HOUSTON -- Now that Tony Romo will retire to join the CBS broadcast booth, Tom Savage may get his chance to show the Houston Texans that they've had their starting quarterback on their roster all along. Or do the Texans look to bring in a veteran like Jay Cutler or Colin Kaepernick? Whatever they decide, the Texans' quarterback outlook is a lot bleaker with Romo calling it quits. Here's a look at their options:
Tom Savage: Savage, a 26-year-old former fourth-round draft pick who is entering his fourth season in the NFL, has thrown just 92 passes in five games and is entering the final year of his contract. The Texans like what Savage showed them in limited playing time last season and want to give him the chance to stay healthy to prove he can be the starter. Savage has had two chances -- in 2014 and last season -- to do so but hasn't stayed healthy.
Unlike Brock Osweiler, Savage has shown that he can protect the ball -- he's thrown just one interception in five games -- which was a huge problem for the Texans last season. Coach Bill O'Brien praised Savage at the NFL owners meetings, saying, "He's got a live arm. He knows our system. It'll be his fourth year in the league. He has some experience, and he knows how we do things." Savage is also is well-liked by his teammates, and he has good chemistry with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Osweiler struggled to connect with Hopkins a year after the receiver had a breakout season with 111 catches for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hopkins had a season-high 17 targets when Savage led a comeback victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 15 after relieving Osweiler. Of course, there is definitely a risk entrusting the quarterback job to Savage or a rookie quarterback. The Texans enter the season capable of making a run to the Super Bowl. Despite the struggles the offense had last season, the Texans made it to the second round of the playoffs, led by the league's No. 1 defense in the regular season. And that defense will see the return of J.J. Watt in 2017. Now, with a small window of contention, the Texans could be putting their faith in a quarterback who has not stayed healthy and has never even thrown a touchdown pass in the NFL.
Draft a QB: With the No. 25 pick in the draft, it won't be easy for the Texans to trade up if they see the guys they want falling off the board. Clemson's Deshaun Watson, UNC's Mitch Trubisky and Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer are widely expected to be taken fairly early on Day 1. The Texans could draft Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes if they believe he is worthy of that pick. But even if the Texans get the guy they want early in the draft, O'Brien said at the NFL owners meetings last week that it's a "tough task" to play quarterback as a rookie. "I think that there's no substitute for experience," O'Brien said. "So, I think it's hard to ask a guy to come in straight from college and Day 1 he's a starter on your team. But I know that there are some really good quarterbacks in this draft that we're looking at, and we've met with a lot of them. We're excited about continuing to get to know them. But, I just think for me as a general rule, that's tough to start them as a Day 1 guy."
Jay Cutler: Although Cutler, who will be 34 later this month, would be an upgrade over Osweiler, he shares a problem with the former Houston QB: turnovers. In seasons he has played at least 15 games, Cutler has thrown at least 11 interceptions, and his turnovers often came in bunches. There is also concern with how Cutler would mesh with the Texans' coaching staff, something especially important given the reported arguments between O'Brien and Osweiler last season.
Colin Kaepernick: Another free-agent quarterback still available is the former San Francisco 49er. Kaepernick threw 16 touchdown passes last season against just four interceptions, but the Texans think they have a better option in Savage. Of course, there has been much conjecture about why Kaepernick does not have a job yet, with speculation that the stance he took by kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial oppression and inequality in the United States is playing a big role in keeping him unemployed. That may add to the reasons the Texans might not be the right fit for him, as well, but I've been told it is primarily related to his on-the-field performance.
Trade for a QB: The Texans could also add a quarterback through a trade, such as Cincinnati Bengals backup AJ McCarron. The asking price likely would be considerable and might be too steep for the Texans. Given their inactivity during free agency, the Texans do have quite a few holes to fill and would rather not give up any draft picks. Houston already doesn't have a second-round pick in 2018 after including it in the trade of Osweiler to Cleveland. Don't count on a trade for New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The fourth-year player is not a free agent, but because he is playing behind Tom Brady, there was speculation that he would be available in a trade. But the Patriots' asking price is reportedly two first-round picks (2017 and 2018), which is too much for the Texans.