Monthly Archives: January 2021

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Anthony Weaver perfectly captured the extremely grim mood surrounding the Texans with one game remaining in a season gone awry.

“Obviously, when your head coach gets fired four games in, you do everything you can to rally the team but when it starts going south, it’s a little bit like you’re slow dancing in a burning room, right?” the Texans’ first-year defensive coordinator said. “You know you’re going down and you’re doing everything you can to get there, but it’s just not getting done.”

When Weaver got promoted to defensive coordinator last year, the Texans’ were coming off consecutive AFC South division titles and the team was confident that it would be a strong playoff contender again.

Instead, a dramatic downward spiral unfolded. That included the firing of coach and general manager Bill O’Brien after an 0-4 start.

An ugly 4-11 record and multiple personnel issues on both sides of the football have defined the team as the Texans are at a crossroads heading into Sunday’s meaningless season finale against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium.

As the Texans head into a critical offseason, here are some of the most pressing issues on their agenda:

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Hire a new coach and general manager
The Texans plan to hire a general manager first.

They already have interviewed former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell and former Bengals coach Marvin Lewis for the head coaching vacancy. They interviewed Texans director of player personnel Matt Bazirgan and ESPN analyst Louis Riddick for the general manager job.

They’re expected to conduct a wide-ranging search for both positions.

Among the multiple general manager candidates the Texans are considered likely to explore, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly: Terry Fontenot (Saints), Trent Kirchner, Scott Fitterer and Cheap Alonzo Highsmith Jersey (Seahawks), Ed Dodds (Colts), Mike Borgonzi and Ryan Poles (Chiefs), Joe Schoen and Malik Boyd (Bills), Will McClay (Cowboys), Brandon Hunt (Steelers), Adam Peters (49ers), George Paton (Vikings) and John Dorsey (Eagles).

Among the head coaching candidates expected to draw consideration, according to sources: Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs), Joe Brady (Panthers), Matt Eberflus (Colts), Brian Daboll and Leslie Frazier (Bills), Arthur Smith (Titans), Brandon Staley (Rams), Robert Saleh (49ers), Don “Wink” Martindale and Greg Roman (Ravens) and Nick Sirianni (Colts).

“You trust Mr. (Cal) McNair and his team to be able to make that right decision,” Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks said. “I think he’s such a smart man that he knows what his team needs and, whatever he does, you’ve just got to trust him.”

Turning it around
There are generally two types of reconstruction projects: A complete tear-down or a refurbishing.

Because of the presence of quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Texans aren’t considered a total rebuild despite not having first-round and second-round draft picks after last year’s trade with Miami for left tackle Laremy Tunsil.

“They can turn this thing around quickly, and I could see the Texans winning the division next year if they get the right leadership and are able to fix a lot of things this offseason,” an NFC executive said. “Watson is a legitimate franchise quarterback, a winner that makes the people around him better. Look at what he did this year with everything going on, and he just keeps rolling.

“This is a very attractive job that people want, and he’s the major reason why. If they put together a solid draft and have some good, inexpensive signings since they don’t have a lot of salary-cap space, I think the Texans can get back in the playoffs fast. It’s a refurbishing, not a tear-down.”

What to do about Watt
There is no bigger pending decision than determining the future of defensive end J.J. Watt.

Depending on how Watt feels about the incoming new leadership structure — he has said he doesn’t want to be part of a rebuild — and how the new management feels about a 31-year-old defensive end whose production declined this year despite playing in every game, his ultra-successful run with the Texans could come to an end.

Although the team would ideally want Watt to finish his career in a Texans uniform, it’s a high-level conversation to be had later once the team hires a general manager and coach.

Watt wasn’t made available to teams at the NFL trade deadline, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly. That stance could obviously change, though, with new management.

“Honestly, I would trade J.J. if I was the Texans,” an AFC executive said. “They don’t have a lot of draft capital, and that’s what they need to start improving their roster. He’s a tradable asset. They should consider moving on from him while they can still get back something decent for him, even if it’s a couple of middle-round draft picks.”

Watt’s six-year, $100 million contract expires after the 2021 season. He’s due a $17.5 million nonguaranteed base salary. Although the Texans can afford to carry Watt’s salary, if they retain him, it would be logical to extend his deal and restructure his contract by converting all or a portion of his pay into a signing bonus and reducing his salary-cap figure. The Texans could also trade or cut Watt to unload his salary and create more room under the salary cap.

“I don’t have any guarantees left in my contact, so something’s got to happen one way or another,” Watt said this week when asked about his future. “I’m not sure; there’s too many unknowns.”

Will Fuller a free agent
Wide receiver Will Fuller was having the best season of his career until he was suspended for six games for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

The pending unrestricted free agent might have played his final game for the Texans unless he’s signed to a new contract after the season or designated as their franchise player. The Texans have expressed interest in retaining Fuller, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly, but this punishment complicates the situation and could affect his market value.

Before this setback, Fuller was easing concerns about his durability, and he was expected to land a contract paying between $15 million and $17 million annually.

Fuller is one of the game’s most dangerous deep threats, and Watson loves throwing to him. If a short-term financial compromise can be reached, either through a one-year contract or by designating him as their franchise player, the Texans could hold on to the speedy former Notre Dame standout.

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The NFL Draft is an important factor in turning a franchise’s fortunes around. Just as important, if not more so, is player acquisition. Combing the waiver wire to pluck gems out of other GMs’ table scraps. Recognizing potential talent before it’s out of sight, out of mind or snatched up by another needy team. Occasionally working trades for not just players you covet, but ones that will actually make an impact on the current roster.

Of course, there’s a flip side to all of that. Knowing when to cut your losses and move on. Recognizing the decline or stagnation of older players. Properly discerning player value and not giving up the farm for the tractor, so to speak.

With 48 years worth of give and take in our rear view, I thought it would be interesting to look back on both the direct and indirect comings and goings of Saints’ players, in regards to their OTHER known address(es). What teams have the Saints reaped the most talent from over the years? Conversely, what teams have benefited most from the personnel decisions Saints’ GMs have made?

In order to tackle this project, I decided to use Football Reference’s approximate value (AV) statistic to gauge hindsight worth, as it pertains to the Saints franchise alone. This is far from a perfect method, especially since tenure automatically inflates this number, while rash decisions could see it skyrocket, albeit on (an)other roster(s).

One glaring example of the latter is Rob Ninkovich, who has blossomed into a exceptional DE/OLB during his six seasons with the Patriots. Having only played in three games for the Black & Gold, he holds a zero Saints AV and doesn’t even appear on this flow chart. Off the top of my head, Marc Bulger, Jake Delhomme, Cheap Ken Burrough Jersey, Shayne Graham and Rafael Septien are a few others that fit this description. Examples of coming aboard too late to help: Cheap Haywood Jeffires Jersey, Germane Crowell, Carl Lee, Cheap Allen Pinkett Jersey and Bryan Cox.

In short, if I was basing this presentation on overall AV, these players would all appear somewhere on this list. As is, it’s “as Saints” only and a cutoff point of 4+ AV, since that’s how far I had to descend the list, in order to gather at least one direct move to/from each of the other 31 NFL franchises. In case you’re curious, Troy Evans (from Texans to Saints) is the lowest rated Saints player involved in a direct shift, as featured on this list. The highest is, of course, Drew Brees (from Chargers to Saints).

For the sake of trying to look like I know what I’m talking about, I will offer commentary on each head-to-head match up, briefly analyzing the direct moves, first and foremost. I will also attempt to determine a “winner” in each; that being based entirely on my opinion. As far as the order listed, try not to read too much into that. As someone who has followed this team for decades, I have a pretty good feel of what was a good or bad move, even without the AVs. I mainly utilized it for the sake of relevance and list appeal, not a hard fast value tag, in terms of credits/debits.

Let’s roll.


Directly From: Jerry Fontenot, Dave Whitsell, Doug Atkins, Al Dodd, Andy Livingston, Brian Schweda, Alex Brown, John Gilliam, Jerry Moore, Brad Muster

Directly To: Jermon Bushrod, Emanuel Zanders, Sedrick Ellis, Brian De La Puente, Josh Bullocks, Tommy Barnhardt, Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, Steve Walsh, Terry Schmidt, Tyrone Hughes, Eddie Kennison, Jimmy Hester, Troy Wilson
Also From: Tommy Barnhardt, Bobby Douglass, Earl Leggett
Also To: Charles Grant, Doug Brien, Billy Newsome, Jeff Blake, John Gilliam, Danny Wuerffel

Fontenot was a solid center for several seasons and Whitsell was the first Pro Bowl player in Saints history, leading the team with 10 INTs in their inaugural season. He’d go on to pick off 9 more over the next two seasons before retiring. Doug Atkins is a HOFer that at least brought leadership and respectability to that same fledgling defensive unit, even if he happened to be running on empty (there’s your complimentary Jackson Browne concert, Dave). Al Dodd was one of Billy Kilmer’s favorite targets and was instrumental on the last minute drive that set up Tom Dempsey’s record breaking 63 yard field goal in 1970. John Gilliam provided a few cheap thrills as a returns specialist. His 94 yard return of the opening kickoff against the Rams will forever stand as the quickest scoring play of any team in NFL history. He’s also one of few Saints players with multiple tenures, briefly returning to the team ten years later, before hanging up his cleats. In the loss column, Jermon Bushrod and Sedrick Ellis both started on the 2009 Super Bowl champion squad, though neither was spectacular. Tyrone Hughes was one of the more dynamic returns specialists in team history, once taking two kickoffs back for TDs against the Rams. While a fan favorite, Ironhead did little to help his cause during the Mora regime and remains one of the more enigmatic players in franchise history. Steve Walsh was 10-9 as a Saints starter and helped lead the team to the playoffs in his first (and only) year under center. He also came at a steep price, but we’ll save that demerit for the Cowboys recap. This one’s close, but I have to give it to the Saints, as Chicago didn’t truly benefit from anyone we sent their way.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans’ first-round exit from the playoffs, courtesy of a 20-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, ended the season on a sour note. Although the Titans posted their best record in more than a decade, finishing the regular season with an 11-5 record and winning the AFC South, this offseason might be even more challenging than their last.

Here’s a look at the three biggest offseason decisions facing the Titans:

Free agency: Who stays, who goes?
The Titans have an abundance of players set to become free agents when the new league year starts. But with limited cap space (projected to be about $1 million, according to ESPN Roster Management), the Titans have to decide which players are essential to their improvement. The biggest names include wide receiver Cheap Corey Davis Jersey, linebacker Cheap Jayon Brown Jersey, tight end Cheap Jonnu Smith Jersey, cornerback Cheap Desmond King Jersey and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

Cheap Jadeveon Clowney Jersey was limited to eight games in 2020 after a knee injury ended his season. Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire
Clowney was signed right before the start of last season to be the game-changer the Titans’ front four needed. But injuries ended his season in November, and he didn’t finish with any sacks. Clowney remains a good fit for the Titans because of his versatility to play along the interior and on the edge. However, his injury history could make the Titans wary of signing him to a big-money deal. It would only make sense to bring Clowney back if it’s an extremely team-friendly deal.

The biggest free-agent decision might be what to do about Davis, the former No. 5 overall pick who posted career-highs in receiving yards (986), average yards per catch (15.1) and receiving touchdowns (10). Davis proved to be the perfect complement to Cheap A.J. Brown Jersey, making defenses pay for rolling coverage toward the Titans’ No. 1 receiver.

Entering his fifth season, Davis will draw plenty of interest from teams looking for a high-upside receiver who might not break the bank. If the Titans don’t retain Davis, they’ll need to find a replacement via the draft or free agency.

Free-agent wideout Marvin Jones, who turns 31 in March, would make a lot of sense as a replacement for Davis. Jones would likely come at a much cheaper price and could provide similar production.

Who replaces Arthur Smith as offensive coordinator?
The Titans became one of the NFL’s top offensive units with Smith dialing up the plays. Tennessee ranked fourth in the league in scoring during the regular season, averaging 30.7 points per game under Smith. They finished the regular season averaging 396.4 yards per game, good for third in the NFL. The Titans’ rushing attack posted 168.1 yards per game, second only to Baltimore (191.9 yards).


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Quarterback Cheap Ryan Tannehill Jersey experienced a career resurgence under Smith and is now among the top quarterbacks in the league. Tannehill called Smith one of the most cooperative and open playcallers he’s ever been around because of how much Tannehill was able to be involved with installing the game plan.

The next offensive coordinator will need to find the same synergy with Tannehill and devise ways to fully utilize his advanced skill set to keep the offense flowing as it has been over the last two seasons.

Smith’s replacement will also have to maintain the balance that Tennessee had on offense. Cheap Derrick Henry Jersey 2,027 rushing yards were the fifth-highest total in league history. But the offense wasn’t all ground-and-pound. Brown posted his second consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season and Davis fell just 16 yards short of 1,000 yards.

The Titans’ interview request for Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was declined. There are still options, but coach Mike Vrabel needs to act fast because new coaches such as Smith with the Falcons are also looking to fill their staff.

Vrabel will have some internal options such as tight end coach Todd Downing and quarterback coach Pat O’Hara who both possess previous experience as offensive coordinators.

Will Vrabel name a defensive coordinator?
Ah, the million-dollar question. After losing Dean Pees to retirement before the season, Vrabel didn’t name a replacement. But he empowered outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen to essentially fill the role. Any time there was a defensive hiccup, Titans fans blamed it on not having a defensive coordinator.

The Titans finished with only 19 sacks and allowed opposing offenses to score on 69.2% of their red-zone visits. These shortcomings don’t fall solely on Bowen. There were scheme issues at times and the team also lacked playmakers both in the back end and front end of the defense.

Vrabel and GM Jon Robinson need to do some self-reflection as they prepare their plan to build a better team in 2021.

“What we have to do is we have to evaluate every position on our staff as well as on our roster,” Vrabel said in his news conference at the end of the season. “We’ll do that and we’ll make those decisions that we feel like are in the best interest of the football team. That [defensive coordinator] will be one of them.”

Vrabel seems likely to hire a defensive coordinator given how he has already interviewed Pittsburgh Steelers defensive assistant/secondary coach Teryl Austin. Former Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher drew interest from Vrabel when he first became the Titans’ coach. Bettcher is certainly an option for Tennessee if they decide to hire an external coach to be their defensive coordinator.