What Can The Texans Do To Keep Deshaun Watson Around?
By: Drew Feinberg
March 16, 2020. A day that will live in infamy amongst Houston Texans fans. The day the organization was sent into a tailspin, having yet to recover. Yes, my friends, that is the day DeAndre Hopkins was traded to the Arizona Cardinals for running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-rounder.
Fast forward nearly a year later, and the Texans organization is seemingly a shell of its old-self. Following a disastrous 4-12 season in 2020, a catastrophic few months that led to the firing of Bill O’Brien and ‘self-promotion’ of Jack Easterby to Executive Vice President of Football Operations, we have arrived in 2021; and boy is it going to be a daunting task for newly hired General Manager Nick Caserio to turn this franchise around.
On January 28th, it was announced that star-quarterback Deshaun Watson formally requested a trade from the Texans. This news came just one day after the organization hired its newest Head Coach, David Culley. Some would call this a coincidence; I’d like to call it the straw that broke the camel’s back.
To keep it nice, short and sweet, the Texans are in need of upgrades at every position, except quarterback (unless Watson is traded). I could spend all day going position-by-position talking about the Texans needs. However, I’m going to use this time to narrow it down to a key few; running back and wide receiver.
Prior to his six-game suspension by the NFL, wide receiver Will Fuller was having a career year, tallying:
- 879 Yards
- 8 Touchdowns
- 11 games
Going into the 2021 offseason, however, Fuller is an unrestricted free agent. With rumors swirling that he is out the door in Houston, this leaves Brandin Cooks and 30-year-old Randall Cobb to lead the receiving room. Not exactly the perfect recipe to entice Watson to stay in H-Town. Given that the running back room is similarly decrepit, Caserio might want to look into acquiring these four offensive players during the 2021 offseason.
After an illustrious nine seasons in the blue and white, it appears as though the Indianapolis Colts won’t be bringing back wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. Signing Hilton to pair alongside Cooks would certainly help improve the Texans offense; but not having to face Hilton twice a year may be the biggest reason to get this deal done.
Hilton has made a career out of embarrassing Texans defenders. In 16 career games against the Texans, Hilton has tallied:
- 139 Targets
- 85 Receptions
- 1,537 Yards
- 10 Touchdowns
Caserio, Easterby and the Texans will need to place reliable targets around Watson, who very well may continue this chess match with the front office. With Cooks scheduled to make $12 million during the 2021 season, the Texans could still use a solid number two option; this is where Hilton can thrive. Although the 2021 NFL Draft may help out with such an issue, the Texans no doubt could benefit from having another veteran wide out.
Despite Hilton putting up a down season in 2020-21:
- 93 Targets
- 56 Receptions
- 762 Yards
- 5 Touchdowns
Hilton remains both a legitimate deep threat and a veteran presence in the locker room.
With star veteran JJ Watt rumored to be getting traded, perhaps having that veteran presence is more important, as the culture in Houston continues to dissipate.
Similarly to Hilton, wide receiver Marvin Jones would bring a veteran presence to the Texans locker room; one that the team could need. Not only is Jones a great locker room guy, but the dude can ball as well. In 2020 with the Detroit Lions, the 30-year-old Jones recorded:
- 115 Targets
- 76 Receptions
- 978 Yards
- 9 Touchdowns
Seeing as the Lions are going into “full rebuild” mode, Jones could benefit from a fresh start; and Houston could just be the place to do so.
“Fresh start” technically would not be the correct term to use; because if Jones were to sign with Houston, he would be joining his former receivers coach Robert Prince, who was just hired by the Texans to the same position. Prince worked with Jones during the best years of his career, and the pair could benefit from working together again in Houston.
I believe that Jones would pair nicely as a deep threat alongside Cooks, who wins more with his speed. The two could link nicely with Watson, given he stays, and could be a very dangerous trio come the start of the 2021 NFL season.
Now that the Super Bowl is over, everyone can now call Leonard Fournette, “Super Bowl Lenny.”
With all seriousness, Fournette put on a very nice display during the 2020 NFL playoffs. Certainly good enough to earn himself another contract as he enters free agency. In four games during the 2020 playoffs, Fournette netted:
- 18 Receptions
- 300 Rush Yards
- 148 Receiving Yards
- 4 Touchdowns
Now, the question is: will Fournette be signed as a leading rusher? In the case of the Houston Texans, no. The Texans traded their soul away for David Johnson, so the idea of Fournette coming in and taking over the backfield are slim. However, I believe the two larger running backs can coexist and be a nice one-two punch in the Texans offense.
Although Fournette has not truly lived up to his fourth overall selection back in 2017, he is still a serviceable running back who can contribute in this league. If he takes a pay cut, and the Texans find a way to move Duke Johnson’s $5 million contract, the newest Super Bowl champion could add a fire to this Houston offense.
The chances of any team landing a bell cow running back in free agency are slim to none. If you’re the Texans, who could use a new second running back on a cheaper contract than Johnson’s, look no further than Jerick McKinnon.
McKinnon has made it abundantly clear that he has no interest in returning to the San Francisco 49ers.
After signing a four-year, $30 million contract with the 49ers at the beginning of 2018, McKinnon didn’t take the field until 2020 due to injury, where in 16 games he accumulated:
- 572 Yards
- 6 Touchdowns
McKinnon, who was an emerging star back in 2017 with the Minnesota Vikings, is in desperate need of a fresh start. Why not start fresh with the franchise who is getting the freshest of starts? McKinnon, who is an explosive back with a strong build, quick feet, and speed to burn, would benefit greatly playing behind David Johnson. The two would be a defensive mismatch if lined up together, and the pair’s athleticism would allow the Texans to get more creative with their schemes.