going back to their original quarterback plan. Davis Mills is set to retake the reins from Kyle Allen against the Cowboys in Week 14, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 reports.

Houston shut down Mills following a Week 11 loss to Washington — a game that featured five first-half Texans yards — but the team will return to the 2021 third-round pick. The Texans’ evaluation of Mills for long-term starter purposes may be complete, but the team has dropped two more games under Allen.

[RELATED: Texans Losing Confidence In GM Nick Caserio?]

Signed to a low-cost deal this offseason, Allen accounted for five turnovers in the Texans’ losses to the Dolphins and Browns. This included a failed quarterback sneak that resulted in a Denzel Ward stroll-in touchdown. Cleveland managed a two-score win in Houston despite not scoring an offensive TD. With Lovie Smith aiming to avoid being another Texans one-and-done HC, Mills — who left his post initially ranking 30th in QBR — will have another try. The Texans are 17-point underdogs against the Cowboys this week.

The Texans passed on a higher-profile passer with the worst QBR rating Tuesday, joining 30 other teams in not submitting a claim for Baker Mayfield. Three spots behind the Texans in waiver priority, the Rams claimed the Texas native. Mills, 24, has thrown 11 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in his second season. The Stanford product’s completion percentage has dropped by nearly five points, to 61.9, from last season; his yards per attempt down to 6.5 this year.

Moving toward securing the 2023 No. 1 overall pick, the Texans (1-10-1) will be connected to quarterbacks with that selection. The team last held the top pick in 2014 but went with a veteran option (Ryan Fitzpatrick) over selecting an arm in that class. Jadeveon Clowney became the pick. While the Texans will enter the 2023 draft with two first-round picks and needs at several positions, quarterback is an obvious weakness for the rebuilding team.

Texans Not Eyeing Baker Mayfield, Considering Starting Davis Mills?

When it was announced that Baker Mayfield had been let go by the Panthers yesterday, the most logical destination for him seemed to be the 49ers. The NFC West leaders have pushed back against the notion that they are interested in adding him, however, which could lead to a team higher in the waiver priority putting in a claim.

[RELATED: 49ers Not Expecting To Add Mayfield?]

The Texans, by virtue of having the league’s worst record, sit atop that list. They have already taken advantage of that by claiming running back Eno Benjamin and wide receiver Amari Rodgers earlier in the year. In the case of Mayfield, though, a repeat of those moves does not seem to be forthcoming.

It is considered “extremely unlikely” that Houston will add the former No. 1 overall pick, reports Aaron Wilson of KPRC2. The Texans have had issues at the quarterback position throughout the season, but head coach Lovie Smith indicated that the team’s focus will be on deciding the starter moving forward from amongst their in-house options.

“Everybody that’s available we look at,” he said when asked about the potential of claiming Mayfield. “We see if they fit. We’re constantly trying to improve our roster, so if there’s anybody that’s out there, that’s what we do. Don’t know enough about Baker or anything like that. We’re trying to get better play from the guys we have on our current roster.”

2021 third-rounder Davis Mills started each of the team’s first 10 contests this season, but he has taken a significant step back statistically compared to the promise he showed as a rookie. That has led to the widespread expectation that they will select a quarterback in the first round of the upcoming draft, but his struggles also prompted a short-term move when Kyle Allen was named the starter two weeks ago.

The former UDFA has thrown four interceptions in his two starts, however, leaving the Texans with a murky situation regarding their signal-callers for the remainder of the season. Smith declined to state publicly who will be under center for Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, but Wilson reports that the team is “seriously contemplating” going back to Mills.

With Houston set to play out the string in 2022, they seem unlikely to give Mayfield, a pending free agent, the opportunity to compete for playing time in the waning weeks of the season. Such an opportunity could still come elsewhere later today in the event he is claimed.

Texans To Start QB Kyle Allen In Week 12

NOVEMBER 25: Despite this news emerging Wednesday, Allen said he was officially informed of his new role Friday, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets. Allen and Mills split first-team reps this week.

NOVEMBER 23: Another member of the 2021 quarterback class will not keep his starting job into Week 12. The Texans are set to bench Davis Mills, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.

Lovie Smith declined to name a starter for Houston’s next matchup, but Garafolo notes Kyle Allen will receive the call. This will be Allen’s first start since a severe ankle injury ended his 2020 season. Allen, 26, has not taken a snap since signing with the Texans this offseason. This scenario was rumored to be on the table earlier this week. Mills will dress and work as Allen’s backup, per KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson (on Twitter).

This news comes barely an hour after Robert Saleh announced Zach Wilson‘s benching. The Texans are not in a similar situation, with their 1-8-1 record keeping them firmly on the rebuilding track. That would seemingly allow for more Mills growing pains. But the team may be finished with its evaluation of the former third-round pick. Wilson and Mills being yanked leaves only Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Mac Jones still starting from a 2021 QB class that had placed six players in QB1 roles to begin this season.

Smith reaffirmed Mills’ status as Houston’s starter last week, but the Stanford product struggled in a one-sided loss to the Commanders. The Texans totaled just five first-half yards in the 23-10 defeat, and Mills exited the game leading the NFL with 11 interceptions. He ranks 30th in QBR. Despite being a third-round pick, Mills has already made 21 starts for the Texans. This has given the franchise a reasonable evaluation window.

Mills, 24, made some surprisingly decent starts to close last season — considering the personnel he was working with at the time — and outflanked both Wilson and Fields in QBR as a rookie. Although Mills went 2-9 as a starter for a woeful Texans team in 2021, he quarterbacked wins over the Jaguars and Chargers in December and threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns in a close loss to the Titans in Week 18. Mills has not built on that momentum this year. While Saleh called the Wilson benching a reset, the Texans may be ready to move on after their subsequent decision.

Allen’s start count nearly matches Mills’; the former UDFA lined up as a first-stringer in 17 games for Carolina and Washington. He has completed just more than 63% of his passes (6.9 yards per attempt). A Texas A&M recruit, Allen also finished his college career at the University of Houston. He signed a one-year, $2.5MM deal this offseason to back up Mills. While Washington retained Allen via ERFA tender in 2021, the team signed Ryan Fitzpatrick and then went to Taylor Heinicke the rest of the way following Fitz’s injury. The Commanders nontendered Allen as an RFA this year.

Houston is steamrolling toward the No. 1 overall pick, which would be the franchise’s first since it took Jadeveon Clowney first overall in 2014, and will be connected to quarterbacks over the next several months. The Texans also stand to have a high first-round pick by way of the Browns, who sent over a historic trade package for Deshaun Watson in March. This will give a team on a rather lengthy rebuilding track extensive options to fill this need come April.

Texans Considering Quarterback Change

The Texans finished with one first-half first down in Sunday’s one-sided loss to the Commanders, and a week after Lovie Smith indicated it was not time to consider making a quarterback change, the rebuilding team seems to be changing its tune.

Houston is considering benching Davis Mills for veteran Kyle Allen, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 reports. Mills has operated as the Texans’ starter since late last season, when he replaced Tyrod Taylor. But after a game in which the Texans totaled five first-half yards, Smith may be ready to try something else. Mills and Allen are the only two quarterbacks on the Texans’ 53-man roster.

Have I watched the video a few different times? Yeah, and made some decisions on how we’re going to go forward,” Smith said Monday. “But you can probably understand, with all changes and anything that we do from week to week, we talk to the players first before we talk to you. We’re not pleased with where we are. Do we need to do some things differently? Yes, and we will.”

A third-round pick in 2021, Mills posted a better rookie-year QBR than draft classmates Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields or Zach Wilson. Despite the Texans having Laremy Tunsil back and having drafted guard Kenyon Green in Round 1, Mills has not built off his strong finish to last season. The Stanford alum ranks 30th in QBR and leads the league with 11 interceptions. Admittedly saddled with an unspectacular pass-catching corps, Mills has not completed more than 60% of his passes in a game since Week 7.

Allen signed a one-year, $2.5MM deal to back up Mills this offseason. Houston was linked to signal-callers in this draft, which seemingly would have dropped Allen to a third-string role, but the franchise passed on adding a young arm. This opened the door to a full-fledged Mills audition. Ten games in, the Texans may have seen enough.

A former UDFA who finished his college career at the University of Houston, Allen has a fairly extensive sample size as a pro starter. With Carolina and Washington, Allen has appeared in 21 games and made 17 starts. He has completed just more than 63% of his passes (6.9 yards per attempt). The 6-foot-3 QB led the 2019 Panthers to five wins, following Cam Newton‘s early-season foot injury, but suffered a severe ankle injury midway through the 2020 season with Washington. Allen, 26, has thrown just 19 regular-season passes since that injury.

The Texans benching Mills would seemingly signal the team is prepared to make a true post-Deshaun Watson quarterback investment. At 1-8-1, Houston is steamrolling toward the 2023 No. 1 overall pick. No other NFL team has fewer than three wins. The Texans could also have a second top-10 pick — via the 2023 first-rounder obtained from the Browns (3-7) — to use as trade-up ammo if they wish to go with a “best player available” approach with their own first-rounder. Heisman winner Bryce Young, Ohio State standout C.J. Stroud and Kentucky’s Will Levis are expected to be the top quarterbacks available in 2023, though these prospects will need to declare for the draft first. ESPN.com’s Todd McShay ranks Young, Stroud and Levis as next year’s Nos. 2, 3 and 13 draft-eligible QBs. Texans connections figure to emerge over the next few months.

Davis Mills To Remain Texans’ Starting QB

Sunday’s loss to the Giants dropped to the Texans to 1-7-1 on the season, leading to more questions about a potential quarterback change. As head coach Lovie Smith confirmed when speaking to the media, however, a switch will not be taking place.

Davis Mills has operated as the team’s No. 1 throughout the campaign, after he took on the starter’s role partway through his rookie season last year. The Stanford alum’s performance after being inserted into the lineup included 10 interceptions and 31 sacks taken. Still, his 66.8% completion percentage and 88.8 passer rating made it little surprise that he entered the post-Deshaun Watson era at the top of the depth chart.

Mills has seen statistical regression across the board this season, however. The 24-year-old was therefore the subject of scrutiny last month, but he received the backing of his head coach. Since then, the Texans have won just one game and struggled to find production on offense outside of rookie running back Dameon Pierce.

“I just don’t think it’s time, as simple as that,” Smith said, via Aaron Wilson of KPRC2, when asked whether he would replace Mills. “We rotate pretty much at most positions… Quarterback position is a little bit different. We can’t turn the ball over. Acknowledging what we did [on Sunday] is not good enough and anytime we’re turning the ball over especially in the red zone it’s not good enough. But that’s where we are right now.”

Houston’s other options under center are Kyle Allen and Jeff Driskel, who is on the team’s practice squad. Mills therefore profiles as the QB with the highest upside in the group, making the Texans’ ongoing commitment to him an understandable one. Given the former third-rounder’s step back in production this year, however, along with the draft position Houston is likely to be in come the spring, it would be equally understandable if they select a franchise signal-caller in time for 2023.

Texans Sticking With QB Davis Mills

Davis Mills has struggled to build on a surprisingly strong rookie campaign. The Texans quarterback has tossed four interceptions over the past two weeks, leading some to wonder if his starting job could be in jeopardy. However, head coach Lovie Smith was quick to dismiss that notion, noting the QB’s ability to keep them in Sunday’s loss to the Chargers.

“We’re not making a change at the quarterback position,” Smith said (h/t to Texans Wire). “The things we’ve talked about is with Davis leading us and whatever Davis and everyone, coaches, what we all need to do better. Did I just tell you we were in the fourth quarter? Do you know who our quarterback was that led us in position to take the lead there at the end? Davis Mills. He’s our quarterback.”

The 2021 third-round pick surprised many during his rookie campaign, completing 66.8 percent of his passes for 2,664 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Through four games this season, Mills has completed only 62 percent of his passes for 908 yards, five touchdowns, and four interceptions while guiding his squad to the NFL’s worst record (0-3-1).

The Texans had some uncertainty at the position prior to the Deshaun Watson trade, but despite opportunities to add to the position, the team decided to stick with their second-year quarterback. It would have been surprising to see the Texans move on from the youngster this early in the campaign, no matter the struggles. Plus, it’s not like Houston has many inspiring options behind him, with Kyle Allen serving as the QB2 and Jeff Driskel sitting on the practice squad.

Elsewhere in Houston, the team made a bit of a surprising move today when they cut tight end Pharaoh Brown, per Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com on Twitter. Brown inked a one-year, $3MM deal with the Texans this offseason, and he started each of the Texans first three games this season. After hauling in seven catches, Brown was inactive for Week 4 while dealing with hip and shoulder injuries. This move probably indicates that Brevin Jordan, who has missed two-straight games with an ankle issue, will be ready to return to a crowded TE room that also includes Jordan Akins and O.J. Howard.

Browns Unlikely To Pursue Jimmy Garoppolo?

Deshaun Watson‘s initial suspension length is unlikely to surface until at least next week, and even that announcement might not happen until the Browns break for training camp. But the likely appeal process should be expected to drag into August, complicating matters for the team that surrendered three first-round picks and change for the former Texans Pro Bowler.

The prospect of Jimmy Garoppolo serving as an emergency option for Cleveland, in the event the NFL does suspend Watson for a full season or close to it, has come up in recent weeks. But the team is comfortable with Jacoby Brissett guiding the offense in Watson’s absence, per ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler, who said during an appearance on KNBR’s Tolbert & Copes (h/t 49erswebzone.com) he is not sure the Browns will emerge in the Garoppolo mix.

[RELATED: How Will 49ers’ Garoppolo Saga End?]

Not long after acquiring Watson, the Browns traded Case Keenum — their backup of two years — and signed Brissett to a one-year, $4.65MM deal. Cleveland also gave up one of the top trade packages in NFL history for Watson. In addition to the first-rounders being dealt, the Browns gave the Texans a third-rounder (in 2023) and two fourths (in 2022 and ’24). The team’s draft capital may be an issue regarding a Garoppolo pursuit, Fowler adds. Baker Mayfield went for only a 2024 fifth-rounder, and the 49ers are in a somewhat similar salary spot with Garoppolo — attached to a $24.2MM base salary that becomes guaranteed in Week 1 — so draft capital being a hang-up is interesting here.

Brissett, 29, has 37 career starts under his belt; five of those came with the Dolphins last season. The former third-round pick averaged just 5.7 yards per attempt in Miami, though he fared better during the second of his years as the Colts’ primary starter. Garoppolo would certainly be a more inspiring option than Brissett, but the Browns may stand down.

Garoppolo, 30, has resumed throwing. The 49ers could stash him on the active/PUP list to start camp, if they want to both give the veteran QB more recovery time and/or sideline him as they negotiate a trade, but Kyle Shanahan said in June the 49ers would likely have their trade chip at practice instead of stashed on the PUP list. The 49ers excused Garoppolo from minicamp, but he was not ready to throw at that point.

The Seahawks loom as a Garoppolo option but are more likely to wait out a potential release. The Texans have been loosely linked to Garoppolo this offseason, with Nick Caserio having been in New England throughout the ex-Tom Brady backup’s stay there. But Fowler adds it would be a bit of a surprise if Garoppolo ended up in Houston, given the team’s interest in developing Davis Mills.

After the Mayfield trade, Cleveland gained more than $8MM in cap space. The team’s $48.5MM is $25MM north of any other team’s cap room, providing options in the event Watson is shut down for the season. (The 49ers’ $4.9MM in space ranks 30th on that list.) Watson being shelved for all of 2022 would cause his five-year contract to toll, making it a 2023-27 pact. The Browns structured the $230MM guaranteed deal to minimize Watson’s penalties in a suspension — one the team did not expect to be a full-season ban when it made the trade. Watson’s $1MM base salary would move to 2023, pushing the run of $50MM-plus cap figures to 2024 and beyond.