It seemed the Houston Texans' priority in free agency this season wasn't to keep most of their guys. It may have been to try and keep Mario Williams, one of the signature players for the franchise. But, when a deal couldn't be struck there, the front office quickly turned to what they thought was the most important guy to retain.
Starting center and Pro Bowler Chris Myers.
When he signed his four-year, $25 million dollar contract, the last few days made more sense. See, Myers AAV matches up almost perfectly with what Eric Winston was set to make next season. That means in the Texans' calculus, the pivot of the offensive line was worth keeping more than one of its best run blockers on the right side.
Part of that comes from the intangibles a center brings, like picking up blitz calls and making adjustments on the fly. Would Myers be irreplaceable for the Texans? Probably not, but a loss of him will hurt more than losing Winston, since Houston doesn't readily have a replacement for Myers lined up.
Neither Myers nor Winston are perfect players physically. Myers is a little undersized and struggles with bigger nose tackles. That was less of a problem this season, but it's still there against elite NTs. Winston's arm length means he'll never be a great pass blocker, and he struggled with his quickness on the edge at times this season.
Still, Winston was an elite run blocker and should be paid like the top RT on the market this year. Myers isn't being paid like the top center out there, but he was probably indispensable for this current Texans squad. With Myers at center, Houston can work in two new guys to the right side, knowing that Myers will be able to help them in this scheme.
What's funny is to look back at the journey the 30-year old center has taken in the NFL. A sixth-round draft pick, Myers didn't start a game until his third season in the league. That's when he took over for Broncos staple Tom Nalen at center, starting all 16 games in 2006. That was Gary Kubiak's first with Houston, and since he was using the same blocking scheme Denver was, Kubiak and GM Rick Smith signed the center as a restricted free agent, giving up a sixth-round pick in the process.
Since then, Myers has started every game for Houston at center. Who did Denver take with that sixth-round pick? Linebacker-turned-fullback Spencer Larsen, who has started 15 games in his career and has 17 total carries in two seasons at running back.
Myers was heavily criticized after his first couple of seasons as a starter, because he had trouble against bigger tackles and got pushed into the backfield one too many times. All of a sudden, though, Myers worked on his issues and fixed most of them. What's more, his athleticism is just as important as Duane Brown's on Houston's screens and cutbacks.
All in all, Myers coming back to Houston is a good thing. He'll hold the offensive line together for the most part and usher in new starters on the right side. He can't fix all the problems, but it's safe to say that Houston shouldn't take that big a step back in the running game with him back in the fold.
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