If there is one NFL team that best defines the strangeness that has been 2020, it is the Houston Texans. Starting with their blown 24-0 lead against the Chiefs in the playoffs, this has been a bizarre year for the Texans, who traded away one of the NFL's best players while acquiring two other players with significant injury concerns.
While coach Bill O'Brien's to trade away DeAndre Hopkins received understandable criticism, the Texans did manage to make some decent roster decisions this offseason. Houston was able to come to terms on a longterm deal with tackle Laremy Tunsil. During the draft, Houston added potentially significant pieces to its defense, starting with defensive lineman Ross Blacklock, the team's first pick in the draft. The Texans then spent a third-round pick on former Florida pass rusher Jonathan Greenard before using a fourth-round pick to select former Penn State cornerback John Reid. With their last pick, the Texans added to their receiving corps by selecting former Rhode Island wideout Isaiah Coulter.
With the start of the 2020 season just around the corner, we decided to take a look at the Texans' top-five salary cap bargains. The list includes two receivers that will look to help make up for the loss of Hopkins, Watson's favorite target during the first three years of his career.
5. Ross Blacklock, defensive tackle
2020 salary cap hit: $1,444,991
With former starter D.J. Reader now in Cincinnati, the Texans have an open starting position on their defensive line heading into training camp. And while third-year veteran Eddie Vanderdoes is the current favorite to win the job, don't be surprised if the starting spot ultimately goes to Blacklock, a First-Team All-Big 12 performer during his final season at Texas Christian. Blacklock will look to help a Texans defense that finished 29th in the league in passing yards and 25th in rushing yards allowed in 2019.
4. J.J. Watt, defensive end
2020 salary cap hit: $15.5 million
Believe it or not, Watt is underpaid as far as NFL pass rushers are concerned. Watt, who is entering the final two years of his current contract, is the ninth highest-paid defensive end in the NFL in terms of annual salary. And while injuries have hindered him over the past three years, Watt, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is still an elite pass rusher when healthy. In 2018, his last full season, Watt recorded 16 sacks while posting a league-high seven forced fumbles.
3. Randall Cobb, receiver
2020 salary cap hit: $6,101,563
Houston signed Cobb to a three-year deal shortly after the team traded away Hopkins. A Pro Bowler in 2014, Cobb, a 10-year veteran who will turn 30 before the start of the 2020 season, spent his first eight seasons with the Packers before signing with the Cowboys last offseason. Cobb enjoyed a solid season in Dallas, catching 55 passes for 823 yards and three touchdowns while averaging a career-best 15.1 yards per reception. Cobb should help make things easier for Watson, who will be without Hopkins for the first time in his career.
2. Brandin Cooks, receiver
2020 salary cap hit: $8,000,000
The Texans acquired two veterans this offseason with looming health concerns. Included in the Hopkins trade was running back David Johnson, a 2016 All-Pro who hasn't been quite the same player since suffering a knee injury during the final game of the '16 season. Johnson then missed most of the '17 season after dislocating his wrist in the season-opener.
Like Johnson, Cooks is also facing questions about his health heading into his first season in Houston. A 1,000-yard receiver each season from 2015-18, Cooks, who sustained five known concussions during the first six years of his career, suffered two concussions in a 25-day span during the 2019 season. But if he is healthy, the 26-year-old Cooks will surely be a valuable part of the Texans' offense in 2020 and possibly beyond.
1. Deshaun Watson, quarterback
2020 salary cap hit: $4,408,244
A two-time Pro Bowler, Watson had his fifth-year option picked up by the Texans earlier this offseason. And while Patrick Mahomes has understandably taken most of his thunder, Watson has also enjoyed a tremendous start to his career. After an injury put a premature end to what would have likely been a Rookie of the Year season for Watson, he bounced back with a stellar 2018 campaign, throwing for 4,165 yards and 26 touchdowns while leading the Texans to an 11-5 record. Last season, Watson again threw 26 touchdowns while leading Houston to the second round of the playoffs.