Houston Texans

Texans trade for Laremy Tunsil finally gives Deshaun Watson protection

Just hours after sending Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks, the Houston Texans acquired left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills in a separate trade with the Miami Dolphins.

Many NFL fans assumed that the Houston Texans would be able to swap edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who felt disrespected by the team franchising him as an outside linebacker for the sole purpose of saving a couple of million dollars against the cap, directly for left tackle help.

There seemed to be a natural trade partnership between the Miami Dolphins and Texans in a deal involving Laremy Tunsil, but Clowney likely nixed that in favor of joining an actual playoff contender in the Seattle Seahawks.

Despite not being able to swap Clowney directly for Tunsil, the Texans and their polarizing head coach/GM Bill O’Brien were still able to get their man. According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Houston will be getting both Tunsil and star wide receiver Kenny Stills in a package deal that will include at least a first-round pick heading back the other direction.

Rapoport’s colleague, Mike Garafolo, reports that the Dolphins will be getting two first-rounders and a second-round pick.

Here are the full terms of the deal:

It’s a bold move from the Texans. While Stills is a supremely gifted receiver who was underused by an incompetent organization with no true franchise quarterback, he isn’t the big-ticket acquisition here. And that’s simply because the Texans already have an elite wideout in DeAndre Hopkins, in addition to a stud deep threat in Will Fuller.

However, the Texans didn’t have a capable blindside protector, as there was simply no way the NFL’s most-sacked quarterback could head into 2019 without any real upgrades up front. The Texans have finally found a true starting left tackle in Tunsil, who is a 25-year-old former first-round pick with a couple of years remaining on a team-friendly contract.

Tunsil is a game-changer for Deshaun Watson. While Watson had plenty of weapons and is getting another exciting one in Stills, he didn’t have enough help up front. He’ll come to enjoy playing with Tunsil on his side, and the Texans will hope that Tunsil can become one of the league’s best left tackles this season.

The Texans’ hold on the AFC South didn’t seem as firm after trading Clowney, as the Jacksonville Jaguars appear poised to have a strong bounce-back season with Nick Foles replacing Blake Bortles. But after making this splash move to bring in Tunsil and Stills, Houston appears to remain the division favorite.

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O’Brien has shown a willingness to mortgage the team’s future, likely in order to bolster his own short-term safety as head coach. This conflict of interest will be worth monitoring, because the Texans parted ways with a massive amount of draft capital, as good as Tunsil and Stills are. It’ll be worth it if the Texans have a strong season and get the most out of Tunsil and Stills, as star veterans may be undervalued compared to unknown draft picks.

However, keeping veteran players is more expensive, and the Texans will have to prove that they can “win now” under O’Brien after making this move. That said, it’s clear that the Texans have filled a huge hole by acquiring Tunsil, and that may be exactly what Watson needs to carry this team to glory in 2019.

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