After losing key players such as Quintin Demps and AJ Bouye to free agency this offseason, general manager Rick Smith has seemingly prevented a repeat in 2018 after signing four key starters to new long term deals. RealSport takes a look at each player and their new deals:
WR Deandre Hopkins: 5-years $81 million
After a brief training camp holdout last season proved pointless, Hopkins had a decent, but by his standards, sub-par season thanks primarily to the fact that then QB Brock Osweiler simply couldn't aim (The fact that a 954-yard season is 'sub-par' speaks volumes). However, this one season has had no effect on his reputation, and rightly so. The fifth-year receiver already has 4,487 receiving yards to his name - despite having played alongside QBs like Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
A vital component to this potentially effective offense, Hopkins has well and truly nailed down his status as an elite NFL receiver after recording "the sixth-most receptions and fifth-most receiving yards by a player age 25-or-younger in NFL history". But, and this is very underrated in my opinion, unlike other star performers he has managed to widely keep himself out of the limelight and certainly out of the headlines the past few years.
Having had Andre Johnson to learn from when he arrived will have surely helped him learn the benefits of keeping quiet and doing your job to the best of your ability, and this deal has more than proved that. With a reported $49 million of this already guaranteed, this deal has officially raised the bar for top-flight NFL receiver contracts - and given his patience with the franchise over the past few years, he deserves every cent.
TE CJ Fiedorowicz: 3-year, $21.5 million
For his first two years in Houston, Fiedorowicz was a slow burner. The former third-round pick recorded just 28 and 167 receiving yards in his first two seasons - hardly mind blowing. However, this was far from an uncommon sight in Houston which has struggled to build an effective tight end pairing in the years since Owen Daniels departed.
While 2014 and 2015 left a lot to be desired, it's safe to say that last season was the breakout year he desperately will have wanted - and in my opinion, he has a great deal of this to thank the $72 million mistake Osweiler for. With Brock struggling to find his receivers, and a pocket struggling for structure, he frequently relied on quicker, shorter throws for yardage - particularly Fiedorowicz. In the end, he received 54 of 89 targets during the season for 559 yards, and gained many plaudits along the way.
This new deal was a necessity as just with Hopkins, had Houston not made it now then their market next season when they hit free-agency would have grown significantly and, as seen with Demps and Bouye, the Texans likely would have been outbid. Therefore, a value deal for a safe and reliable tight end who I believe will be among the leagues best in the next two years.
S Andre Hal: 3-year $15 million
Another no-brainer for Rick Smith to negotiate. After losing Demps, the Texans' are seemingly thinner in the backfield heading into this season, and therefore keeping hold of the consistent Hal will have been a priority.
In his first three NFL seasons, Hal has been a consistent performer showing steady improvement, with 21 defended passes and 6 interceptions in 22 starts for Houston.
While it's uncertain as yet who he will be playing along side, with Corey Moore, Eddie Pleasant, and Kareem Jackson (who would need to be converted) all possibilities, Hal is a certainty to start come Week 1, and with free-agency looming in just one-year's time, it was now or never if the Texans wanted to get a decent deal for the fourth-year safety.
FB Jay Prosch: 3-year $5.75
Another safe deal on another safe player. Prosch is not the kind of player you look at for headline grabbing runs or earth shattering blocking, but in his three seasons thus far in Houston, he's been another consistent presence.
In 47 appearances for the Texans, Prosch has recorded 42 rushing yards on 10 attempts - but it's his blocking abilities which have frequently been utilized. A former offensive lineman and linebacker in college, this stocky back is not one to shy away from a tackle and has helped pave the way for both Arian Foster and Lamar Miller to rack up 1,000+ yard seasons.
Speaking on the extensions, Rick Smith said:
We’ve maintained a roster management philosophy of drafting, developing, and rewarding our own players. These four men are all good, young, ascending players whose best football is still in front of them.
They have all filled significant roles for our team, and we are thrilled to know that they will continue to help in our quest to bring a championship to the city of Houston.
While I have been one to criticize Smith in the past, I have to say that all four of these extensions were the right decisions, and in my opinion, all represent fair valuations for their abilities. Yes, the Hopkins deal is somewhat mind-blowing in comparison to everyday wages. But, so is football nowadays, and if the Texans are to keep up with the direction that sports, in general, is heading, then these sorts of deals will simply have to become the norm.
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