Examining The Duane Brown Hold Out

Last week it was reported by Aaron Wilson that starting left tackle Duane Brown was skipping OTA’s to express displeasure over his current player contract.  Despite the fact that OTA’s are considered voluntary, the message by Brown is quite clear.  There are a some valid reasons why Brown wants a new contract:

  1. Duane Brown turns 32 in August. Offensive linemen tend to player longer in the NFL as compared to a position player; however 32 is considered “old” regardless of your position on the roster.  This is likely the last chance that Brown will have at receiving a third contract that would pay him in line with the market.  Brown currently has zero guaranteed money left in his contract.
  2. The 2017 NFL draft offered very little in terms of players ready to step in and start at left tackle. The Texans drafted a developmental prospect in the 4th round and he is nowhere near ready to play at the NFL level at this time.
  3. NFL teams knew that the draft was going to have limited options for offensive linemen which is why there was a big rush on offensive tackle signing at the start of free agency this year. 4 starting left tackle players received new contracts either with a new team or by extension with their current team.  This is a major factor for Brown.  The values of the 4 contracts vastly exceed Brown’s in terms of average per year (APY).
  4. The Texans have a good size of available salary cap space for 2017; and are scheduled to have a large amount in 2018. A new contract for Brown would not affect the available salary cap dollars very much given the current structure of Brown’s contract.

The Texans are in an interesting situation.  I can only recall two situations where the team re-negotiated a contract when the player had two years remaining; being Andre Johnson and J.J. Watt.  With Brown coming off injury it is assumed that the team would want to see if Brown can prove he can stay healthy in 2017 before considering an extension.

Renegotiating the contract could send out mixed messages to the rest of the team.  Players could view this as the team taking care of one of their long time veterans.  On the flip side players could view it is “I can just hold out if I am unhappy”.

Three of the four players who received new contracts are younger than Brown.  One could easily argue that Brown is a better player and should be paid as such.  Russell Okung received a new contract with an $13.25 million APY including $25 million fully guaranteed.  Rile Reiff also received a new contract with an $11.76 million APY including $26.3 million fully guaranteed.  Both Okung and Reiff were unrestricted free agents this offseason giving them strong purchasing power.  David Bakhtiari received an extension from Green Bay with an APY of $12.0 million including $16.0 million fully guaranteed.  Andrew Whitworth is the fourth player in this group, who is 35 years old, received a 3 year contract with an $11.25 million APY and $15.0 million fully guaranteed.  With Duane Brown set to earn $19.4 million un-guaranteed salary through 2018 it becomes clear the valid argument that Brown has.

A new three year contract with $12 to $15 million in guaranteed money could probably be enough to satisfy Brown.  Brown is probably not looking to break the bank and become one of the highest paid left tackles on the market.  He is seeking additional injury security with guaranteed money.

Potential contract could be a 3 year contract worth $34,500,000 ($11.5 million APY) including $13.5 million fully guaranteed at signing.  This would be a very strong contract offer and is likely a bit more than the team would want to offer.  The guarantee is comprised of guaranteed salary in 2017, signing bonus, and roster bonuses in 2017 and 2018 (paid 15th day of 2018 league year).  This new contract also offers Brown approximately $5 million more over 2017 & 2018 compared to this current contract.

Year P5 Base Salary Signing Bonus Roster Bonus Cap Charge Cash Cash Flow
2017 $6,500,000 $1,000,000 $2,500,000 $10,000,000 $12,000,000 $12,000,000
2018 $8,500,000 $1,000,000 $1,500,000 $11,000,000 $11,000,000 $23,000,000
2019 $10,500,000 $1,000,000 $0 $11,500,000 $11,500,000 $34,500,000

Duane Brown Current Contract Table

If you were the Texans how would you handle this situation?  Would you take care of your veteran tackle who is the longest tenured player on your roster?  Or would you advise Brown that he would need to prove himself again in 2017 to extend the conversation into the 2018 offseason?


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