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New Contract: Which Texans Standout Should Be Extended Next?

The Houston Texans could be looking to extend one of these three players before the start of the 2023 offseason.

HOUSTON -- While the Houston Texans are looking to get younger in terms of finding their foundational pieces, several veterans on the roster could be part of the long-term plan. The question now turns to which player up for an extension should be paid first. 

Is there a clear-cut favorite to receive a deal entering the 2022 season?

Texans general manager Nick Caserio often has worked in the short-term process when discussing extensions. In an interview with SportsRadio 610, Caserio said that he tries to evaluate the roster in "two-year windows" when it comes to fitting players. 

Since being hired by Houston in 2021, only one player has received a contract longer than two years. Punter Cam Johnston, who agreed to a three-year, $8 million deal, will be up for a new contract in 2023. 

The Texans extended leading receiver Brandin Cooks on a two-year deal prior to April's draft. Houston also restructured safety Eric Murray's contract by adding another year to the deal. Veterans that re-signed, including linebacker Christian Kirksey, cornerback Desmond King and defensive tackle Maliek Collins, all are only signed through 2023. 

Who could be the first three-year extended player for the Texans in the Caserio era? There are three logical answers. 

Expectations are high for third-year defensive end Jonathan Greenard after a stellar second season. The former Florida pass-rusher moved down from outside linebacker to defensive end under Lovie Smith's four-man rush and nearly tripled him production in all aspects. 

The hope is that Greenard's eight-sack season from 2021 is the start of something promising. The Texans haven't had a defensive end surpass the double-digit marker in sacks since J.J. Watt (10) in 2018. If Greenard hits the mark, perhaps Caserio begins negotiations. 

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For those wondering when a deal could get done between the two sides, don't expect it to come midseason. Greenard isn't eligible to negotiate a new deal until after the regular season. At the earliest, Caserio could offer him a deal on Jan. 9. 2023 following the season's finale against the Indianapolis Colts. 

If looking for a mid-season extension, fourth-year tackle Tytus Howard could be the best bet of those on rookie contracts. The Texans ultimately picked up his fifth-year option following a subpar season, but keep in mind Howard never found his footing at either guard position. 

Under new offensive line coach George Warhop, it's expected that Howard will return to his natural right tackle spot. Still, his first two seasons came with mixed results, meaning Caserio would need to see massive improvement from him if he a deal were to unfold by mid-to-late November. 

Running back Marlon Mack will likely get the first crack at starting reps in Houston's backfield due to his experience. When healthy, Mack averaged roughly 4.6 yards per attempt while serving as the Colts' lead back. 

Paying running backs are tricky in today's league. More often than not, the prospect rarely lives up to the current deal and often is either released or traded before the final year on the current contract. Could this stop the Texans from offering Mack a lucrative deal even if he posts career numbers? 

Houston has the funds to extend all three before the 2023 season. Caserio said following the Deshaun Watson trade that the salary cap would be "in their favor" after this season. He has a point, since Houston will have $45.8 million available in 2023 followed by a league-leading $187.9 million in 2024. 

In terms of long-term stability, Greenard feels like the best option to extend. If Howard improves in terms of run blocking, perhaps he's viewed as the cornerstone right tackle. 

There are plenty of options for Caserio to extend before the start of the 2023 offseason. There are also plenty of questions regardless of the player or position.