And after making another move at the most important position in football, it’s fair to wonder whether Watson will ever play another down for the franchise that signed him to a $156 million contract extension back in September.
The Texans made a big addition to their quarterback room via the 2021 NFL draft
With Watson facing 22 civil lawsuits related to sexual misconduct, the Texans had no choice but to bolster their quarterback depth chart. After trading for Ryan Finley, they signed Tyrod Taylor to a one-year, incentive-laden contract. A solid passer and adept runner who doesn’t commit many turnovers, the 31-year-old looks like the favorite to open the year atop the depth chart.
Houston also secured a potential future starter via the draft. New general manager Nick Caserio used the team’s top pick on Stanford’s Davis Mills. Viewed as a high-upside prospect, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound signal-caller showed flashes of intriguing ability in college. However, considering he fell to the No. 67 overall pick, it’s clear he has room to grow.
Still, the fact Houston used its first draft selection on Mills spoke volumes. Rather than taking a player who can contribute right away, the Texans invested a fairly valuable asset on a long-term project. That demonstrated not only how much they liked Mills but also the importance of planning for life without Watson.
Houston raises more doubt about Deshaun Watson’s future with latest roster move
Despite having Taylor, Finley, and Mills under contract, the Texans haven’t stopped shopping for quarterbacks. On Wednesday, Houston signed Jeff Driskel to a one-year contract worth up to $2.5 million. Per ESPN, according to his agents, the 28-year-old’s deal includes a $1 million base salary, a $250,000 signing bonus, and bonuses related to playing time and being on the 46-man game-day roster.
Driskel doesn’t boast a particularly impressive NFL resume. He completed just 54.7% of his passes in three appearances with the Denver Broncos last season. He went 0-3 as a starter for the Detroit Lions in 2019. And the 2016 sixth-round pick went 1-4 as the Cincinnati Bengals’ starting quarterback in 2018.
Although it seems highly unlikely Driskel will legitimately threaten for the starting job, the fact the Texans signed him in the first place doesn’t bode well for Watson’s future with the franchise. Why would Houston keep adding quarterbacks if he was part of any long-term plan? By acquiring their fourth in a span of only a few months, the Texans have done nothing but raise doubts about where Watson will play moving forward.
What will the Texans look like on offense in 2021?
The Texans finished 18th in scoring in 2020. Will they experience a significant decline in that category this season? That hinges largely on a group of skill players that doesn’t appear particularly daunting.
At wideout, Brandin Cooks represents the biggest threat to defenses. However, the 27-year-old has never become a true No. 1 receiver, and he can be marginalized by physical corners. It’s hard to overlook that the Saints, Patriots, and Rams all moved on from the 2014 first-round pick.
Meanwhile, veterans Randall Cobb and Andre Roberts round out a depth chart that desperately needs a young player to emerge. Third-round rookie Nico Collins could fill that void, which would be a big boost for Houston.
The running back room includes David Johnson, Mark Ingram, and Phillip Lindsay. In theory, that trio could inflict serious damage. Given each of their durability concerns, though, it seems risky to bet on the group living up to the hype.
At least the Texans have a few higher-upside players at tight end. Jordan Akins caught 37 passes in his third year as a pro. Can the 2018 third-rounder take a significant leap? Pharaoh Brown, who tips the scales at 6-foot-6, 258 pounds, also has the ability to become a more prominent part of the offense. Can he build off a promising 2020 campaign?
Ultimately, though, it’s tough to get excited about a unit that lacks premier playmakers. And if Taylor (or someone other than Watson) starts at quarterback, the Texans will likely struggle to score enough points to win on Sundays.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.