HOUSTON – Texans veteran offensive tackle Tytus Howard has been named the 2023 Black College Football Pro Player of the Year by the NFL Players Association, the union for NFL players.
The award is presented annually to an NFL player who attended a historically black college and university.
Howard is a former Texans first-round draft pick from Alabama State.
Howard allowed just three sacks and five quarterback hits last season as he returned to his natural right tackle position.
“To receive an honor like this is something I will always cherish,” Howard said. “Black colleges have played a large role in producing some great NFL players while providing an example of success for people of color, like myself. I’d like to thank the NFLPA for creating this award to uplift HBCUs, and I’m grateful for everyone who has helped me along the way.”
Howard will be recognized during a Black College Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday in Atlanta, along with Leslie Frazier, Henry “Killer’ Lawrence, Albert Lewis, Jim Marsalis, Tyrone McGriff, Elijah Pitts, Johnnie Walton and Pete Richardson.
Past winners include Grover Stewart, Terron Armstead, Javon Hargrave, Shaq Leonard, Tarik Cohen and Antoine Bethea.
Howard is a candidate for a long-term contract extension.
“It’s a very long day playing against this guy, he’s very tough and aggressive,” an NFL general manager told KPRC 2. “Tytus Howard is very strong, very sound. He gets a high grade from our advanced scouts. I think he’s worth a lot, especially if he ever got to free agency. My prediction is he would wind up staying in Houston.”
Howard signaled his desire to remain in Houston on a long-term basis at the end of last season.
“Most likely this offseason, go ahead and get it done,” Howard told KPRC 2. “We haven’t started yet, but, hopefully, we can work toward getting something done. The sooner, the better. A shared goal. I want to finish my career here.”
How Howard performed last season reinforced his status as one of the top right tackles in the NFL and set the stage for a potential hefty long-term financial commitment from the AFC South franchise. One year after securing Howard’s services for the 2023 season with a $13.2 million fifth-year club option, the Texans are poised to possibly reward the former first-round draft pick from Alabama State and make him one of the highest-paid offensive tackles in the game.
The Texans have already made significant investments in the offensive line this offseason, making Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL with a three-year, $75 million contract extension. They traded for right offensive guard Shaq Mason and have signed him to a three-year, $36 million contract extension. And they drafted Penn State center-guard Juice Scruggs in the second round one year after selecting left guard Kenyon Green in the first round out of Texas A&M.
And, now, Howard is expected to be the next man up for a lucrative contract as he’s expected to be in the Texans’ plans for future negotiations, according to league sources.
Another reason for that motivation: protecting former Ohio State star quarterback C.J. Stroud, whom the Texans selected with the second overall pick of the first round.
Like all contract talks, it will ultimately come down to price as the market for elite right tackles continues to rise.
Howard has earned that distinction, though. He played 997 snaps last season, including 916 at his preferred right tackle spot, and allowed just three sacks and five quarterback hits with nine penalties with 38 pressures yielded.
After playing left tackle and left guard in the past out of necessity, Howard was able to spend the majority of last season at right tackle.
“It feels good,” Howard said during training camp last season. “I was just telling them I’m excited to get out there and prove that I’m one of the best in the league. I think this season is going to be a good testimony to show you all that I’m one of the best.’
The Kansas City Chiefs signed former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor to a four-year, $80 million contract that includes $60 million guaranteed with an $18.9 million signing bonus. Taylor, a former first-round draft pick from Florida, allowed five sacks and had seven penalties with 16 pressures allowed last season and now makes $20 million annually.
The Denver Broncos paid former San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle, Mike McGlinchey, a lot, too, giving him a five-year, $87.5 million deal that includes a $17.5 million signing bonus, $52.5 million guaranteed and an annual average of $17.5 million. He allowed six sacks and had 10 penalties last season with three quarterback hits and 27 total pressures.
The highest-paid offensive tackles in the game, based on average per year, are the Philadelphia Eagles Lane Johnson ($20.187 million), Taylor ($20 million), the New Orleans Saints Ryan Ramczyk ($19.2 million), the Minnesota Vikings’ Brian O’Neill ($18.5 million), McGlinchey ($17.5 million), the Indianapolis Colts’ Braden Smith ($17.5 million) and the Carolina Panthers Taylor Moton ($17 million).
Between Tunsil and Howard, the Texans have arguably the top tackle tandems in the NFL. A three-time Pro Bowl selection and the highest-ranked pass blocker in the NFL, Tunsil surrendered just one sack last season.
The Texans lead the NFL already in offensive line spending this year with $65.6 million.
“We have a really good offensive line group,” Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said during a recent organized team activity. “Veteran guys mixed in with some young guys. Right now, expect our O-line to be one of the strengths of our team. Our offensive line, they’ve been impressive to watch over these few practices that we’ve had. It’s been very impressive to watch and see how they’ve come along. I’m very excited about where they’re going. I would expect them to continue to improve and definitely be a strength for our offense.”
Although the Texans are coming off a 3-13-1 season that triggered the dismissal of coach Lovie Smith, the tackle position is fortified with Tunsil and Howard.
That’s one of the most talented and stable positions on the roster as both players are under contract heading into next season.
“I think it helps when you have two good tackles,” Ryans said at the NFL scouting combine. “Laremy is one of the top tackles in this league, top left tackles. Very athletic guy, a dependable guy. Tytus is a young player who’s coming along and doing a really good job. So it helps when you have bookends.”
A former high school quarterback and walk-on who gained 100 pounds to emerge as an NFL draft prospect and Senior Bowl all-star game standout, Howard is a former all-rookie selection.
“Got to keep us together, you got to,” Howard said before Tunsil’s extension was finalized this offseason. “We’re the best tandem in the league. It’s not even a debate.”
Playing his preferred position was significant for Howard. He said that he felt at home again.
“It helped me a lot that I was able to play one position most of the season,” he said. “I felt this was my best year. I’m looking forward to building off that. It’s been a grind. They believed in me to play right tackle again. I stepped forward and got the job done at a high level. "
Howard thoroughly enjoyed playing with this configuration of players as the line formed a close bond with regular dinners.
“This is a good group, the best group I’ve played in,” Howard said. “I love these guys, closest group I’ve ever been on.”
Aaron Wilson is a Texans and NFL reporter for KPRC 2 and click2houston.com