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Len Pasquarelli

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Sunday, February 17
Young could eclipse Boselli

By Len Pasquarelli

The biggest bargain in Monday's expansion draft to help stock the Houston Texans roster has started four more games than Tony Boselli over the past three seasons, undergone four fewer surgical procedures, and carries a 2002 salary cap charge which is 92 percent less than that of the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive left tackle.

He has emerged at as one of the NFL's best strongside blockers, and is finally over the emotional pain of being made expendable by the New York Jets.

At age 25, and having started all but one game for the Jets since the midway point of the '99 season, Ryan Young still has his best football ahead of him. And now that he has reconciled that it won't be played in New York, the talented offensive right tackle views his pending selection by the Texans as an opportunity to learn from Boselli, and to also make a name for himself.

"My first reaction (to being included on the expansion list) wasn't exactly positive," said Young, who has started 39 of the last 40 games. "In fact, I was pretty (upset), and I let people know it. But everything happens for a reason, I guess, and now I plan to make the best of this. It really is a chance to be part of something special. There's going to be a lot of attention on this team, and if I play like I think I can, then I'll get my share of it."

Around the league, the inclusion of Young on the five-man list of available players submitted by the Jets was one of shock, since he is viewed near-universally as an ascendant player. Most of the 155 veterans made available to the Texans are players in decline, those with exorbitant salary cap charges left exposed by franchises desperate to pare their payroll, or afterthoughts.

There is, however, a small group of productive and modestly priced players being considered by the Houston brain trust of owner Bob McNair, general manager Charley Casserly and head coach Dom Capers. And the 6-feet-5, 320-pound Young is at the top of that list.

In fact, Young is one of eight players ESPN.com has confirmed will definitely be selected by the NFL's newest franchise. The others are Boselli; Jacksonville defensive tackles Gary Walker and Seth Payne; Jets cornerbacks Marcus Coleman and Aaron Glenn; and Baltimore kick return ace Jermaine Lewis and weakside linebacker Jamie Sharper.

Something had to give, I guess, and that something was me. I'm sure they did the thing they felt was best for the team, but only time will tell, right? Anyway, it's over with now.
Ryan Young on why the Jets left him unprotected

Those seven players all carry 2002 salary cap charges of $2.8 million or above. The aggregate cap total for the group is nearly $36 million. Team sources told ESPN.com last week that the Texans plan to invest about $42 million in cap charges for the players chosen in the expansion draft.

In terms of bang for the buck, none of the big-ticket items selected by the new franchise figure to return the kind of dividend that Young could deliver, particularly if he continues the improvement he has demonstrated the past two years.

A seventh-round choice in the 1999 draft, the former Kansas State standout certainly represents a polar opposite of Boselli, his future tackle partner and the first-ever choice of Jacksonville in '95. The price tag for Young is an anemic $563,000 and there are incumbent franchises who probably would have pursued him as an unrestricted free agent this spring.

"He's got talent and a great work ethic," said former Jets offensive line coach Bill Muir, the man who deserves most of the credit for Young's rapid development. "And he'll only get better."

So why did New York officials swallow hard and expose Young to the expansion draft? Blame it on the salary cap, with the Jets roughly $19.4 million over the spending limit for 2002, and facing some tough roster decisions in the near- and long-term future.

Despite denials by Casserly, there are suspicions of a deal in which the Texans agreed to select both Glenn and Coleman only if Young was made available to them. Expunging Coleman and Glenn from the roster will save the Jets a whopping $13.5 million on their 2002 cap, a total that represents nearly 70 percent of New York's current overage.

Even if there isn't a deal, the Jets may have looked down the road and concluded their future cap situation forced them to sacrifice Young now to retain most of their blockers later. Starting left tackle Jason Fabini is eligible for unrestricted free agency this spring and, if the Jets can't strike a new deal with the four-year veteran by Thursday, will be forced to designate him as a "transition" free agent at a cost of $4.42 million.

Looking even further ahead, star center Kevin Mawae and emerging right guard Randy Thomas both can become unrestricted free agents after the 2002 season. New York officials are hopeful that Kareem McKenzie, a third-round choice in 2001, can step into Young's right tackle spot.

"Something had to give, I guess, and that something was me," Young said. "I'm sure they did the thing they felt was best for the team, but only time will tell, right? Anyway, it's over with now."

Actually the Texans will probably end up spending more than the $563,000 Young is due so far in 2002 on him. They almost certainly will have to tender him a much higher qualifying offer as a restricted free agent to keep other franchises away from him. Or the Texans could sign Young to a long-term contract, securing his services for several years, and keeping him off the unrestricted free agent market next spring.

"Either way," Young said, "I'm going to come out of this OK. I'm looking at this as a plus now. I might not have that big cap number like some guys but, at the same time, I know that I'm better than just some bargain-basement guy."

Young isn't the lone modestly priced player in whom the Texans have indicated an interest. Here is a look at a few of the other bargains, all of them with cap values under $600,000, available to the new team in Monday's draft:

  • Cleveland right guard Jeremy McKinney bounced around on practice squads for a few years but started nine games for the Browns in 2001. If the Texans select Matt Campbell of Washington, as expected, he and McKinney would provide them a pair of solid guards to go along with Boselli and Young at tackle. McKinney is a blue-collar player with good in-line ability and his cap price is a thrifty $405,760.

  • Second-year cornerback Jacoby Shepherd got in the doghouse at St. Louis in 2001 and he played in just two games before being placed on injured reserve with a strained groin. ESPN.com learned the Texans quietly brought Shepherd to Houston for a physical exam late last week. He would be a nice complement to the older tandem of Coleman and Glenn and could play in the "nickel" for the Texans this season. There aren't many 6-feet, 200-pound corners who like to hit around out there and, for just $568,000, Shepherd would be a wise selection.

  • Robert Newkirk of Chicago was the No. 3 tackle for the Bears in 2001, playing behind Keith Traylor and Ted Washington, and providing solid snaps. He's relatively active, has a good body and a cap value of only $563,000. Even if the Texans align in the 3-4 defense Capers prefers, you can never have enough big, interior people in the NFL.

  • San Diego defensive back Jason Perry got some starting time in '01 when strong safety Rodney Harrison was out with an injury. A fourth-round choice in 1999, Perry runs well and can perhaps play at cornerback in a pinch. At worst, for an investment of just $563,000, the Texans would get a good "dime" defender and special teams performer.

  • The St.Louis Rams must have seen something in former Florida State linebacker Brian Allen to use a third-round choice on him in the '01 draft. Yeah, the Rams were disappointed by Allen's suspect work ethic and seeming nonchalance much of the year. But the guy can run and cover, should be a good special teams player, and has a cap number of just $450,426.

  • Buffalo two-year veteran wide receiver Avion Black is still very raw and only caught eight passes in 2001. But he has good size and decent speed, seems to have potential as a wideout and clearly can help in the kickoff return game. With a cap price of $460,000, hes worth a gamble.

  • It never hurts to have a standout deep snapper, a position that frequently is overlooked by some expansion teams, and the Texans have a chance to get a really good one. Tampa Bay has exposed Sean McDermott in the expansion draft and for $300,000 the guy is a steal. He probably wont ever line up at tight end, his alleged position, but he wont be sailing the ball over the head of the punter or botching a field-goal attempt with an errant snap, either.

  • In three seasons, Philadelphia offensive lineman Ryan Schau has played in just 13 contests and started but one. Schau possesses a big, live body, though, can play guard or tackle, and costs just $563,000 against the cap.

    Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

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