and how much money do we have invested in linebackers?
Wong: 5 years - $14.2 million with a $4.2 million signing bonus
Sharper: still working on his Ravens contract - $6.1 million cap hit this year and next
Foreman: 5 years - 11.5 million including a $2.2 million signing bonus
Babin: 6 years 10 million with a $3 million signing bonus.
The only mega contract of the bunch is Sharper's and he will be a premium to re-sign. Wong could also get a little pricey after next season and is worth it only if he moves inside IMO.
Compare that to the D-line:
Walker: 6 years $37.2 million with a $11 million signing bonus (ouch)
Smith: 6 years $26.3 million with a $8.3 million signing bonus (ouch)
Payne: still working on his Jax contract - $4.2 million on the cap this year
In terms of contract value, the Texans have considerably more money invested in their three starting DLs (over 60 million) than they do in their four starting LBs (about 47 million remaining). That's skewed somewhat by where Sharper and Wong are in their contracts but it's still real.
and how many draft picks?
Three this year and one last year. Before this year's selections of Babin, Anderson, and R. Orr, Antwan Peek was the only LB ever drafted by the Texans. Anderson and Orr's chances of making this team are questionable.
and how long till babin and peek see their big payday once their established players?
Who knows? I guess that's a rhetorical question since they need to prove their worth over time. Babin has a six year deal so he's locked in until 2009 with a very reasonable rookie contract. Peek makes close to NFL minimum and his contract expires after next season when he could be eligible for RFA.
Bottom line is your pawn-queen analogy is way off. The D-line and the LBs work as a unit and are very interdependent in this system. Take a major part away from one, whether it be DL or LB, and the other suffers greatly. That should have been brutally obvious last season when we really had some pawns in there at DL. Using your analogy, the LBs should have still excelled with Steve Martin, Junior Ioane, and Jerry DeLoach as the front three (shudder).