As the future of Deshaun Watson's career in Houston remains cloudy, the Texans would be wise to have a 'Plan B' in place should he opt-out of the 2021 season. With a number of free-agent quarterbacks set to hit the market this offseason, there are a few who could be options to fill his place this season.
This list will keep in mind both Houston's somewhat dire salary cap situation and the current stance that Watson will be their quarterback. Some candidates were also left out due to the fact that our targets here are focused on the idea that a newcomer at NRG Stadium might be for just one season, with a more permanent upgrade coming ... someday. (Hence the absences of Jameis Winston, Mitchell Trubisky, and Jacoby Brissett.)
So, we're talking "low-key.'' And "stop-gap.'' And "bridges.''
Having spent the last two seasons in Houston backing up Watson, McCarron will know the ins and outs of coordinator Tim Kelly's offense. The former fifth-round draft pick is now entering his eighth NFL season and has likely seen his potential salary down in Houston rise significantly in recent weeks as the situation between the franchise and Watson worsens.
As a starter, McCarron has a 2-2 record, and while the sample size is small he's proven capable of leading teams to victory in the NFL. McCarron would be a safe, if perhaps relatively uninspiring, option.
Yes, the return of Fitzmagic himself would be quite the storyline. Having spent one season with the Texans under Bill O'Brien, Fitzpatrick battled for the starting job with Ryan Mallett and ultimately made 12 starts, reaching a 6-6 record, including a 3-1 beginning to the year.
He may be 38, but this past season he played some good football and showed no signs of slowing down. A popular figure both on and off the field, he has the personality to draw others in and get everyone around him battling, a trait that would be extremely useful in an unstable Texans locker room.
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2020 certainly wasn't the season Taylor had hoped for. A pregame punctured lung while with the LA Chargers all but ended his reign as a starter with rookie Justin Herbert making the most of his opportunity.
Taylor had a solid stint with the Buffalo Bills, where he went 22-20, before a disappointing stop in Cleveland and two years in LA. Now 31, Taylor's dual-threat ability would fit well within Kelly's offensive scheme and make it an easier transition from Watson.
Also worth mentioning, Taylor and Texans head coach David Culley's paths crossed back in 2017 while both with the Bills, and of course new QB coach Pep Hamilton knows him as well.
A Katy, Texas native, this would serve as somewhat of a homecoming for 'The Red Rifle.' The former TCU Horned Frog spent 2020 on a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys, where he was thrust into a starting role after Dak Prescott's season-ending injury.
While Dalton may be the definition of a Love/Hate quarterback, he remains a three-time Pro Bowler who is more than capable of leading an offense. Fresh off of a half-decent season in another team that is riddled with issues, Dalton should be able to block out the noise and focus on the task at hand.
Should Houston shoot higher, now, than "stop-gap''? Maybe. But beyond Deshaun Watson exists a "beggars can't be choosers'' scenario at QB. And the Texans better be ready for it.
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