The Texans have announced a four-year contract extension for executive vice president and general manager Rick Smith. Financial terms are not yet available, but the deal is set to keep Smith in Houston through the 2020 season.
“Rick is an important part of our organization. We really think that we’ve got all of the pieces together and we want to keep them that way,” Texans owner Bob McNair said in a statement. “So one of the things that we needed to do was to go ahead and extend Rick, and that’s what we’ve done.”
Smith is just the second GM in Texans history since their inception in 1999, having taken the reins from Charley Casserly in June 2006. Smith, who previously served as Denver’s director of pro personnel, has since overseen seven teams that have gone .500 or better. Three, including last year’s AFC South-winning club, have made the playoffs.
Under Smith, the Texans have drafted such notable NFLers as left tackle Duane Brown (first round, 2008); linebacker Brian Cushing (first round, 2009); linebacker Connor Barwin (second round, 2009); safety Glover Quin (fourth round, 2009); cornerback Kareem Jackson (first round, 2010); defensive end J.J. Watt (first round, 2011); linebacker Whitney Mercilus (first round, 2012); guard Brandon Brooks (third round, 2012); receiver DeAndre Hopkins (first round, 2013) and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (first round, 2014), among several others.
Watt, who has already won the Defensive Player of the Year Award three times, and Hopkins stand out as the top picks of Smith’s reign. Both are bona fide superstars who have been hugely instrumental in the Texans’ recent success. The jury is out on Clowney, who went No. 1 overall and has only shown flashes of his high-end potential in two seasons.
Joining Watt, Hopkins, Clowney and the rest of the Texans this year as they look to improve on back-to-back nine-win campaigns will be high-profile offseason acquisitions Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller – both of whom Smith signed to significant contracts in free agency.
Smith hopes the big, cannon-armed Osweiler, Peyton Manning‘s former backup in Denver, will give the Texans their best production at quarterback since an in-his-prime Matt Schaub – whom Smith acquired from Atlanta in 2007 for two second-round picks. The Texans rolled the dice on Osweiler when they signed him to a four-year, $72MM deal that features $37MM in guarantees during the winter.
Miller, to whom the Texans handed a four-year, $26MM deal ($14MM guaranteed), is coming off two terrific seasons in a row with Miami and will take over for four-time Pro Bowler Arian Foster. The Texans released Foster after injuries to his groin and Achilles tendon cost him most of last season, but as an undrafted free agent in 2009, he’ll clearly go down as one of the premier pickups during Smith’s tenure.
Notably, Smith’s one head coaching hire – Bill O’Brien – has produced positive results, having led the Texans to an 18-14 record. With a roster that Smith has helped put in place, O’Brien will try to hit the double-digit-win mark this year and guide the Texans to another division crown.
Mark Berman of FOX 26 first reported the agreement. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.