HOUSTON -- For planning purposes, and maybe forever, the Deshaun Watson era is all but over at NRG Stadium. Now, the Houston Texans must look forward to the future with hopeful franchise star Davis Mills.
Houston and the former Stanford quarterback agreed to terms Wednesday on a four-year deal worth $5.22 million that includes a $1.57 million signing bonus. Despite the needs at cornerback, wide receiver and other areas, Texans GM Nick Caserio couldn't pass on the upside Mills brings as a passer with the team's first pick at No. 67.
“Davis Mills, I thought Nick’s staff did a great job of all of a sudden earmarking a guy that fit what a quarterback in the NFL is all about,” Texans coach David Culley told reporters at Texans rookie minicamp. “Obviously he didn’t play as much football as some of the other guys because of the COVID situation in the Pac-12, but we really love what he’s all about."
Mills, who started just 11 games in college, does come highly advertised from Stanford coach David Shaw. Shaw will give anyone of his players the seal of approval, but Mills feels different.
Of the quarterbacks who have found their mark in Palo Alto, Shaw seems high on two — Mills and former No. 1 pick Andrew Luck. With so much uncertainty at QB position entering 2021, the Cardinal coach stated he believes that the Georgia native would be in the conversation for the No. 1 pick had he stayed an extra season.
“We love all of the intangibles he has," Culley said. "He’s a prototype NFL quarterback and we feel good to have him. He’s smart. He can make all the throws and we feel good and feel fortunate that we’re able to get him when we got him.”
Nothing though is set with Mills' future. Most third-round picks don't have the luxury of a second chance if they struggle during the first season.
Should Mills falter or fail — his fault or not, expect Houston to be looking at the 2022 crop of gunslingers should they be picking top-five.
Culley is a likeable coach, but can he get the best out of Mills? If not him, will Pep Hamilton recreate the magic once again as he did in 2020 with Justin Herbert?
There's an added pressure that Mills will face as the name to replace Watson, who currently is still facing 22 civil lawsuits of sexual assault and misconduct. According to reports, the 25-year-old cannot be deposed in court until early 2022.
The NFL has yet to comment on Watson's status, but the QB is not expected to report to OTAs and still demands a trade from the organization.
Houston's offensive line continues to be a problem, but the offense as a whole improved over the past three seasons thanks to No. 4. The Texans were 17th in passing for 2018, 15th in 2019 and 4th last season despite a 4-12 record.
Watson led the NFL in passing yards with 4,823 yards and reset the franchise touchdown record with 33 scores. Before all the positive accolades, he signed a four-year, $156 million extension to remain in Houston through 2025.
All that feels like a faint memory now.
Hamilton and Mills will have another factor to help begin the season with Tyrod Taylor. A journeyman at this point, Taylor started the season in both Cleveland and Los Angeles before transitioning to a mentor role for Baker Mayfield 2018 and for Herbert last fall.
Don't expect this to be a Patrick Mahomes-Alex Smith situation where Mills sits and learns for a season. He'll have the earn his keep and show he's worthy of a chance in 2022 before 2021 concludes.
If not, all bets are off his role for Houston post-January of 2022.
Mills doesn't have to be Watson. He doesn't need to be Luck. No one is expecting him to win every game with a roster that added 37 new faces and still feels as if there are holes at every area. Showing upside and development will keep him employed for another year and allow the Texans to focus the attention elsewhere come next April's draft.
Having Mills signed adds some stability to the future. That's a first such event Houston has experienced all offseason under the new regime.
It's a start. A new start.
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