Beyond the Boxscore

Locking up Arian Foster locks Texans in as team of next decade: Mega contract is a huge step

Locking up Arian Foster locks Texans in as team of next decade: Mega contract is a huge step

Arian Foster first leap
The Texans have wrapped up Arian Foster for the next five years. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Arian Foster nice action
With the most dynamic player in football on their side, the Texans' profile will continue to rise. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Arian Foster first leap
Arian Foster nice action

This is one of the most important days in the short, largely star-crossed history of the Houston Texans. For the most dynamic player in the NFL is now guaranteed to be playing in Houston for the next five seasons.

Think about that for a moment.

The very best in the league in Houston for the prime of his career. That's beyond priceless (even though it's a beyond hefty price tag for Bob McNair — $43.5 million, including $18 million for this upcoming season). By re-signing tailback Arian Foster for five years, the Texans have not just kept themselves on their Super Bowl trajectory. The franchise has guaranteed that it will be one of the most exciting teams in the league for the foreseeable future, a team that will start attracting the type of bandwagon fans that other NFL franchise in Texas is known for collecting.

 You don't discover a Renoir and let him go paint somewhere else. 

Let the national TV appearances roll. It will not be long now before you have kids in places like Nebraska and Indiana identifying themselves as Texans fans even though they've never stepped foot in Houston.

At 25, Foster is already arguably the best running back in the NFL. And he hasn't even completely taken off yet. His star is still on the rise. New York radio commentators acted like they'd just discovered Arian Foster after he dazzled the Baltimore Ravens defense in that playoff game.

Foster only really started to get true national pub last season — the feature in Sports Illustrated, the invites to the NFL Network set, the explosion of his Twitter fan base. To much of America, he's still something of a curiosity.

Even many Texans fans don't seem to quite grasp just how good Arian Foster is yet. That debate over whether signing Foster or Mario Williams was more important to the franchise — even if it was largely generated by sportswriters who should know better — was silly and more than a little insulting to No. 23.

Foster is not Barry Sanders. But he's the closest thing the NFL has seen since. He's a transcendent talent, soon to be universally regarded as the best at his position (by the close of next season expect the debate to be over). Williams is a valuable pass rusher. But he's not close to the best pass rusher in the game.

Thankfully, McNair always recognized Foster's unique value. The owner's been a champion of Foster since the undrafted free agent first burst into the lineup. Even as Foster made $525,000 last season there was little doubt he'd get his big payday in Houston.

You don't discover a Renoir and let him go paint somewhere else.

The Deal

It still could have been much more contentious than this though. General manager Rick Smith deserves credit for making sure the Texans didn't have to place the franchise tag on Foster (letting him into the market, even as a restricted free agent, was out of the question). By avoiding the tag, the Texans don't just give themselves flexibility and stability.

They also ensure that their most explosive offensive player is happy and content going into the most important season in franchise history.

 When you start seeing Texans jerseys crop up across America remember the day McNair signed the most exciting player in football. 

The AFC is wide open for Houston. As long as quarterback Matt Schaub's crushed foot continues to heal and holds up, there is no reason this team shouldn't be in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.

After that playoff loss to the Ravens — a game the Texans could have won despite Jacoby Jones giving away a touchdown with his mental punt blunder and rookie quarterback T.J. Yates throwing three interceptions — Foster vowed to be a better player in 2012.

Finally having security (at least as much security as any player in the NFL can have) is another step toward Foster getting there. This isn't the problem child whose antics at Tennessee helped him plummet out of the draft anymore. Foster has matured. Gary Kubiak has taught him how to be a pro.

He seems to understand that he's playing for a place in NFL history. He knows that his first two seasons as a starter have pushed him into elite air — and the ultimate renaissance man is driven to build a legacy.

Foster doesn't need to be on edge, playing on a one-year deal anymore. This is a guy who will make his own edge.

They don't throw parades when you resign your own free agents. But make no mistake, this is as important of a move as the Texans have ever made. The offseason is already a win — and it's only getting started.

When you start seeing Texans jerseys crop up across America remember the day McNair signed the most exciting player in football. Houston's about to become one of the centers of the NFL universe.

Buckle up. It figures to be one heck of a ride.