Texans left tackle Duane Brown, the top player on what has been a shaky offensive line, is willing to hold out to the midpoint of the season, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, and will not report to the team until after its Week 7 bye at the earliest.
Brown is seeking alterations to the two remaining years left on his contract and skipped the entire offseason and the first two weeks of the regular season. The Texans have been unwilling to renegotiate, noting their standing team policy on not negotiating contracts in-season, and there is no end-game in sight. Brown, 32, will report sometime after Houston's Oct. 15 game, at the earliest, barring movement on the contract front.
He is set to earn $9.4 million this season and $9.75 million next season -- a bargain by current left tackle standards. While he has battled injuries in recent seasons, he has the best pedigree of any lineman on the team, and the Texans' pass protection -- for both Week 1 starter Tom Savage and Week 2 rookie starter Deshaun Watson -- has been poor through two weeks. If the Texans were to guarantee Brown's 2018 salary, sources said that would begin fostering a resolution, but there has been no progress as of late.
The Texans' offense has produced just two touchdowns through two games, one a wild 50-yard scramble from Watson Thursday night.
Brown will take his holdout as far as he can without losing an accrued season, sources said, which, per a 2000 ruling regarding receiver Joey Galloway's holdout at the time, asserted that a player must be on the active roster for eight weeks to ensure that his contract does not "toll" until the following season (a season tolling would essentially roll over and not count toward free agency). Given the fact that teams can place players returning from an absence due to a holdout or suspension on an exempt list for up to three weeks -- which does not count toward being on the active roster -- Brown will report to the Texans prior to their Week 8 game at Seattle.
The Texans have displayed no willingness to deal Brown to this point, and perhaps that won't change given how contentious this has become, but there would be no shortage of contending teams in need of offensive line help who would covet him if he was shopped (Seattle being one to immediately spring to mind). Houston is without a pick in the top two rounds of the 2018 draft after the Brock Osweiler deal (which cost them their second-rounder) and moving up for Deshaun Watson in this year's draft (which cost them next year's first).
One could make the case that the prudent move for the Texans would be to get Brown back on the field as soon as possible once he reported (Aaron Donald missed just one game after recently ending his holdout with the Rams, for instance), but given the acrimony built up during this impasse, it's unlikely Brown's camp would risk it, thus the return date in mid-October. In the interim, the Texans, who won 13-9 Thursday at Cincinnati, face a daunting task, going to New England before hosting the Titans and Chiefs (and Browns) leading into their Week 7 bye.