In a division that has Blake Bortles, the Texans are easily in the worst situation at quarterback in the AFC South. In fact, if you were to rank each team in order of quarterback stability, Houston would be shacked up in the low-rent district with the likes of the Browns and 49ers. Yet, at least those two teams could resolve their issues under center in the draft before the Texans could with their 25th overall selection.
Houston canceled the Brock Osweiler Show after one season due to low ratings and fan revolt, jettisoning him to the Browns on the opening day of free agency. The franchise allowed itself to be drawn into the prospect of having Tony Romo make the hike from Dallas (OK, Arlington, but let’s not get too specific, please) down Interstate 45 South, only to duped last week when Romo decided that hanging out with Jim Nantz and Tracy Wolfson was more appealing than throwing to DeAndre Hopkins or handing the ball to Lamar Miller.
O’Brien intends to go into the season with Tom Savage, he of the 73 pass attempts and two starts last season before being knocked out of the regular season finale at the Titans. This ushered in Osweiler, who took the team to the AFC Divisional Round before bowing yet again to the Patriots. While the Texans will look at a quarterback in the draft, a team that has a Pro Bowl wideout in Hopkins, a two-time 1,000-yard runner in Miller and an elite defense needs a more experienced hand under center to maximize the franchise’s window of opportunity for winning the AFC title. The offense has finished in the bottom half in yardage in each of O’Brien’s three seasons and finished 28th in points in 2016. The free agent market still has a handful of quarterbacks who would not only be an improvement over Savage, but Fantasy-friendly as well.
How would any of the free agents fit O’Brien’s scheme? Well….
*Ryan Fitzpatrick: A return to Houston would make sense considering Fitzpatrick started 12 games in O’Brien’s first season with the Texans in 2014, passing for 17 touchdowns along with a QBR of 65.2 that marks the second-highest of his career. Hopkins would greatly benefit from Fitzpatrick’s gunslinging ways. After all, Hopkins recorded 76 catches for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns in 2014, as he was targeted 127 times (with a career-best 59.8 percent catch rate). I could see Hopkins returning to WR1 status if a reunion with Fitzpatrick became possible, while a more vertical offense would enhance Miller’s production after the latter struggled much of last season due to the inept play at quarterback.
*Jay Cutler: He gets a bad rap, yet he’s also sporting a career TD-INT margin of 208-146. When it comes to physical tools, the thought of Cutler going up top to Hopkins, Will Fuller and Braxton Miller merits at least some consideration. Yet, if O’Brien couldn’t get along with Osweiler, one would think his relationship with Cutler would be cold at best. Among the remaining free agent quarterbacks, Cutler is one of two (we’ll get to the other shortly) QBs who have taken a team to a conference championship game, a milestone the Texans have yet to achieve. When it comes to his Fantasy value, Cutler — who has been a five-time Top-15 producer — would be interesting in deeper leagues when considering the talent he’d work with offensively, along with what the Texans’ defense would be able to contribute. However, Cutler is still pondering whether to return for another season, so his decision might give Houston one less option.
*Colin Kaepernick: Here’s all you need to know about Kaepernick and Houston: former President George H.W. Bush is a frequent guest in owner Bob McNair’s box. Let that settle into your mind and you’ll see the slim chances of that scenario coming into play. This shouldn’t be about politics, but for all of its diversity, Houston remains a pretty conservative city that would (over) react if McNair chose winning over pacifying and signed a quarterback who took the 49ers to the Super Bowl and had a 16-4 TD-INT margin despite going 1-10 in San Francisco last season. This isn’t the time or place for my opinion on Kaepernick, but this is a one-year gamble worth taking, especially if O’Brien designed the offense around Kaepernick’s strengths. Those 49ers teams didn’t have an elite wideout like Hopkins, and Miller could easily mirror the production Frank Gore had in Kaepernick’s two best seasons (2012-13). If the Texans somehow defy their trend of only wanting Boy Scouts in the locker room and signed Kaepernick, he’d either be a juicy option in a two-QB league or the type of player who burns up the waiver wire after a strong outing or two. Kaepernick should be the QB of choice in Houston, but a city drunk on excessive conservative talk radio wouldn’t sober up long enough to give him a chance. That’s a damn shame.
*Robert Griffin III: There were rumors of the Texans possibly signing the former Redskins and Browns starter, yet those whispers have been dashed. At only 26, one has to think RGIII still has something left in the tank. If the Texans were serious about him, he’d be instantly helped by the fact that this would easily be the best defense supporting him, plus he’d benefit from a speedy receiving corps that would welcome his arm strength. As of now, his best bet of playing pro ball this year comes from perhaps signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL, which owns his rights in Oh Canada. Like Cutler and Kaepernick, Griffin does have playoff experience, albeit one injury-plagued outing in the 2012 NFC Divisional Round. He’d also instantly provide some spark about the area, which cringes over the thought of Savage starting the regular season opener with each passing day.
That’s about it when it comes to reasonable options. Otherwise, the Texans would be looking at the likes of Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and the immortal Checkdown Charlie Whitehurst. At the very least, this is a team that should win its third straight AFC South title, but at this point, winning divisional crowns has gotten old in Houston. If McNair is truly about winning rather than shortchanging the loyal fanbase, one of these four quarterbacks is under center for the Texans in Week One.
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