Two days after trading away Jadeveon Clowney and adding Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills in a pair of trades that included numerous other players and draft picks — and garnered plenty of outside criticism — Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien on Monday explained the team’s logic behind the moves.
In the simplest of terms, O’Brien said, “in the end, we just could not come to an agreement on a long-term deal” with Clowney, the three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher.
The club put the franchise tag on Clowney in March, but he did not sign his franchise tender before the July 15 deadline, meaning the Texans could no longer negotiate a contract with him until after the season.
O’Brien insisted there were discussions within the organization and with Clowney and his agent Bus Cook, but “we just couldn’t come to an agreement.”
After discussing a Clowney trade with multiple teams — most notably highly publicized talks with Miami regarding Tunsil, their offensive tackle — the Texans on Saturday morning sent the 2014 No. 1 overall pick to Seattle. In return, the Texans got a 2020 third-round pick and linebackers Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin. The Texans also reportedly paid Clowney a $7 million signing bonus while the Seahawks pick up his $8 million salary.
“I understand everybody’s going to dissect how we did it and what we received back and what we gave Seattle,” O’Brien told reporters Monday. “In the end, we did what we felt was in the best interest of our organization and of our team moving forward.”
Later Saturday, the Texans did get the lineman they wanted in Tunsil — and added a vertical threat in wide receiver Kenny Stills — but that, too, came at a price.
Houston gave Miami first-round picks in 2020 and ’21, as well as a second-round pick in 2021, plus offensive tackle Julie’n Davenport and cornerback Johnson Bademosi. The Texans got a 2020 fourth-round pick and 2021 sixth-round pick in return.
“We feel really good about being able to get a proven left tackle to protect Deshaun Watson,” O’Brien said in defending the ransom they paid for Tunsil. “Laremy Tunsil is an excellent player.”
O’Brien would not talk about whether the Texans talked about a contract extension with Tunsil before making the trade.
Drafted 13th overall out of Ole Miss in 2016, Tunsil has played in 44 of a possible 48 games with Miami, starting all of them. He has two years and roughly $13.5 million remaining on his contract, after the Dolphins exercised his fifth-year option this offseason.
He now will protect the blind side of Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson, who missed the second half of his rookie season in 2017 with a torn ACL, then suffered a bruised lung and injured ribs severe enough that the team bussed him to Jacksonville for a game last season rather than have him fly with the team over concerns of what changes in air pressure could have on his lungs.
Despite the injuries, and though he was sacked an NFL-high 65 times last season, Watson did not miss a game in 2018.