HOUSTON — Rarely does an offensive lineman become as much of a news story as Duane Brown, the left tackle holding out for a contract renegotiation with the Texans.
As training camp dragged on, the Texans’ front office quietly assured reporters that Brown was just sitting out training camp, not wanting to risk injury, saving himself for games that count.
Surely Brown will be back, honoring his contract, before the season opens against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But that’s not how it happened. Brown was still holding out, and as they were being steamrolled 27-9, with their quarterbacks sacked 10 times, you had to think the Texans miss their blindside protector more than he misses them.
Left tackle is often called the second-most important position on an NFL team, and this past weekend seemed to validate that idea. So many times the team with the more solid left tackle won.
The New York Giants’ Ereck Flowers failed to protect Eli Manning, and the Giants lost to Tyron Smith and the Cowboys. The Bengals clearly missed their departed Pro Bowl LT, Andrew Whitworth as Andy Dalton was dismantled by the Ravens’ rush. The failure of rookie Ryan Ramczyk was a key factor in the Saints losing on Monday night to the Vikings.
It goes on and on. But nowhere was a left tackle missed more than in Houston.
Texans general manager Rick Smith is adamant that Brown is fairly compensated at $9.4 million for this season and $9.75 for 2019.
But Brown, though not speaking to the media about his negotiations, has told the team he should be better than 11th-highest paid among 32 starters at his position.
He may be overvaluing himself, as humans tend to do. His salary is commensurate with his rankings by Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Weekly. Brown in his best years was as good as anyone, but now he’s 32.
He’s admitted his skills were eroded by age and injuries three years ago. “I get by on technique and experience,” he has said. “I don’t have the athletic skills I once had.”
So Smith is probably right in thinking Brown would be overpaid if his contract is renegotiated. The Texans too many times in the past have raised salaries for falling stars. Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Ed Reed, et al.
But this time is different.
They have a valuable asset in Deshaun Watson, one of the brightest field generals to enter the league in years. They risk destroying his health, physically and mentally, if they continue to shield his blind side with Kendall Lamm and Chris Clark.
Watson can be even more concerned about the right side, where the starter is Breno Giacomini, who was cut by the New York Jets.
This is no time for the Texans to pinch their pennies and their millions by making sure Duane Brown doesn’t get more than he deserves. No one disputes that he’s a better-than-average starter in the NFL, and he’s far better than what they have without him.
CLICK HERE for Link to Matt Young of chron.com: ‘How Texans’ Duane Brown has spent his time during holdout’