Laremy Tunsil extension solidifies Texans’ OL for likely rookie QB

The Houston Texans’ plan began with the trade of Shaq Mason from the Bucs, one of the best guards in the NFL for years, someone with New England ties to general manager Nick Caserio. Then it was about securing a multi-year future with star left tackle Laremy Tunsil, shutting down trade rumors.

This much is clear: The Texans are solidifying their offensive line for an expectant rookie quarterback, who could be selected as high as No. 2 in the upcoming draft.

Houston reached an agreement Sunday on a deal with Tunsil that makes him the highest-paid offensive tackle in NFL history, a league source confirmed to FOX Sports. The reported terms: A three-year contract extension worth $75 million, including a $30 million signing bonus, $50 million fully guaranteed and $60 million in total guarantees. Under his previous deal, Tunsil was to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2023 season.

It’s a well-deserved contract for Tunsil, who represents himself. Among offensive tackles who played at least 950 offensive snaps last season, Tunsil allowed the second-fewest sacks (one) and tied for the third-fewest pressures (17), according to Pro Football Focus.

For years to come, the Texans’ quarterback, whoever it is, is poised to have one of the best blindside protectors in the league.

And on paper, Houston’s offensive line is shaping up to be drastically improved for 2023. At right guard, Mason is a clear upgrade over veteran AJ Cann, who was released last week. 2022 first-round pick Kenyon Green made big strides in his sophomore season. Right tackle Tytus Howard is coming off a season in which he had PFF’s best offensive grade (67.9) and run-blocking grade (64.5).

The Texans also re-signed Scott Quessenberry, who started 16 games at center last season, but are positioned to take the center of the future in this year’s draft.

Houston’s efforts to revamp its offensive line also indirectly help the quarterback-to-be, making life easier for star running back Dameon Pierce, who can take pressure off the signal caller.

Pierce rushed for 939 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games last season despite the Texans ranking near the bottom of the league in several run-blocking metrics: 30th in tight line yards (quantifies the responsibility of the OL in carrying the runners), 30th in second level. yards (yards gained by RBs five to 10 yards beyond the scrimmage line, divided by carries) and 26th in stuffing rate (percentage of runs RB faces at or behind the line of scrimmage) , according to Football Outsiders.

The Texans also ranked 16th in passing yards, which tracks the percentage of runs on third-and-2 and 2 or more short that result in a first down or touchdown.

The 29-year-old Mason should help in that department. In the first seven seasons of his career (2015-21), he never had a PFF run blocking grade below 72.0. Green’s career blocking grade as a rookie was 47.4. Cann had 63.9 last season.

As a pass protector, too, Mason is a major asset. He allowed just one sack last season, tied for second among guards who played at least 650 snaps, per PFF.

The Cooks trade reinforces the need to draft a potential #1 WR

The Texans also traded veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Dallas Cowboys for a 2023 fifth-round pick and a 2024 sixth-round pick, a league source confirmed to FOX Sports. Houston already needed help catching the pass before the move, so the trade only reinforces that need.

Cooks had been the Texans’ No. 1 option the past three seasons. Now, they currently don’t have a returning wide receiver last season who reached 500 receiving yards (Chris Moore, who had 548, is still an unrestricted free agent). Houston has also added veterans Robert Woods in free agency and Noah Brown via trade, but they are strong depth options at best. The Texans don’t have a dynamic No. 1 receiver on their roster.

While they could look high in the draft, rising third-year pro Nico Collins, who had 37 receptions for 481 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games last season, and John Metchie III, who missed his rookie season due to cancer, could take on big roles if healthy.

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) before moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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