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Houston Texans Re-Sign Duane Brown: One Down, Schaub And Barwin To Go

If they can only afford one, who should they re-sign?

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After an off-season that saw several key players leave as cap casualties, many Texans fans have been concerned about how they would afford to re-sign key players Duane Brown, Connor Barwin, and Matt Schaub. Today the Texans announced the first part of their plan was complete by signing the 26-year-old left tackle to a reported six year, 53.4 million dollar deal. According to those same reports, this deal will kick in after this season meaning Brown will make 2.08 million dollars this season.

Brown who turns 27 on August 30th, will be nearly 34 years old when this contract expires, so this new deal locks Brown up for the prime of his career and will likely be his last big payday. Currently the top contract for an NFL offensive tackle belongs to Jake Long of the Miami Dolphins who makes an average of $11.5 million with a 5 year/57.7 million dollar deal. Brown isn't the highest paid player at his position, but he's close to it and he deserves this raise. Texans General Manager Rick Smith thought it was a big step for the organization:

"We believe Duane is an outstanding young left tackle who has the determination, commitment and ability to develop into one of the NFL’s top performers. It’s also an exciting day for our organization. We’ve laid the foundation for sustained success and this is an important step in building on that and toward a championship."

Brown, who made 2nd Team All-Pro last season, is the most important player responsible for protecting the fragile Matt Schaub; getting this deal done and done now was vital. If Brown had repeated his success from last year again this year, re-signing him would have been difficult on the open market. Now that the Texans have locked up one key piece of their future, they'll turn their attention to another player they'd like to keep off the open market. Reports surfaced Tuesday that they're working on an extension for free-agent to be Connor Barwin, and considering how quickly the negotiations went with Brown; I wouldn't be shocked if Barwin was locked up by Monday. Barwin, who was their 2nd round pick in 2009, is making $565,000 this season and deserves a pay raise. The ex-Bearcat had 11.5 sacks overall last season and tied for the league lead from week 9 on with Jared Allen and Elvis Dumervil after taking over as their main pass rusher for the injured Mario Williams.

"Conversations have started again," Barwin said. "Hopefully, something gets done by the start of the season, but if it doesn’t – my position, and, I think, their position – is that we’ll be okay."

The three most important positions in football are quarterback, your blindside pass protector, and pass rusher. It so happens that their best player at those three positions were free-agents-to-be before today and I think they correctly chose Duane Brown as the priority. To the remaining two, it certainly seems the Texans are much more eager to re-sign Barwin over Matt Schaub, but I'm not sure that's the right decision. I'm sure a few of you raised your eyebrows at that last statement, but hear me out. The Texans should prioritize signing Schaub over Barwin for one main reason; depth behind them at the position. Right now at outside linebacker the Texans have Brooks Reed who looks to have double digit sack talent and 1st round pick Whitney Mercilus who looked impressive last Saturday. Behind Matt Schaub the Texans have T.J. Yates; it'd be much easier to absorb losing Barwin than losing Schaub. At this point in their career, Barwin probably has more talent than Schaub, but there would be a much bigger drop off at quarterback if you lost Schaub. You also have to consider that much like the Texans offensive scheme can make running backs look better than they are, I believe Wade Phillips defense can also inflate sack numbers at outside linebacker. I'd like to have Barwin on the team, but I'm confident they'd still have a top ten pass rush without him.

If the Texans do let Schaub walk, who would they turn to? T.J. Yates? A rookie from next years draft? A free agent that could cost them more money for lesser play like Joe Flacco? I don't like any of those options and I hope the Texans change their mind on re-signing Schaub. That doesn't mean they have to throw stupid money at him, they should be able to re-sign him at a very reasonable rate considering his age and injury history. If they wait and he has another Pro-Bowl season, he'll likely be the best quarterback available and his price tag will go up. His current deal pays him an average of eight million per year, I think offering him a three year, 22 million dollar extension would be a fair offer, not kill your cap, and would be something Schaub would accept. If they can work out a way to re-sign both Barwin and Schaub, I'd be for it, but if they can only afford one, I'd pick Schaub.

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