Placing the franchise tag on Dunta Robinson, who is holding out from the Texans voluntary off season conditioning program, is the correct call from Rick Smith and the Texans brain trust. Now, I’m not just drinking the Kool-Aid and toeing the team line. This move makes long term financial and football sense.
Let’s start with the football sense. Dunta is the best corner on the Texans. When healthy, that is. Last year, upon his late season return, he provided an emotional kick start to the defense but was far from the player he used to be on the field. Dunta came back from a serious injury and nearly a year long recovery and rehab. He played at close to 80% last year. In terms of courage and heart, Dunta was at 100%. You won’t find a bigger Dunta Robinson fan than me.
I hear you saying that 80% of Dunta is better than Jacques Reeves, but let’s be honest here. Dunta is a good corner. Is he one of the best 5 in the league, as his new salary indicates he is? Maybe, maybe not. Is an injured Dunta Robinson one of the best 5 corners in the league? Certainly not.
Placing the tag on him and giving him a year to prove he is healthy and a top player does not put the team in a bind. Young corners Antwaun Molden and Fred Bennett are solid and developing players. Nobody is calling either of them the next Deion Sanders and Champ Bailey, but they’re not exactly bottom of the barrel corners. Let the Texans find out what they have in the secondary without paying $30 million guaranteed to a player who has his hamstring torn from the bone.
I also hear you saying you can never have enough good corners. But I hear you saying good corners. The Texans don’t know what they have in Dunta, yet. Let’s wait till next year to make this decision.
From a financial and risk management standpoint, a one year deal makes sense. Dunta has his chance to prove he is worth the money elite corners earn. The team keeps Dunta for at least one more year. If he is back to where he was, lock him up long term. If he’s not, the Texans can walk away without being saddled with a huge salary albatross.
What if Dunta’s best position becomes free safety? Would any team pay top corner money to a safety, unless it had a true game breaker like Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu? No. Why should the Texans?
Let’s look at this one year contract is an experiment. Dunta can prove he can play corner with the best in the league and can get paid like one. Or, he will show he can’t play like the top corners and the Texans won’t be stuck with a third corner earning top dog money (besides Jacques Reeves).
Or, Dunta could prove to be a solid free safety and will get paid by either the Texans or another team to patrol the middle of the field.