Subject – Verba Agreement

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June 24, 2005
Subject – Verba Agreement

by Keith Weiland

Okay, I know it. David Carr has been sacked more often than an pre-teen boy at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. It’s out there, and it’s embarrassing. The Texans know it, too.

I don’t blame the front office too much though. It’s not for a lack of effort. Ever since they took Tony Boselli and Ryan Young in the expansion draft, they’ve tried to build a wall of beefcake to protect their young gunslinger.

Don’t believe me? The Texans spent money on free agents like Steve McKinney, Zach Wiegert, and Todd Wade. Oh sure, those guys aren’t superstuds, but the Texans cherry-picked what they could from the thin crop of players available.

The team also spent early picks on Chester Pitts, Fred Weary, and Seth Wand. Naysayers will contend the Texans have yet to spend a first rounder on the team’s greatest need, but after the success of guys like Carr, Andre Johnson, and Dunta Robinson, who among us would complain about the players they did take with those top selections?

And the pursuit to improve Carr’s protection continued this offseason, highlighted by a last-minute chase for Orlando Pace. The results came up empty, but again, at least the effort was there. The team also showed interest in Cardinals cast-off L.J. Shelton, a former first round pick, only weeks after signing Victor Riley, himself a former first round pick.

And now the Texans reportedly have former Browns offensive tackle Ross Verba sighted in their crosshairs. Maybe they really want him? A definite maybe.

Verba is an 8-year NFL veteran who started his career blocking for Brett Favre in Green Bay. After spending the last four dismal seasons with the Browns, Verba bought out his own contract, giving back almost a half million dollars he earned this spring as a roster bonus. Who could blame him for wanting to leave Cleveland like it was… well, Cleveland?

Verba then told the other 31 teams in the league that he wanted a multi-year contract worth no less than $35 million. If he didn’t get what he wanted, he said he would to sit out the entire 2005 season. Cue the chirping crickets, as Verba still sits today.

It turns out the Texans might just be the most – and perhaps the only? – team interested in signing Verba, but says the team is only talking to him about a one-year contract. So begins the waiting game, the big staredown.

Who will blink first? And do the Texans even care?

With a one-year contract offer, the Texans are putting themselves in a situation where they can be easily outbid by another team and be easily dismissed by Verba. So why do they bother? Have they got nothing better to do during the offseason?

Well, sure, Verba might just take what he can, tuck his tail, and sign that measly one-year deal with the Texans. Heck, it worked on Riley, right? And didn’t Shelton sign a little one-year deal with the Browns?

Verba, despite his recent poor decision-making and over-inflated self-value is still good enough to start in the NFL, and he is likely good enough to be the Texans’ best left tackle on the roster in 2005 if he signs. When it came to either Riley or Shelton, it was tough to say that with as much certainty since both Wand and Pitts are talented enough to do the job and keep them both on the bench.

If the Texans are really losing faith in Wand and Pitts and possibly planning on selecting new left tackle in the first round of the 2006 draft, then they must know there is no guarantee that the new guy will be ready to start from day one. Do they really want a rookie protecting Carr’s blindside in 2006 if they can avoid it?

A two-year deal for Verba might make sense if that’s the plan. A three-year deal might too if the Texans believe Verba can still start at guard once a better left tackle is sourced and ready to start.

Remember, Pitts will become an unrestricted free agent after this season, and right guard Zach Wiegert won’t be around much longer after that, at least at his scheduled base salaries of $3.5 million in 2006 and $4.5 million in 2007. Center (and possible guard) Steve McKinney might be gone after this season as well, as his final base salary next year grows to $3.9 million.

So Verba could become more than just a one-year fix for this team, even if it isn’t just at left tackle. Now, notice I didn’t say to give him mad green like Wade and Wiegert received two and three years ago, respectively. I mean, at this point, who are the Texans really bidding against? The answer is no one, so they need not get crazy. The Texans do need to offer enough to appease Verba’s bruised ego however, and a one-year salary won’t cut it.

That is, of course, if the Texans really are in the pursuit of Verba to win it.

If the Texans just try to just sit back and win a lengthy staredown, they run a real risk of losing him. As a veteran, Verba might like the idea of missing a week or two of training camp, especially one in the heat and humidity of Houston. Even if he were to eventually sign with the Texans, waiting him out until deep into preseason will keep Verba from learning the Texans’ system and developing a working relationship with his new teammates.

The team would also run the risk seeing another team enter the bidding if the waiting game endures. If that team bids because their starter got injured in the early weeks of training camp, it might cause them to throw silly dollars at Verba to plug their hole.

So why wait much longer? It’s not like the Texans are lacking for cap room this year. Make Verba an offer for three years, limit the signing bonus compensation but toss in some solid roster incentives stepped over the life of the contract, including one for this fall if he makes the roster and wins the starter’s job. If that happens, Verba and the Texans might just reach an agreement that will be fair to both sides — and one that will help keep Carr off his backside.

Keith Weiland hasn’t blinked yet this offseason. Please email him recommendations for some good eyedrops.

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