Houston Texans’ defensive end Antonio Smith is coming up on the final year of a five year, $35.5 million contract. Smith’s current contract puts a $9.5 million cap hit on Houston this year, and with the number of free agents Houston has to deal with this year, that number needs to come down significantly.
Houston would be foolish to release Smith after having a career season in which he tallied up 30 tackles, 7 sacks, 3 passes defended and 2 forced fumbles – and earned a coveted Pro Bowl spot along with 12 of his teammates for the second time in his four years in Houston. As of now, Houston does not have any other player with the size, talent, or dedication to replace Smith, who has only missed one game in his four seasons with the Texans.
An extension would be the best route to spread out the cap hit while guaranteeing most of it. In an extension worth $13 million over four years, the contract would be worth $22.5 million with about $10 million guaranteed as a reward for being a team player and cutting down the cap hit. They could also back load the contract so the hit wont be as harsh until Smith is about 35 and most likely about done in the NFL anyway.
That is not to say that he will be extended given his age and the money that the Texans would save. Despite Smith being a valuable player and one of the most vocal leaders in the locker room you will find in the NFL, leverage is not on his side in negotiations. Smith turns 32 this season and the 2013 draft class is strong at defensive end. Releasing Smith would save Houston six million on the salary cap. Pro Bowl guard Wade Smith is the only other player on the Texans roster who even comes close to that, who if released would save Houston three million.
Although I wouldn’t be shocked if they do, releasing the “Ninja Cowboy” would be a foolish move for the Texans.