NFL News & Analysis

The Houston Texans are taking a unique 'win now' approach for 2024

2TC9R19 Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) huddles with teammates against the New York Jets during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Jets won 30-6. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

• Houston's trades reveal an intriguing strategy: Wide receiver Stefon Diggs is a one-year rental and Joe Mixon is a running back with a lot of miles on the clock, but they both immediately improve the Texans' offense.

• Comparing the Texans to the Lions: Detroit wants to ensure that its Super Bowl window remains open for as long as possible, whereas Houston seems to be trying to throw as much through the window the second it opens.

• Check out PFF's Fantasy Football Mock Draft Simulator: Enter your league settings and plan out your draft strategy to perfection.

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The Houston Texans were the surprise package of last season, but now they’re behaving like contenders looking to try and take home a championship before bits start to fall off the bandwagon.

Then-rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud helped catalyze the transformation, and Houston has already had to contend with an inevitable by-product of success: other teams coming for pieces of the winning formula. After just a single season at the helm on offense, the team had to give offensive coordinator and former PFF senior analyst Bobby Slowik a pay rise to keep him in town and convince him to wait another year for a head coaching opportunity.

We may look at the Texans as a team whose window for success has only just opened, but they seem to be acutely aware that this is the last season before critical people are picked off by other franchises looking to kickstart their own transformations.

That might explain the approach the team has taken this offseason, which looks a lot more like that of a perennial contender looking to get over the hump than a team just arriving at the big boy table.

No move better embodies a “win now” mentality than the trade for Stefon Diggs. Receiver was far from a position of need for the Texans, and though the trade to acquire him was extremely reasonable from the team’s point of view, Diggs has agitated his way out of his previous two teams already. Voluntarily bringing in that kind of potential headache was always likely a short-term move.

That became inevitable after the team effectively wiped out the final years of his contract, with the revised deal keeping him in Houston only in 2024 for $22.5 million.

NFL teams typically hate trading for one-year rentals, but the Texans seem to have deliberately orchestrated one.

Signing edge defender Danielle Hunter in free agency is another move that speaks to a much more aggressive mentality than up-and-coming teams typically possess.

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Hunter is an excellent player, but the team had the opportunity to re-sign Jonathan Greenard and instead chose to get older and more expensive (and better, in their defense), at the position.

That is an unusual direction for a team to take. Hunter tallied 80 quarterback pressures last season to Greenard’s 53, but they were much closer in pressure rate (13.4% to 12.8%). Hunter is being paid close to $5 million per year more than Greenard and is approaching 30 years old, while Greenard will turn 27 this summer.

The next move that screams short-term vision was trading for running back Joe Mixon.

Houston’s run game last season wasn’t great. The team ranked 25th in the league in average yards before contact and 22nd overall in rushing yards as an offense. Twenty-seven teams gained more rushing first downs than the Texans.

We know Slowik wanted a better run game than he had in year one, and acquiring Mixon cost almost nothing in trade terms. Houston gave up a seventh-round pick (which eventually became safety Daijahn Anthony from Ole Miss), effectively to jump the free-agent queue for a player the Bengals were going to release otherwise.

His contract was reworked with a three-year, $27 million extension, but Mixon will be 28 before this season begins and is coming off heavy workloads over the past three years. Houston could have targeted a running back in the draft to take on those snaps, but they didn’t select one until the sixth round (Jawhar Jordan, Louisville). Mixon has a lot of miles on the clock, and most running backs do their best work early in their careers. But again, the Texans saw value in the immediate boost he should give an offense that is already in a good place.

Click here to see Jawhar Jordan's 2024 NFL Draft profile.

The bottom line here is that this is an unusual attitude and strategy. I’m not even saying it’s the wrong approach, but it is in stark contrast to a team like the Detroit Lions, who came a few plays away from a Super Bowl but have been resolute in their approach to building long-term success without placing too many eggs in any one basket.

The Lions want to ensure that their Super Bowl window remains open for as long as possible, whereas the Texans seem to be trying to throw as much through the window the second it opens.

Whether they are justified in that approach will become apparent over the next couple of seasons, but the fact that two franchises on the rise can have such divergent plans of attack for a similar problem is what makes this league so fascinating.


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