Texans agree to deal with third-rounder Spencer

Updated: July 19, 2006, 2:17 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The Houston Texans on Wednesday afternoon reached agreement with offensive lineman Charles Spencer, the earlier of the team's two selections in the third round, and a player who is expected to immediately compete for meaningful playing time.

Spencer will sign a four-year, $2.22 million contract that includes a $610,000 signing bonus and minimum base salaries. Like most of the other deals completed by the Texans, the contract can void to three years if Spencer reaches minimum playing time levels.

Houston now has all but one of its seven selections in the 2006 draft -- with offensive tackle Eric Winston, the latter of the club's third-round choices, the lone exception -- under contract. The Texans are the only team to complete a contract with a first-round pick, having signed defensive end Mario Williams, the top overall selection this year, before the draft even began.

The Texans chose Spencer (No. 65 overall) and Winston (No. 66) with consecutive picks in the third round.

Closing a deal with Spencer is key, given his potential importance to the team. Spencer has worked at times this spring with the No. 1 offensive line unit at the critical left tackle position. He is expected to battle three-year veteran Seth Wand, who has struggled in the past when provided the opportunity to secure the job, and perhaps Winston, for the starting spot.

Wand has 18 career starts, and started all 16 games in 2004, but his play was uneven.

For any franchise, of course, the left tackle position is crucial. But it is especially so for the Texans, who have surrendered 229 sacks in their four-year existence, and who must better protect David Carr if he is to upgrade his game under first-year coach Gary Kubiak

Kubiak hired former Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman to rectify the line's longtime offensive line woes, and the Texans likely will start a unit that has no one in the same position they played last season.

A tight end in high school, Spencer started his career at the University of Pittsburgh as a defensive tackle before moving to the offensive line in 2004. He played guard as a junior but moved to left tackle in 2005. Because of his thick body (6-feet-4, 352 pounds), many teams projected that guard would be his best position in the league, but Sherman and the Texans staff feel he can handle the tackle spot at the NFL level.

Spencer has the kind of long arms the left tackle spot demands, and plays with leverage, and he demonstrated at the Senior Bowl that he possesses enough instincts in pass protection to perhaps have a future at tackle.

In his two college seasons on the offensive line, Spencer had 123 knockdown blocks and a cumulative grade of 80.1 percent in handling his assignments. He had 39 tackles in the two seasons in which he played defensive tackle.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.