The Houston Texans‘ plan began with trading for the Bucs’ Shaq Mason — one of the NFL’s best guards for years, someone with New England ties to general manager Nick Caserio. Then it was about securing a multi-year future with star left tackle Laremy Tunsil, shutting down trade rumors.
This much is clear: the Texans are solidifying their offensive line for an expectant rookie quarterback, who could be selected No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft.
Houston on Sunday reached agreement on a deal with Tunsil making him the highest-paid offensive tackle in NFL history, a league source confirmed to FOX Sports. The reported terms: a three-year contract extension worth $75 million, including a $30 million signing bonus, $50 million fully guaranteed and $60 million in total guarantees. Under his previous deal, Tunsil had been set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2023 season.
It’s a well-deserved contract for Tunsil, who represents himself. Among offensive tackles who played at least 950 offensive snaps last season, Tunsil allowed the second-fewest sacks (one) and tied for third-fewest pressures (17), according to Pro Football Focus.
For the next several years, the Texans quarterback — whoever it may be — is poised to have one of the league’s best blindside protectors.
And on paper, Houston’s offensive line is shaping to be drastically improved for 2023. At right guard, Mason is a clear upgrade over veteran A.J. Cann, who was released last week. 2022 first-round pick Kenyon Green figures to make big strides in his second season. Right tackle Tytus Howard is coming off a season in which he had a career-best PFF offensive grade (67.9) and run-blocking grade (64.5).
The Texans also re-signed Scott Quessenberry, who started 16 games at center last season, but they’re positioned to grab their center of the future in the draft this year.
Houston’s efforts to revamp its offensive line also help the future quarterback indirectly, by making life easier for star running back Dameon Pierce, who can take pressure off the signal caller.
Pierce last season rushed for 939 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games despite the Texans ranking near the bottom of the league in several run-blocking metrics: 30th in adjusted line yards (quantifies OL responsibility on running back carries), 30th in second-level yards (yards earned by RB between five-to-10 yards past the line of scrimmage, divided by carries) and 26th in stuffed rate (percentage of runs the RB is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage), according to Football Outsiders.
The Texans also ranked 16th in power success, which tracks the percentage of runs on third-and-2 and fourth-and-2 or shorter that result in a first down or touchdown.
The 29-year-old Mason should help in that department. In the first seven seasons of his career (2015-21), he never had a PFF run-blocking grade less than 72.0. Green’s run-blocking grade as a rookie was 47.4. Cann was at 63.9 last season.
As a pass protector, too, Mason is a major plus. He allowed just one sack last season, tied for second among guards who played at least 650 snaps, per PFF.
Cooks trade strengthens need to draft a potential No. 1 WR
The Texans also traded veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Dallas Cowboys for a 2023 fifth-round pick and a 2024 sixth-rounder, a league source confirmed to FOX Sports. Houston already needed pass-catching help prior to the move, so the trade only reinforces that need.
Cooks had been the Texans’ No. 1 option the last three seasons. Now, they don’t currently have a returning wide receiver last season that reached 500 receiving yards (Chris Moore, who had 548, is still an unrestricted free agent). Houston has also added veterans Robert Woods in free agency and Noah Brown via trade, but they’re strong depth options at best. The Texans don’t have a dynamic, No. 1 receiver on their roster.
While they could look for one high in the draft, rising third-year pro Nico Collins — who had 37 receptions for 481 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games last season — and John Metchie III — who missed his rookie season due to cancer — could assume big roles if they’re healthy.
Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.
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