I know most of the people here were probably still awake and still hitting refresh on their Twitter accounts every thirty seconds, but a lot of people slept through the news of Houston agreeing to terms with free agent safety Danieal Manning last night. This, of course, has been met with much jubilation amongst Battle Red Nation.
Sure, Manning isn't Eric Weddle or even Dawan Landry (who it appears the Jags are about to sign), but for the price they got him for, Manning is a significant upgrade. And I realize that almost anyone Houston signed for their secondary was going to be an upgrade, but Danieal is quite underrated. Hit the jump below and I'll make my case for why this could be one of the best moves the Texans could have possibly made.
By now, we all know about the difference of signing Johnathan Joseph over Nnamdi Asomugha meant that there would be change left over to grab a quality safety. While Nnamdi would have been the average Texans fan's wet dream come true, there were plenty out there who were calling for a Joseph/Sensabaugh combo over just Nnamdi. Houston did even better than that by agreeing with Manning instead of Sensabaugh.
Manning, a 2nd round pick out of Abilene Christian University by the Bears in 2006, was inserted into the staring rotation immediately, where he compiled 4 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles and 119 tackles in two seasons before losing his starting job in 2008. A head-scratcher amongst Bears fans, he was replaced by Kevin Payne until regaining his starting role in early 2009, a role he did not relinquish again until he hit free agency this week.
With this signing, the Texans get in a safety what they lacked in Bernard Pollard--cover skills. Manning isn't quite the headhunter type, but he can still bring the wood (just ask Devone Bess). He isn't really much of a ballhawk either, but he can actually catch the ball if it's thrown towards him. Bears fans biggest complaint about him was that he didn't make enough plays on the ball. A new scheme might open up new possibilities since he will play less zone coverage, and the talent to do so is there. Teaming up with Glover Quin, the safety position is immediately a 100% upgrade over the 2010 tandem of Pollard and BRB fan favorite Eugene Wilson.
Another positive note is that we will no longer see Steve Slaton doing face plants into the 1 yard line while trying to field a kickoff, because Manning is a stellar return man. In his five year career, he has averaged 26.8 yards per return and even taken one to the house, with many other near misses. This is a monumental upgrade over Slaton's mediocre (and that's being nice) attempts to do so in 2010.
It may not be saying much, but Manning instantly becomes the best safety in franchise history without even playing a snap. He's better than Sensabaugh and better than Huff (apologies to our UT fraternity here) and having a competent cornerback playing in the same backfield should make him even better. If you still need convincing, check out his highlights below.
In the end, this has been a stellar job in free agency by our Texans. If we're actually debating between whether we should have gotten Nnamdi/Sensabaugh or Joseph/Manning, then this franchise has finally changed their stripes. I'd just like to add that while everyone is quick to heap all the praise on Rick Smith and rightly so, let us save some of that love for Bob McNair for giving the green light for Rick to spend his money. And this is coming from one of Bob's biggest critics out there. He will no longer be "Bottom-Line" Bob in my opinion.