HOUSTON -- In what was not an especially surprising move, the Houston Texans allowed center Ben Jones to leave in free agency.
Jones' four-year deal with the Tennessee Titans can't be made official until Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET when the new league year begins, leaving the Texans with a very important question: Who will play center next season? More importantly, how will this impact the configuration of the Texans' offensive line as a whole?
Of their 2015 starters, three are set to return to the offensive line in 2016. Left tackle Duane Brown, who is recovering from a significant torn quad tendon, right tackle Derek Newton and left guard Xavier Su'a-Filo will be back. Su'a-Filo became the starter after the Texans lost Jeff Adams to a significant knee injury in Week 2. Adams re-signed with the Texans this week, and reserve tackle Chris Clark will also be back. Clark was critically important to the Texans due to injuries last season. He started the Texans' playoff game with Brown out.
With Jones gone, the Texans must resolve their center position. He took over last season after Houston cut longtime center Chris Myers. Su'a-Filo has taken some reps at center. The Texans also have Greg Mancz, an undrafted rookie last season who was on injured reserve. He can play all three interior positions.
Another name I've heard floated is David Quessenberry. Quessenberry spent last offseason in remission from non-Hodgkin's T lymphoblastic lymphoma and working to recover his strength and endurance. The Texans opted to place him on the non-football illness list for the season, feeling that he wasn't yet ready to compete for a job. As Quessenberry hasn't played football in several years (he was on injured reserve in 2013, his rookie season) it's difficult to know what he'll do on the field. The prospect of his transitioning to center is intriguing.
The Brandon Brooks situation poses another issue. Brooks, the Texans' starting right guard, is set to enter free agency. His agents and the Texans have consulted on a deal, and the team has expressed a desire to bring him back.
The lineman market got a huge jolt on Tuesday with a monster deal for Kelechi Osemele that reportedly will be worth more than $11 million per year. Osemele was considered the best guard on the market, but he also has tackle experience and could be the Raiders' next left tackle.
Brooks is a guard. He's not as versatile as Jones, who played guard and center for the Texans, or Osemele, for that matter, but he's got talent. Given all the uncertainty on their offensive line now, I don't know that the Texans can afford to let him walk.
I also don't know that they won't.