Texans Rumors

Texans K Ka’imi Fairbairn Signs RFA Tender

Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn has signed his second-round restricted free agent tender, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Defensive tackle Brandon Dunn and linebacker Brennan Scarlett, each of whom was tendered at the original round level, also inked their tenders, per Wilson.

Restricted free agents have until Friday to sign offer sheets, but it was always unlikely that a rival club would sacrifice a second-round pick to sign a kicker such as Fairbairn. Still, the Texans thought enough of Fairbairn to assign him a second-round tender, which costs nearly $1MM more than an original round tender. For Fairbairn, he’ll see his base salary increase to $3.095MM, a significant raise for a player who earned less than $1.5MM over the first three years of his career.

A 2016 undrafted free agent out of UCLA, Fairbairn became the Texans’ kicker in 2017 after spending his rookie campaign on injured reserve. Last year, he led the NFL in both field goal attempts and conversions while ranking 13th in field goal percentage. Football Outsiders‘ ranked Houston eighth in its field goal/extra point metric.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Rumors: Taylor, Ford, Sweat

Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor met with the Bengals on Tuesday, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Taylor, who stands 6’5″ and 328 pounds, certainly has the size requirements favored by new Cincinnati offensive line coach Jim Turner, but it’s unclear if the ex-Gator will be available when the Bengals make their first-round selection at No. 11. Along with Jonah Williams (Alabama), Andre Dillard (Washington State), and Cody Ford (Oklahoma), Taylor is considered one of the best tackle prospects available in the 2019 draft. If selected by the Bengals, Taylor could immediately take over at right tackle, displacing the recently re-signed Bobby Hart, and would be a long-term option to replace Cordy Glenn on the blindside.

Here’s more on the 2019 NFL draft:

  • Speaking of Ford, the Oklahoma offensive lineman has been extremely busy during the pre-draft season. Per Aaron Wilson the Houston Chronicle, Ford has met with and/or worked out for the Patriots, Eagles, Buccaneers, Vikings, Texans, Cardinals, and Falcons. That’s in addition to his previously-reported stops with the Bengals and Panthers. Ford was a first-team All-Big 12 selection in 2018 and helped Oklahoma win the Joe Moore Award, given to the country’s best offensive line. A left guard in both 2016 and 2017, Ford shifted to right tackle for the 2018 campaign.
  • The Texans are meeting with Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat on Wednesday, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Sweat is considered of the best defensive ends in the draft (especially after blowing up the combine), so Houston would likely need to trade up from No. 23 overall in order to land him. After starting his collegiate career at Michigan State, Sweat spent two years with the Bulldogs, racking up 22.5 sacks and 30 tackles for loss during that time.
  • Washington cornerback Byron Murphy has met with the Panthers, Chiefs, and Cardinals in addition to his visit with the Steelers, tweets Wilson. In 2018, Murphy earned a spot on the first-team All-Pac-12 list after putting up 37 tackles, four interceptions, and 13 interceptions. Regarded as a first-round pick by most observers, Murphy is the No. 6 overall player on Pro Football Focus’ draft board after allowing only a 47.7% completion percentage against and forcing 17 incompletions.
  • The Rams hosted Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram on Tuesday, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Abram, who has also met with the Cowboys and Cardinals, is part of a closely-clustered safety class that could start coming off the board at the end of the first round. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com, notably, ranks Abram as the No. 1 safety prospect of 2019. Arbam posted two interceptions, three sacks, and nine tackles for loss last year.

Draft Notes: Packers, Dillard, White, Fins

Midway through a rather notable offseason, given the recent behind-the-curtain look at their previous power structure, the Packers are investigating some high-end quarterback prospects. They are obviously set at sports’ marquee position, but with Aaron Rodgers set to turn 36 by season’s end, Green Bay is at a similar point compared to when it last made a major quarterback investment. The Packers will host Drew Lock on a visit Tuesday, Terez Paylor of Yahoo.com reports (on Twitter). They also tried to set up a summit with Daniel Jones, but the parties’ schedules did not line up, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds (via Twitter). The Packers took Rodgers when Brett Favre was 36 and sat him for three years. While Green Bay pulling the trigger on a passer would be rather surprising, especially given Rodgers’ contract status, the team does have two first-round picks this year.

Here is the latest from the draft world, staying on the subject of quarterbacks:

  • Lock will also meet with the Chargers, per Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com (on Twitter). Teams have ramped up their signal-caller-related preparation, in the event Kyler Murray does not go No. 1, according to Robinson, who notes some teams believe this year’s passers could slide a bit should Murray not be the Cardinals’ choice atop the draft. Some modest steam picked up on this notion earlier Monday.
  • The Dolphins, who already met with Jones, will head to the Duke campus to work out the former Blue Devil starter, Rapoport reports (on Twitter). Teams only have a few more days to host prospects on “30” visits but can still work them out after that deadline passes. Miami will also host Michigan linebacker Devin Bush and Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
  • Devin White‘s stock has risen during the pre-draft process, to the point he may be the rare off-ball linebacker to be picked in the top five. One of the teams holding such a selection, the Raiders, brought in White for a visit, Rapoport tweets. The Buccaneers, who hold pick No. 5, have been closely connected to the LSU ‘backer. The Raiders have the No. 4 overall pick. Oakland, which also holds the Nos. 24 and 27 selections, will meet with tight end Noah Fant, on Monday as well, Rapoport tweets. The Raiders lost their starting tight end of the past two seasons, Jared Cook, in free agency.
  • For weeks, the Jets have been viewed as a team that would love to trade down. They are meeting with a prospect Tuesday that would support the fact this is a consideration. Ed Oliver will visit the Jets, per Schefter (on Twitter). While the defensive tackle is a surefire first-round talent, he has not been mocked as a player who would be a consideration at No. 3 overall.
  • The Titans are visiting with defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, per Rapoport (on Twitter). This is the Notre Dame-developed defender’s second known visit, the first having come with the Saints recently. Tillery remains in rehab after surgery to repair a torn shoulder labrum.
  • Not much has surfaced about which teams are researching an Andre Dillard pick. That has changed. The Washington State tackle prospect is visiting the Falcons on Monday and will meet with the Chargers later this week, Schefter tweets. Additionally, Schefter adds the first-round offensive line hopeful has already visited or worked out for a host of teams — the Giants, Jets, Dolphins, Ravens, Titans, Panthers, Vikings, Jaguars, Bills, Texans, Bengals, Packers, Redskins.

Jadeveon Clowney Won’t Report To Texans’ Offseason Program, Deal Not Close

We just got word that Chris Harris Jr. will be skipping the Broncos’ minicamp this week, and now we have news that another defensive star will be staying away from his team. 

Texans pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney will skip the team’s offseason program, sources told Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle. Wilson also writes that “no deal is in sight or expected anytime soon for Clowney.” Houston franchise tagged Clowney at the beginning of last month, and we haven’t heard much since. Many observers have said the deal Demarcus Lawrence just got from the Cowboys is a good sign for Clowney, but there has been little progress between the two sides.

Clowney is supposed to make $15.44MM in 2019 under the tag, but wants a longterm deal. The former first overall pick from South Carolina had a productive year last year, racking up nine sacks in 15 games. He’s also a difference-maker in the run game, and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ tenth-best edge defender last season.

Under NFL rules, the two sides have until July 15th to negotiate an extension. If they can’t come to an agreement by then, Clowney must play the 2019 season under the tag, or sit it out like Le’Veon Bell did. Clowney, who struggled with injury issues earlier in his career, has been able to stay healthy the past few seasons. He’s seeking top-of-the market money, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Texans decide to play this. Fellow pass-rusher Frank Clark is still waiting for a new deal from the Seahawks, and whichever one signs first could have a ripple effect on the other.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Host Kaleb McGary For Pre-Draft Visit

  • The Texans desperately need offensive line help, as Deshaun Watson was running for his life again last year. To that end, they’re doing their research on this year’s top offensive line prospects. The team brought in Washington offensive tackle Kaleb McGary for a visit today, a source told Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). McGary could go as high as the first round, but could also be a target for the Texans with either of their two second round picks if he slips a little bit.
  • DeMarcus Lawrence was able to get over $20MM annually on his contract extension, and that deal could have a ripple effect across the league. In a recent piece, former NFL agent and current CBS Sports analysts Joel Corry took a look at how Lawrence’s new pact will effect the rest of the big name pass-rushers waiting to get paid. Dee Ford recently settled for a little less, but Lawrence’s deal has now reset the market yet again. Lawrence’s deal “undoes any damage Dee Ford’s may have to the market for highly productive pass rushers in line for new contracts, primarily Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark and Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney,” Corry writes. Corry also writes that Yannick Ngakoue of the Jaguars and Chris Jones of the Chiefs could join them as defensive linemen making $20MM+ annually, saying that those four’s agents “will likely view Lawrence’s deal as the salary floor for their clients.”

A.J. Brown Visits Texans

  • Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown had a private workout with the Texans, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweets. The Texans is just one of the handful of teams the slot receiver plans to visit, with the Packers, Colts, Patriots, Eagles, Giants, Redskins and Bills also on the list, according to NFL Network’s James Palmer (Twitter link). Houston already has a deep receiver corps with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller V and Keke Coutee, but the latter two have been repeatedly hampered with injuries.

Texans Hire Exec From Patriots

  • Speaking of the Patriots, a former coach of theirs has found a new home. Jack Easterby, the former Team Development Director/Character Coach of the Patriots, has been hired by the Texans, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Easterby will get the title of Executive Vice President of Team Development in Houston. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien is a former Patriots assistant coach and there’s a lot of crossover between the two organizations, so this move isn’t too surprising. Easterby had been with the Patriots for the past six seasons.

Texans’ Andre Hal Retires From NFL

Texans safety Andre Hal is calling it a career. After spending the last five seasons with the Texans, and surviving lymphoma, Hal announced his retirement from football on Tuesday. 

One thing I’ve learned in life is that change is inevitable and life goes through seasons,” Hal wrote. “This season of my life has come to an end. I will be retiring from the NFL. My health did not have anything to do with my decision. I am completely healthy. Thank you to the Houston Texans organization for giving me the opportunity to live my childhood dream. I also want to thank my family and friends for all of their support. I truly appreciate it.”

After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Hal returned to play in eight regular season games for Houston last year, plus the club’s playoff loss to the Colts. He was more than just an inspiration – he was an impact player. Hal recorded three interceptions in his half-season and was a slam-dunk choice for the Texans’ Ed Block Courage award, given to players who overcome adversity.

Andre Hal is the epitome of what it means to be a Houston Texans player. What he overcame last season is nothing short of incredible and is an inspiration to every single person in this building,” Bill O’Brien said. “He’s what this place is all about.”

Hal leaves the game with 189 tackles, 12 interceptions, two forced fumbles, and one sack across 69 career games. He also leaves the Texans a little thinner at safety. Currently, the club’s safety depth chart consists of Justin Reid, Tashaun Gipson, and Briean Boddy-Calhoun.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Duke Johnson Requests Trade From Browns

It appears the Browns and Duke Johnson will part ways in the near future. Already believed to be on the trade block, Duke Johnson has submitted a request to be moved, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports.

Since the Browns signed Kareem Hunt, the Jets, Texans and Eagles have been interested in Johnson, Cabot adds. Johnson did not show for the first day of the Browns’ offseason program.

When the Browns brought in Hunt, John Dorsey initially said Johnson was not yet a candidate to be moved. Hunt since incurred an eight-game suspension, making backfield depth paramount. But the Browns have been ruthless in moving on from talent acquired under previous regimes. Kevin Zeitler, Jabrill Peppers, Derrick Kindred and Emmanuel Ogbah have been the latest to go. Johnson, a third-round pick during the Ray Farmer regime, has been Cleveland’s passing-down back for four seasons.

Dorsey said recently he has not spoken to Johnson, but Cabot makes it clear the running back’s representatives have spoken to other Browns execs with the intention of being traded.

First-year HC Freddie Kitchens said Johnson would have a role alongside Nick Chubb, even after Hunt returns. But as Cabot points out, Odell Beckham Jr.’s arrival will likely push Jarvis Landry inside more often, decreasing the opportunities for Johnson to work in the slot. His lack of touches last season was already a point of contention, per Cabot.

I don’t know why it’s assumed that we’re going to trade Duke Johnson,” Kitchens said. “I don’t know why we would ever want to, like, just voluntarily give up a good football player. Duke Johnson is a good football player. Duke Johnson will have a role on our football team. All these guys that are here will have a role. I don’t know when it just became a necessity to trade Duke Johnson because we signed Kareem Hunt.”

The 25-year-old back is signed to a team-friendly three-year, $15.6MM contract. He is signed through 2021. Despite playing in 16 games, Johnson saw his scrimmage-yards total plummet from 1,041 in 2017 to 630 last season. His touches dropped from 156 in 2017 to 87 last year. The former Miami Hurricane still leads all running backs in receiving yardage (2,170) since entering the league (h/t ESPN’s Field Yates, on Twitter).

In signing Le’Veon Bell, the Jets already paid a premium for a pass-catching back. The Eagles just traded for Jordan Howard, but he has not been a prolific receiver. And Darren Sproles may or may not be retiring. The Texans just lost Alfred Blue to the Jaguars and were without D’Onta Foreman for much of last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Johnson Wants To Become GM

  • Legendary receiver Andre Johnson has joined the Texans’ front office as an adviser, and he doesn’t plan on stopping there. Johnson wants to work his way up through the organization and eventually be a front office head one day, he told John McClain of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). “I’m learning the business of the game. I thought I might want to be a GM or run a team. I want to do everything I can to help the Texans win their first Super Bowl,” the future Hall of Fame member said. Johnson was one of the best receivers in the game for a long time, and holds nearly every Texans receiving record that there is. Johnson was hired last month to work with the team’s coaching and scouting staffs, according to a separate post from McClain.