Rick Smith

Texans Working To Extend Bill O’Brien

Having already found their next general manager in Brian Gaine today, the Texans are now shifting their focus to their coaching staff. Houston is working on an extension for head coach Bill O’Brien, whose contract was set to expire after the 2018 campaign, according to Mark Berman of FOX 26 (Twitter link).Bill O'Brien

O’Brien had reportedly been involved in something of a power struggle with former GM Rick Smith, who was forced to take a leave of absence earlier this year when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now with something like full autonomy throughout the Houston organization, O’Brien was a member of the search committee that interviewed Gaine, who is reported to have a close relationship with the Texans head coach.

The 48-year-old O’Brien has been relatively successful during his four-year tenure in Houston, as he finished 9-7 in each season from 2014-16 and earned two postseason appearances during that time. Last year, the Texans managed only a 4-12 record, but the club almost certainly would have fared better had rookie sensation Deshaun Watson not torn his ACL in early November.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans GM To Control Team Personnel, HC Bill O’Brien To Be On Search Committee

There’s new developments regarding the Texans quest to find a new general manager. The team’s owner, Bob McNair, told reporters today that the person they eventually hire will have control of personnel over current head coach Bill O’Brien, relays John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). However, McClain does note that O’Brien, along with team president Jamey Rootes, will be with McNair and Cal McNair as the four-man the team conducting the search.

Bob McNair (Vertical)

“The GM is going to have full authority over personnel, and he’ll report to Cal and me,” said the Texans owner. “That’s our message to potential GMs, We know what we want. We’ll pick somebody that Cal and I like, coach O’Brien likes and Jamey likes. We pretty much agree on what we’re looking for.” (via McClain on Twitter)

While the job should be sought after by many people across the league, McNair also stated that he doesn’t want the general manager to reshape front office, although he did say that he could allow for some potential new hires given who they ultimately agree to bring into the organization.

“He may have 1 or 2 key people he’s worked with, and he might want to bring them in,” said McNair. “That’s reasonable. It’s also reasonable to ask that person to work with the people we have this year and Cal what he thinks. We’re not going to have somebody come in and clean house.” (via McClain)

This is an interesting process for the Texans ownership group because executive vice president Rick Smith‘s situation is really up-in-the-air given that he will be home with his wife who is battling cancer. McNair does seem intent on waiting a year to feel out what Smith’s situation may look like in 2019.

“We don’t know what Rick might do,” said the owner. “That’s something we’ll discuss a year from now. The only concern is to take care of his family, and we’re not going beyond that.” (via McClain)

There’s already been some GM candidates speculated, including: Nick Caserio (Patriots), Brian Gaine (Bills) and Brian Gutekunst (Packers). Although, there should be more names that will arise in the next week or two. It’s expected to be a quick process and we now know that the new hire will have primary control on the roster entering the 2018 season.

 

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Texans’ GM Search

The Texans’ GM search is just getting underway, but we’re already getting an idea of the names that could be in play for the job. External candidates expected to receive interest include Nick Caserio and Monti Ossenfort of the Patriots, Brian Gaine of the Bills, and Brian Gutekunst of the Packers (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). Nick Caserio (vertical)

[RELATED: Browns Ask To Talk With Texans’ Sean Ryan]

Caserio is among this year’s top candidates for a GM position. While he rejected overtures from other teams before, a prime opportunity like the one in Houston could be the one to get him to leave New England. Some have speculated that he could wind up as a package deal with Josh McDaniels as head coach, but it sounds like Bill O’Brien will be retained by the Texans.

The Texans are on the hunt for a new GM after Rick Smith announced he would be taking a leave of absence to care for his wife, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. When Smith does return to the team, he’ll retain his Executive Vice President title, but he indicated that he will not be in charge of football decisions.

In whatever role that is, I am going to maintain Executive Vice President title. If we hire a GM and have a guy to run the personnel, then we’ll do that,” Smith said. “So, again, it’s a fluid process, but I am absolutely intend on coming back, I will maintain that at least the Executive Vice President title and if Mr. McNair feels like he wants to hire a general manager, then he will hire a general manager and that will be just fine.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans GM Taking Leave Of Absence

Following Houston’s 22-13 loss vs. the Colts, Texans general manager and executive vice president Rick Smith announced he was taking an extended leave of absence to care for his wife, Tiffany, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Sarah Barshop reported. Rick Smith (Vertical)

In a statement, Smith said, “I am eternally grateful to the McNair family for their unwavering support during this trying time. This was an extremely difficult decision for me to make as I love this organization and every member of this team both on and off the field. I remain committed to our quest to bring a championship to the city of Houston, yet my family needs me now and they are my priority.”

Smith has served as Houston’s general manager since 2006, when owner Bob McNair hired him as the youngest GM in the league at the age of 36. During his tenure with the team, Smith has constructed a team that claimed four AFC South division titles in a six-year span (2011-16). In his second season on the job, Smith helped the Texans to their first non-losing season in franchise history. He has only finished below .500 four times in 12 seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Prepared To End “Toxic” Bill O’Brien-Rick Smith Relationship?

Much has emerged about the less-than-ideal relationship between Bill O’Brien and Rick Smith in Houston, but the Texans may be ready to make a choice at soon.

Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports the franchise has a troublesome situation on its hands regarding the GM/HC relationship. One source told the Texans reporter it’s become a “toxic” and “dysfunctional” relationship.

O’Brien said recently he would not quit on the Texans, and his contract runs through 2018. However, sources who spoke to Wilson about the Texans’ setup said owner Bob McNair waiting until O’Brien’s contract expires to make a change could create a “difficult work environment.”

The Ringer’s Michael Lombardi took this a step further by indicating (via Twitter) the league perception is Smith will be prioritized over O’Brien. Wilson and Lombardi note McNair and Smith have a close relationship. The GM’s served in this capacity since 2006. One source who spoke to Wilson said the pair could potentially make this work, but that seems to be the dissenting opinion amid this turmoil. Smith is under contract through 2020.

O’Brien was rumored to be possibly on his way out after last season, despite the Texans’ second straight AFC South title, but he was retained. Should O’Brien be shown the door in Houston, he’d likely be a coveted commodity on what could be a wild coaching market given how many vacancies could emerge after Week 17. He led the Texans to two straight playoff brackets despite the franchise continually misfiring at quarterback prior to landing Deshaun Watson — a Smith-preferred acquisition.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFC Transactions: 5/15/17

Earlier today, we rounded up some minor moves out of the AFC. In the interest of equal time, we turn our attention to the NFC:

  • The Rams signed two Northwestern State alums in wide receiver Shakeir Ryan and running back De’Mard Llorens, Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com reports. In addition to the skill-position talents from the Natchitoches, Louisiana-based program, the Rams added another small-school product in Mary Hardin-Baylor linebacker Teidrick Smith. The two Division I-FCS talents and Division III defender will displace two Rams in defensive back Jared Collins and offensive lineman Shaq McMeans, per Gonzalez. Their roster currently houses 89 players.
  • Former Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas signed with the Saints, who also added guard Josh LeRibeus and running back Trey Edmunds, Nick Underhill of The Advocate reports. The 5-foot-11 Thomas operated as a dual-threat quarterback with the Yellowjackets and probably would convert positions for an NFL opportunity. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a sophomore in the program’s run-centric offense and threw for 18 touchdown passes that season. In the two subsequent slates, Thomas combined to throw 21 TDs. The son of former Dolphins Pro Bowl tight end Ferrell Edmunds, Trey Edmunds served as a reserve at Virginia Tech and Maryland.
  • On a busy Monday, the Saints signed Drew Iddings, a source tells Underhill (on Twitter). Iddings, a former defensive lineman, will be trying to stick as an offensive guard. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound athlete has no significant experience on offense, but New Orleans believes that the powerful lineman can make a smooth transition. In college at South Dakota, Iddings appeared in 46 games and totaled 149 tackles and eight sacks.
  • The Seahawks cut quarterback Skyler Howard and fullback Brandon Cottom and signed fullback Kyle Coleman and wide receiver Speedy Noil, per a team announcement. Noil entered the draft early out of Texas A&M. He caught just 42 passes combined the past two seasons.
  • Giants signed wide receiver Kevin Snead, a Carson-Newman product, after his tryout. Snead, a former track star, reportedly ran a sub-4.3-second 40-yard-dash. To make room, the team waived offensive lineman Martin Wallace.
  • The Lions have signed free agent offensive tackle Arturo Uzdavinis and waived tackle Pierce Burton.
  • The Vikings signed guard Freddie Tagaloa after a successful rookie minicamp tryout, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets.
  • The Cardinals signed wide receiver Larry Clark.

Texans Notes: Novak, Hopkins, Bouye

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.

AFC Rumors: Hopkins, Chiefs, Ragland

DeAndre Hopkins displayed his apparent dissatisfaction with the Texans known last week by staging a brief holdout, but the team is not discussing a new contract with the talented wideout. Rick Smith said, via James Palmer of NFL.com (Twitter link), no negotiations between Houston and Hopkins are transpiring right now.

The 24-year-old wideout, who is coming off back-to-back 1,200-plus-yard seasons, said on an NFL Network interview (via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, on Twitter) he’s not stewing over his contract situation. “It’s not something I sit here and think about. … What goes on off the field works itself out,” Hopkins said during the interview.

Owner Bob McNair said previously that the fourth-year receiver’s contract was going to come up in due time. Hopkins is set to make $1.5MM this season. Houston exercised Hopkins’ fifth-year option, putting him on their 2017 books for $7.915MM. As of now, that figure would rank 20th among wideouts in terms of ’17 earnings.

Regarding Hopkins’ situation, which isn’t unique in today’s NFL, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes the 2011 CBA overcorrected the previous problem of underperforming rookies anchoring payrolls. In allowing teams to wait a minimum of three seasons before giving deserving rookies raises, Florio notes the league not instituting a device that would ensure non-busts received their due earnings penalizes the players who do reward teams by outperforming their contracts.

Here’s more from the AFC on preseason eve.

  • Clark Hunt told media (including Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star) Eric Fisher‘s contract negotiations spanned barely two weeks in late July leading up to training camp. The Chiefs signed the scrutinized left tackle to a four-year, $48MM extension.
  • Hunt envisions the Chiefs revisiting Eric Berry‘s contract after the season. The franchise’s chairman echoed the reports that said the Chiefs and the All-Pro safety were too far apart on terms by July 15. “As soon as we have an opportunity next year, we’ll sit down with his representatives and see if we can work out a scenario where he could finish his career here. … We couldn’t close the gap this year, but next year’s a different situation,” Hunt said. “I can’t say that there will be anything fundamentally that happens that would make it possible, but it’s certainly something that we’ll talk about.” Berry will make $10.86MM this year as part of the franchise tag, one the 27-year-old talent has not signed and is not expected to for a while.
  • As he said in an interview with PFR’s Zach Links, ESPN.com’s Adam Teicher does not foresee Berry being in the Chiefs’ long-term plans. The ESPN.com writer noted that simply a year passing and the sides being back at the negotiating table doesn’t mean either will compromise. Berry stands to be one of the most pursued free agents after this season, should the seventh-year safety reach the open market for the first time. The Chiefs are projected to possess just $6.7MM in cap space in ’17, and Dontari Poe will also be a free agent.
  • The Bills will work out free agent linebackers on Sunday after Rex Ryan backtracked on his statement saying Reggie Ragland likely avoided ligament damage after suffering a knee injury Friday, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com reports. Ryan said the team is “definitely concerned” about Ragland’s knee, via Joe Buscaglia of WKBW (on Twitter). Buffalo’s second-round pick sustained the injury in a non-contact situation. The team is already expected to be without first-round pick Shaq Lawson for multiple games.
  • The Steelers are involved in multiple contract negotiations, with David DeCastro joining Antonio Brown as players with whom management is discussing deals.

Texans Extend GM Rick Smith

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.”

Bill O'Brien

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.

AFC Rumors: Texans, Jets, Fitzpatrick

On Monday, Texans owner Bob McNair said that fates of head coach Bill O’Brien and GM Rick Smith are not tied to the success or failure of new quarterback Brock Osweiler, as Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com tweets. Earlier this month, Osweiler agreed to leave the Broncos for a four-year, $72MM contract with Houston. Osweiler was rated as PFR’s No. 1 free agent quarterback for the 2016 offseason. Overall, we slated Osweiler as the third-best free agent available, behind defensive linemen Olivier Vernon and Malik Jackson.

Here’s more out of the AFC:

  • Head coach Todd Bowles says the Jets have discussed an internal deadline to get an answer from Ryan Fitzpatrick but “right now, we’re not close to that,” (Twitter link via Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports).
  • The Jets do have contingency plans if Fitzpatrick goes elsewhere, Bowles says. “You better have a Plan A, B, and C,” he said (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com).
  • Bowles said Geno Smithmatured a lot last year,” adding “he’s one of the options if Fitz doesn’t sign back,” (Twitter link via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com).
  • When asked about D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Bowles said, “Right now, he’s on our team,” (Twitter link via Cimini). The offensive lineman had an up-and-down year in 2015, so Bowles is understandably non-committal when it comes to him.
  • Jaguars coach Gus Bradley says the franchise has a five-year plan to construct a team with proper salary-cap management so they can afford their younger players’ second contracts (Twitter link via Mike DiRocco of ESPN.com).
  • Colts coach Chuck Pagano admitted that there is some concern regarding the team’s depth at wide receiver (Twitter link via Stephen Holder of Indy Star). Right now, T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Phillip Dorsett are the team’s unquestioned top three receivers.