After signing nose tackle Vince Wilfork and wide receiver Cecil Shorts III this week – plus the addition of safety Rahim Moore last Friday – I think it’s safe to assume that the Texans are done in free agency until the 2015 NFL Draft. Unless they restructure another contract – or Sean-Beanify someone – the Texans don’t have the cap space (about $3.9 million per Spotrac.com) to do anything.
Luckily, the wait for Bill O’Brien and Rick Smith’s “beer run” is fast approaching. So what’ll they need to buy for the 2015 party on April 30?
TIER 1: The Top Shelf
We’re talking liquor. The ones with snobby “Our advertising firm would probably prefer to sell luxury cars” commercials. We’re talking wine, so you can creep out your friends a la Hannibal Lecter. And we’re talking ELITE
quarterbacks beer. Like Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. If you want to throw a grand ole time, these are the goods you need.
Trust me, I’m too lazy to keep my friends entertained for a full night. That’s what the bad boys above are for.
Wide receiver. Tight end. Hell, a bleeping TIRE. Who even cares what kind? Get a bunch.
Ryan Mallett – or Brian Hoyer . . . I guess – needed as many weapons as possible BEFORE the Texans cut Andre Johnson. Right now, all Mallett has is DeAndre Hopkins. Cecil Shorts was a solid signing, but he isn’t replacing Andre’s production. And do we really need to break down the tight ends?
Bonus: Someone with elite speed. There hasn’t been enough of that on this team in a long time. Plus, any semblance of return ability would go a long way.
Pass-Rushing Outside Linebacker
I’m going into the 2015 season under the assumption that JaDeveon Clowney won’t bring much – if anything – to the table. Meanwhile, Brooks Reed is now an Atlanta Falcon (not that he’s a massive loss). And while I liked Whitney Mercilus’ 2015 campaign, he needs to be more consistent. Some help on the other side could make that happen.
Bonus: A hybrid linebacker that can either line up on the edge OR play inside – with speed and coverage ability. That isn’t easy to find. But they aren’t unicorns. Think Dont’a Hightower of the New England Patriots.
TIER 2: The Filler
Hard drinks are nice. But hey, they’re expensive. I like my friends and all. Just not that much. That’s why you’ve got to bring a couple of 30 packs to the table!
The Heir To The Throne
Arian Foster is still the Texans’ best offensive play-maker. And with Ryan Mallett likely under center this season, he’s going to be extremely important once again. Yes, very obvious.
But next season, things get interesting. 2016 will be the last year of Foster’s contract. And per Spotrac, cutting him before the season would save the Texans about $7.25M. Foster has only played 21 of the Texans last 32 games. Another injury prone season for our resident philosopher could force Bill O’Brien to make that move.
I liked what Alfred Blue did last season. He produced well above expectations for a sixth round pick. But I don’t think he’s anything more than a backup running back. Going after a running back in in the middle rounds of the draft wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Bonus: Top end speed would be nice. And so would soft hands. But more than anything, a long term Foster replacement must be durable. And can’t put the ball on the ground.
PSSST, Quarterbacks are IMPORTANT.
If you’re satisfied with Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer, and Tom Savage, then you’re probably satisfied with the outcome of our Man TV Madness Bracket. Also, you may hate fun. Puppies too. I’m of the belief that you draft a quarterback – in every draft – until you find your guy.
Bonus: Be . . . Tom Brady, Russell Wilson or something. No big deal.
PS: Law & Order over Breaking Bad? House of Cards over Game of Thrones? Shooter has words for you.
TIER 3: The Essentials
You can have all the booze in the world. But without mixers, limes, solo cups, and trash bags to clean up, you’ll just have all the booze in the world. Which isn’t necessarily . . . BACK TO THE DRAFT, PAUL.
For next season, the Texans appear set at cornerback. They locked up Kareem Jackson to a long term extension. Johnathan Joseph is coming off of an excellent year. And second year corners A.J. Bouye (who had shoulder surgery this offseason), Darryl Morris, and undrafted free agent rookie Jumal Rolle showed signs of promise last year.
But what happens in 2016? Johnathan Joseph will be an unrestricted free agent. And despite Romeo Crennel’s long track record getting the most out of unexpected cornerbacks, it remains to be seen if Bouye, Morris or Rolle can develop into a starting caliber corner. With that in mind, bring another body in there to compete.
Bonus: Like before with the pass-catching playmaker, any prospect with exceptional speed or return ability.
Offensive Line Depth
The Texans’ depth at this position was stretched quite thin last season. Because it was thin to begin with.
Rookie guard Xavier Su’a Filo clearly wasn’t ready at the start of the year, and was injured at the end. As such, Houston rolled (left tackle to right tackle) with Duane Brown, Ben Jones, Chris Myers, Brandon Brooks, and Derek Newton. At one point, a Brooks injury saw Newton slide over to right guard, and TYSON CLABO enter the game at right tackle.
With Myers now released, there’s even less depth on the line. I’m guessing the Texans will start the year with Brown, Su’a Filo, Jones, Brooks, and Newton. But I have NO idea who’ll back them up. Bill O’Brien needs bodies. Bring ’em home chief.
Bonus: Any lineman who can play multiple positions.
Inside Linebacker Depth
The position needs to improve. But with all the money the Texans are paying the struggling Brian Cushing (With cap hits of ~ $7.9M and $9M in ’15 and ’16, but dead money figures of $13.6M and $7.2M those same years), he’s basically uncuttable. The Texans are probably better off hoping Cushing returns to form instead of addressing this position earlier in the draft. But it wouldn’t hurt to select a prospect later on. Finding a Dont’a Hightower-esque hybrid OLB/ILB earlier would be a huge help.
Bonus: A speedy linebacker with coverage skills. With the direction the NFL is headed, plays like THIS – where Cushing gets DUSTED – are a major problem.