Texans banking on Brock Osweiler’s upside

Updated: March 15, 2016
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“What a time, to be alive.”

Several NFL players have tweeted this since signing their new deals in free agency. While it may not earn them the ring they desperately crave, I’m sure it will buy them a lot of nice things.

With the salary cap going up $12 million, there was going to be record-breaking spending in the NFL this free agency period. Teams had over $1 billion in combined cap space, and oh boy did they use it. We saw guys like Olivier Vernon, Malik Jackson and Kelechi Osemele cash in big time. However, no acquisition was as polarizing as the Houston Texans signing quarterback Brock Osweiler.

Osweiler, who has started a total of seven games in his short-lived NFL career, cashed in on a four-year, $72 million deal, with $37 million in guarantees. What a time to be alive indeed. But unlike Drake and Future, Osweiler is going to have strings attached to this deal. He’s now the face of the Texans’ franchise. He will be looked at as a savior; the one who can take this team over the top and get the Texans out of quarterback purgatory.

This is an extraordinary amount to put on a young quarterback who hadn’t started a game until November of this past year. We aren’t even three months away from Osweiler getting benched for Peyton Manning, who quite frankly, was similar to a walking corpse in 2015. But Osweiler did show flashes last season. He was able to go 5-2 as a starter, and kept the Broncos afloat while Manning recovered from his plethora of injuries.

The big question surrounding Osweiler, though: is he really any good? He definitely looks the part. At 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, he’s a big, sturdy quarterback, who easily possesses an NFL arm. Although some thought it was a mistake for him to come out in the 2012 draft as a junior, many salivated at Osweiler’s tools.

So, how good is he? Well, we can only go by what we already know. Osweiler filled in nicely for Denver, and was able to avoid mistakes — for the most part. In eight games, he threw for 1,967 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions, with a quarterback rating of 48.8 — which is right below average. Osweiler also isn’t afraid to take chances downfield, which is something the Broncos desperately lacked with Manning behind center last season.

This is a perfect example of the good side of Osweiler. He is able to step up in the pocket, and see clearly that Demaryrius Thomas has a step on the corner. Osweiler steps into the throw and delivers a perfect pass with just enough lift on it to get the ball over the cornerback’s head. Plays like that are exactly what the Texans are banking on.

The quarterback market in free agency is usually pretty dull, as the top signal callers aren’t always available. We saw quarterbacks like Sam Bradford and Kirk Cousins get $18 million-plus (in Cousins’ case, the franchise tag). Teams can’t let these type of guys hit the market, simply because no general manager or head coach can go too long without a “franchise quarterback.”

So what were the Texans’ other options? They could have gone after Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is coming off his career-best year. However, Fitzpatrick was with the Texans in 2014, and obviously they didn’t think highly enough to keep him the first time around.

They could have looked to sign Texas native Robert Griffin III, who has seen his career go downhill since winning offensive rookie of the year in 2012. While this would’ve been a logical move, the Texans simply aren’t in position to take a chance on a quarterback who’s been injury prone.

Maybe the Texans could’ve gotten a quarterback in the draft, as they own the 22nd overall pick. But unless they traded essentially their whole draft away, or future first-rounders, there’s no way they could move up to get either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz, the top two quarterbacks available. So do they tie their wagon to Paxton Lynch? Connor Cook? Even Christian Hackenberg, who Bill O’Brien coached at Penn State?

Again, this Texans team can’t afford to sit around and wait for a quarterback to develop. Many of their best players are in their prime, including defensive end J.J. Watt, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, linebacker Whitney Mercilus and cornerback Kareem Jackson. And personally, I’m not really high on any of the quarterbacks after Goff and Wentz in this year’s draft.

So in reality, how many valuable options did the Texans have? The deal seems crazy to many fans, but for an organization looking for decent quarterback play, this is the going rate. After that disastrous playoff performance by Brian Hoyer, there was no way the Texans could keep him as the starter.

So they decided to take a shot with Osweiler.

His contract will probably decide the fate of O’Brien and general manager Rick Smith. They know they need to win now, and with Andrew Luck coming back healthy next season to lead the Indianapolis Colts, and both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans with young franchise quarterbacks in Blake Bortles and Marcus Mariota, the Texans have to keep up.

Many times teams are far too conservative in sports. I have no idea how Osweiler will do with the Texans. He may be the biggest enigma in all of football right now. Maybe he gets them over the hump, and gives them a few playoff wins during the life of his contract. Or maybe he falls flat on his face, and Houston cuts him in two years.

The Texans are banking on the upside, and there is no insurance policy for that. It took guts to do what they did. You may not think Houston made the right move, but you can’t say they didn’t go for all the marbles.

Jimmy Siettmann

Jimmy Siettmann is an NFL contributor to SidelineSports. Jimmy is currently a journalism major and hopes to have a career in sports journalism either writing or doing radio. Jimmy has also written for TheDesireToWin on all things sports.

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