There is a lot of excitement surrounding the Houston Texans after the first day of NFL free agency. The defending AFC South champions were not shy about spending money, making additions that could help them get back to the playoffs.
Houston made one of the most surprising moves of the 2016 offseason, signing quarterback Brock Osweiler to a four-year deal worth $72 million, $37 million of which is guaranteed. The Texans also brought in Lamar Miller, giving him a four-year, $26 million contract.
Osweiler passed up the opportunity to play for the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, who had the NFL’s top-ranked defense in 2015.
"Coming to Houston was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up," Osweiler said, via ESPN.com. "What I see with this football team is something special. I believe this organization is on the cusp of doing something great. That's something I want to be a part of. I'm very excited to be here and just get to work."
The quarterback isn’t the only one who thinks the Texans have a chance to do big things in 2016. After signing Osweiler and Miller, Houston’s Super Bowl 51 odds at Bovada.lv jumped to +2000, tying them for the eighth-best odds in the NFL. The Texans’ betting odds were just +5000 less than 24 hours earlier, via OddsShark, and only five NFL teams have worse than +5000 championship odds on the second day of free agency.
The Texans are certainly playoff contenders heading into the 2016 season. They won a mediocre division at 9-7 in 2015, and the AFC South has been weak for a few years. Houston is favored to finish ahead of the Indianapolis Colts, who don’t have much besides Andrew Luck. Neither the Tennessee Titans nor Jacksonville Jaguars have finished above .500 in five years.
If Osweiler can stay healthy, he’ll give Houston stability at quarterback, which is something they haven’t had for a few years. Brian Hoyer had some good games with the Texans last season, but he wasn’t a long-term solution, and he split time with Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden.
Houston struggled running the ball last season, and Miller replaces the recently released Arian Foster, who has battled injuries for the last three seasons.
"The Texans are getting a home-run hitter, a guy who can make a play anywhere on the field and a guy who can protect the quarterback," Miller told The Houston Chronicles' Aaron Wilson on Wednesday. "I'm excited to be a part of the Texans family. I just feel good to get this huge opportunity. I've been putting in all of this hard work and doing this ever since I was a little kid, and now it's all paying off. It's a great day."
It was important for Houston to upgrade their offense, since it was their defense that carried them a season ago. The Texans ranked third in total defense, and defensive end J.J Watt might be the best overall player in football.
But despite the Texans’ new additions, the team still has plenty of questions heading into next season. The Texans might believe they found their quarterback of the future in Osweiler, but that is far from a certainty. The quarterback has made just seven NFL starts with mixed results.
Osweiler showed signs that he can be a reliable starting quarterback, leading the Broncos to a comeback win over the New England Patriots and tossing three touchdown passes against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But there are more questions than answers surrounding the future production of the 25-year-old.
Osweiler’s 86.4 passer rating ranked just 25th in the NFL, falling seven spots behind Hoyer, who the Texans might soon trade. Osweiler never threw for 300 yards in a game, and in the six games in which he played from start to finish the Broncos averaged just 19.5 points in regulation. DeAndre Hopkins gives Osweiler a top target, but he had Demaryius Thomas in Denver, and the wide receiver never had a 100-yard game when Peyton Manning didn’t play.
Miller is better than any running back that Osweiler played with in 2015, but the former Miami Dolphin has never been considered an elite rusher. He had 872 yards on 4.5 yards per carry last season.
The Texans haven't had stability at quarterback since 2012 when Matt Schaub was the starter. He led Houston to consecutive playoff appearances, helping them beat the Cincinnati Bengals in back-to-back postseasons.
Houston has finished 9-7 in each of the last two seasons. Their 2015 season ended with a 30-0 shutout loss in the wild-card round of the playoffs against the Kansas City Chiefs.