HONOLULU -- In a move that could augur the selection of Southern California tailback Reggie Bush as the first overall pick in the 2006 draft, league sources here for the Pro Bowl confirmed late Thursday that the Houston Texans have exercised a "buy back" clause in quarterback David Carr's contract, paying him an $8 million bonus to secure his services for three more seasons.
The Texans announced the extension Friday in a news release.
Retaining the four-year veteran quarterback, who would have become eligible for unrestricted free agency had the Texans not exercised the option, makes it highly unlikely that Houston will choose Texas quarterback Vince Young with the top pick in the draft April 29.
"We have not closed any doors," McNair said at a news
conference. "We'll be visiting with all the top players, including
Vince Young, and the whole process is going to lead to one
conclusion, and that is: what can we do to put together a winning
football team and what could we do to help this team?"
Some fans have urged the Texans to choose Young, a Houston native. But Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported weeks ago that Houston officials are locked in on Bush, the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner.
There is still some chance that Houston could choose Young or perhaps Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart. But doing so would mean keeping a young quarterback on the bench for a few seasons, or trading Carr.
The Texans' confidence has wavered only slightly in Carr in four seasons. Every indication in recent weeks was that the Texans would pay the "buy back" bonus to keep Carr.
Former NFL head coach Dan Reeves, who served as a consultant to Texans owner Bob McNair, recommended keeping Carr, the top overall choice in the 2002 draft. First-year head coach Gary Kubiak, who has a strong reputation around the league for developing quarterbacks and whose presence could enhance Carr's performance, apparently gave him a strong endorsement, too.
"I know he's a fine football player and he possesses everything
you're looking for in a quarterback to be successful in this
league," Kubiak said. "Along with that, he has the desire to be
as good as he can be and to lead this football team, and that's all
you could really ask of a young man."
Carr, 26, has appeared in 60 games, starting 59. He has completed 941 of 1,628 passes for 10,624 yards, with 48 touchdowns passes, 53 interceptions and a passer rating of 73.7. But the former Fresno State star has suffered from a lack of support, particularly on the offensive line.
He has been sacked an amazing 208 times in his career, including a league-record 76 times in 2002 and 68 times during the 2005 campaign. Carr has a 16-43 record as a starter.
"Obviously my career here these first four years hasn't been
quite what we wanted it to be," Carr said. "But I know that he
[Kubiak] can take me to the level that I want to play at and he can
take this team to the level that we need to play at."
Under the terms of the complicated seven-year, $46.75 million contract Carr signed as a rookie, the final three seasons of the deal were voidable. Early in his career, Carr reached sufficient performance levels to cancel those three years, and technically, his contract would have expired on March 3, the first day of free agency.
But the Texans had the right to "buy back" the voidable years and had two options for doing so. The first would have involved paying Carr a bonus of $5.5 million to buy back two seasons, at base salaries of $5 million for 2006 and $5.25 million for 2007. The second, the deal for which Houston opted, included the $8 million bonus, which bought back three seasons, at base salaries of $5.25 million each in 2006 and 2007 and of $6 million in 2008.
At one point during the season, Houston officials considered the possibility of exercising the two-year option. The Texans also reviewed which NFL franchises might need a quarterback of starting caliber in the next few years, in the event they decided to trade Carr.
They have never come close, however, to putting Carr on the market.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.