HOUSTON -- When the Houston Texans went all-in this offseason with trades -- including four on roster cut-down day -- it was in the hopes of taking the franchise to a place it had not been before: an AFC Championship Game and, the ultimate, a Super Bowl title.
Despite all the changes coach Bill O’Brien and the Texans made in 2019, Houston came up short, losing 51-31 to the Kansas City Chiefs in a game the Texans led by 24 points in the second quarter.
The Texans traded for left tackle Laremy Tunsil, wide receiver Kenny Stills and running backs Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson and sent former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks for linebackers Jacob Martin and Barkevious Mingo.
The day after the loss in Kansas City, O’Brien said he thought the Texans moves “did pay off this season,” even if Houston did not accomplish its ultimate goal.
“Those guys came in ... and really entered into our culture of what we're trying to do,” O’Brien said.
Of the trades Houston made just before the season, only Hyde and Mingo are on expiring contracts. Hyde could be back with the Texans next season, something he said he was hoping for after he had the best season of his career in Houston in 2019. “I think I handled my part,” he said Sunday. “I’ve just [got] to let things play out in the offseason and see what happens.”
“I think any move we make, we try to think about the long term,” O’Brien said. “Now, you could probably pick and choose some moves where maybe contractually it doesn't seem like it's long-term, but within the building and within the meeting rooms, we think about it more for long-term purposes as we move forward here.”
This offseason will likely cement the Texans’ plans. With quarterback Deshaun Watson eligible for a contract extension and Tunsil coming upon his fifth-year option, the Texans are expected to extend those contracts before the start of the 2020 season. Although O’Brien would not get into specifics about either player, he said he wants both in Houston for “a long time.”
The Texans have the money to get these deals done -- and perhaps sign nose tackle D.J. Reader to a contract extension or use the franchise tag -- but these mega deals will soon make building around Watson even more difficult.
What's more, the Texans will have to do this without early contributions from the draft. In the Tunsil/Stills deal, they traded their first-round pick in the 2020 draft and their first- and second-round picks in 2021.
The Texans signed center Nick Martin and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus to contract extensions during the season to prevent the players from reaching free agency. With O’Brien at the helm during the free-agent period, the Texans are unlikely to sign many players to big one-year contracts, as they did last year. Instead, Houston is likely to focus on re-signing players and perhaps adding players from outside the organization who are the right culture fit with multiyear deals.
After the loss on Sunday, Watson said he wasn’t disappointed because “the future is bright for this organization.” Although that should be true for a team with a young star at quarterback, the moves the team made this season will make it harder for Houston to take the next step.