HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans' season has long been over, and the team’s focus needs to turn to 2018. After T.J. Yates’ performance in Sunday’s 45-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, which dropped Houston’s record to 4-10, it’s become clear that the Texans need to continue to search for a capable backup behind rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Watson is recovering from a torn ACL in his right leg. He had surgery on Nov. 8 and was given a projected timeline of eight to nine months for his return. July will mark eight months since the surgery, so Watson is expected to be back in time for the start of next season. With the time Watson will miss, the Texans’ backup quarterback likely would get the majority of the snaps during the team’s offseason program while Watson rehabs.
While the Texans, of course, hope they do not have to rely on their backup quarterback in 2018, this season has shown the importance of having someone who can step in and take over. The Texans are 1-6 since Watson tore his ACL.
There will be several free-agent quarterbacks available, including Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater and Jay Cutler, but those three likely will want to sign with a team with which they will at least be able to compete for the starting job or, in Cutler's case, perhaps retire. The starting job won't be up for grabs in Houston barring a complication with Watson’s recovery. Here’s a look at some options for the Texans’ backup QB for 2018:
Ryan Fitzpatrick: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup played six games while Jameis Winston was injured this season and completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 1,103 yards and seven touchdowns. He also threw three interceptions. Fitzpatrick has had a lot of success with Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The former Texans quarterback has the highest completion percentage and the second-most yards per completion among the 10 players to complete a pass to Hopkins, according to ESPN Stats & Information. His familiarity with the Texans’ offense -- he played 12 games for Houston in head coach Bill O’Brien’s first season -- could make him a good candidate to backup Watson if he wants to continue his NFL career.
Tom Savage: Savage had perhaps the best game in his career the week before he sustained a concussion on a second-quarter hit. Although he was benched for Watson in the Texans’ 2017 season opener, Savage was playing for his NFL future as he neared the end of his rookie contract. It remains to be seen whether Savage will return for either of the Texans’ final two games -- he’s still in the concussion protocol -- but Houston could choose to bring Savage back in 2018 to play behind Watson. Savage has been in Houston for four seasons and has a good knowledge of the Texans’ offense, but both sides might want a fresh start for next season.
2018 draft pick: The Texans’ 2018 draft picks might be even more valuable than usual because Houston doesn’t have a first- or second-round pick. Last offseason, general manager Rick Smith traded the 2018 first-round pick as part of a package for the No. 12 pick in 2017 to draft Watson and dealt the second-round pick to the Cleveland Browns in the trade to clear Brock Osweiler’s salary off the books. Houston has many needs to fill between free agency and the draft, including multiple spots on the offensive line and in the secondary. This is supposed to be a quarterback-heavy draft, so the Texans could take a chance on a later-round pick they could develop behind Watson and feel comfortable enough with that he could take over in case of an injury.