The Texans put a premium value on special teams.
They reinforced that commitment with their first in-season contract extension this year when they signed speedy cornerback and kickoff returner Tremon Smith, a core special teams contributor, to a one-year deal through the 2022 season that has a maximum value of $1.6 million that includes $500,000 guaranteed and a $1.1 million base salary, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly.
Smith is an explosive kick returner who's averaging 26 yards per kickoff return on six returns this season. He had a season-long return of 44 yards against the Los Angeles Rams and has played 79 percent of the special teams snaps for 229 snaps overall in the kicking game. He has played in 11 games with one start for the 2-9 Texans and has played 14 percent of the defensive snaps, recording a career-high 14 tackles.
A fast gunner who is a top reserve at cornerback, Smith recovered a key fumble in punt coverage during a road victory over the Tennessee Titans.
Smith played this season under a deal with a maximum value of $1.1 million includes an $80,000 signing bonus, a $920,000 ($200,000 guaranteed) base salary, $20,000 workout bonus, and up to $80,000 in per-game active roster bonus.
Smith reunited during the offseason with Texans first-year special teams coordinator Frank Ross, who coached him last season with the Colts. He averaged 22.5 yards per kickoff return last season for Indianapolis.
During a 21-14 loss to the New York Jets last Sunday, Smith had a 28-yard kickoff return and two returns overall for 50 yards.
“He looked really good in that one opportunity we had there last week," Ross said. "You guys all know this, that it’s an 11-man show. One breakdown might stop you in your tracks. Two breakdowns, you might not have any shot at all. When you do get that one crease, when you do get that one shot, he’s got the speed and a little bit of wiggle to him. We want to attack aggressively downhill. I think he’s done a good job with that, going to continue to press him to do just that.”
Smith has 60 career returns for a 25.4 kickoff return average.
Smith is a 2018 Kansas City Chiefs sixth-round draft pick from Central Arkansas. The 6-foot, 190-pounder averaged 26.8 yards per return as a rookie and was an all-rookie selection. He briefly played running back in Kansas City.
Smith has also played for the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles.