The Texans need some help at offensive tackle, everyone knows it, even my grandma knows it. But there is an issue.
The issue? 2019’s free-agent tackle group is weak.
There isn’t a starter at left tackle without obvious flaws, but there are solid options. On the other side of the line, there are much more options including younger players that can start immediately. If the Texans are serious about winning next year pursuing the free agents below should be obvious.
Ja’Wuan James, R-OT, Miami DolphinsEmbed from Getty Images
PFF Grade: 70.7
James will be at a premium come free agency. He hasn’t celebrated his 27th birthday yet, is coming off a solid year, is a former first-round pick, and boasts a 6’6, 317-pound frame. During the 2018 season, he allowed only 26 pressures (per PFF), and just missed one game due to a strained patellar tendon.
Ja’Wuan James is considered to be the best tackle in this year’s crop of free agents. While he is not at the level of Nate Solder or Andrew Whitworth in my previous free-agent classes, he should see a big paycheck comes his way. If the Texans pursue James, his contract should be around the nine to ten million dollar mark on a long deal, which should be affordable for the cap-space rich Texans.
Trent Brown, L-OT, New England PatriotsEmbed from Getty Images
PFF Grade: 66.9
Trent Brown has seen a bit of a career resurgence since being traded to the Patriots. He can thank offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia for that. But, Brown is not worth a premium price tag. While he didn’t allow many sacks in 2018 (six), he gave up a considerable amount of hits on Tom Brady. Though he can be dominant at times he has several lapses in his play.
Despite Brown’s inconsistencies, he is a considerably better left tackle than current starter Julien Davenport. He might be the most pursued left tackle in free agency, but the Texans shouldn’t get in a bidding war for him. Despite his inconsistent play, he should reel in a contract averaging eight million dollars a year at a premium position.
Bobby Massie, R-OT, Chicago BearsEmbed from Getty Images
PFF Grade: 71.5
Bobby Massie won’t offer regarding run blocking, but he has been improving his game. And at 30 years old he has a few solid years left in the tank. Massie got off to a slow start in 2018, but by the end of the campaign, he was viewed as a solid piece to the Bears line.
Bobby Massie isn’t a liability. Which is what the Texans need, as their recent crop of right tackles has been liabilities. He won’t be a world-beater of an offensive tackle, but he would do a solid job covering Deshaun Watson’s right side. If the Texans work out a contract with Massie, expect the number to be around five to six million per year.
Daryl Williams, R-OT, Carolina PanthersEmbed from Getty Images
PFF Grade: 64.9
Daryl Williams 2018 season was cut short after one game due to a season-ending knee injury. And his replacement Taylor Motten did an excellent job replacing him, meaning Williams is likely to test the waters in free agency. This is a plus for Houston as in 2017, he had a breakout year as the 6’5, 335-pound tackle was named to the second-team All-Pro.
Williams would offer the Texans with consistency in both pass and run blocking, and at only 26 years old, he has plenty of time to improve upon both. Despite his recent injury, Williams will most likely have a big market competing alongside Ju’Waun James as the premier right tackle. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get an offer of around nine to ten million per year for at least three years. If the Texans have the opportunity to sign the Texas native to such contract they should do so.
Donovan Smith, L-OT, Tampa Bay BuccaneersEmbed from Getty Images
PFF Grade: 66.0
If you can’t tell by the picture above, Donovan Smith is a big man. But he’s also an ironman — meaning he hasn’t missed a game in his four-year career. Houston could use that consistency. Though he’s a curious case of a left tackle as he can have great games (such as limiting Myles Garrett), and putrid ones (such as letting Efe Obada have a career game on him).
While Smith is an upgrade over Davenport, I wouldn’t advise Brian Gaine to pay more than seven million dollars a year for his services. Like Trent Brown, he is young and inconsistent. If the Texans believe that Davenport isn’t the answer, either Brown or Smith would be interesting stop-gap pieces.
-Avery Duncan @texansfocus