First a heads up: I originally wrote this for an email list with a little more casual fan base, so there might be some content a little obvious for the BRB communuty. But, I thought I'd throw it out there anyway:
So, I had some Texans thoughts during free agency but never got around to putting them down. With the draft coming up Thursday and my attention fully focused on all things Battle Red, it seems like a good time to revisit this off season.
Lots of people in Houston started panicking when player after player seemed to be getting axed, set free, or swapped for a bottle of ketchup. Mario, Meco, Winston, Brisiel, and Dreesen are of course the big ones. But, to panic over such moves, to ask what in the world are they doing is to have a fundamental misunderstanding of how the NFL salary cap works. You cannot keep everyone, and the second you achieve success, you will find it more difficult to find the money for players who suddenly find themselves coveted by other teams. Of course, you can perform certain salary cap tricks, but at some point you have to pay the piper and doing so jeopardizes your franchise’s long term health.
I am not saying that you cannot criticize the Texans for getting themselves in salary cap Hell. I am saying that evaluating their decisions closely, I cannot myself come up with many places I personally think they messed up. Jonathan Joseph and Danieal Manning absolutely HAD to be signed (or something comparable), and those moves are what leave us where we were now. As for the individual moves:
MARIO: No one in their right mind thinks we should have tried to resign him to the richest defensive contract in league history, especially after we were better without him in the lineup. Perhaps we could have signed him to a more team friendly deal before he hit the market, but his injury history made me agree with the decision not to.
WINSTON: This one hurts. As much emotionally as from a logistical standpoint. He was part of the heart and soul of our team that has finally arrived. And, while I cursed him many a time for a penalty or sack allowed last year, he still was clearly a top ten right tackle. I really wish they would have found a way to keep him, but I don’t know the inner workings of their cap situation, and I also don’t know what they see in practice. They seem to be convinced that Butler and even Derek Newton will be adequate fill ins. While this is the one I’m closest to criticizing, it seems like it was either Winston or someone else and whether they made the right decision will only be known after we see the new line in action.
BRISIEL: I think they would have liked to keep him, but the deal he got from Oakland was too rich. There’s only so much money you can pay your offensive line.
DREESEN: It seems like we got close to getting him back and were in the same neighborhood monetarily, but they gave him an opportunity to start and go to his home state, something we couldn’t possibly match.
MECO: This is the one that had Houston fans most up in arms, but, to me, it’s the one that is the most understandable. Demeco got a super rich contract BEFORE Wade changed the defense to a 3-4. BEFORE a debilitating Achilles injury made him a lesser player. Demeco had been relegated to a two down player and there was no way he was worth 7 million dollars. In a salary cap world, value trumps everything. Not to mention, Sharpton was starting to take snaps from Demeco on first and second downs. I love Demeco to death and he was one of my first “favorite” Texans, but reality set it.
So, what in regards to the salary cap are we to criticize the Texans on? Certainly not the Joseph/Manning signings. If anything, I think holding onto the hope they could sign Mario for so long (if in fact true) might have hurt their chance at resigning Brisiel or caused Winston’s departure. So, again, I might blame them for Winston leaving. But, that’s one move and one that could be easily mitigated if they are right in their evaluations of his back ups. But, there is one more decision fans are howling about.
Of course, as always, fans are up in arms about Jacoby Jones still being on the team. Why keep him when you had to cut others? The answer is that, as I’ve heard from media sources I trust like Lance Zierlein, because of the way Jacoby’s contract is set up, it saves us more money to cut him after a certain date. Cutting him now would have done very little in terms of salary cap relief. So, he in all likelihood will still get released. If this is the biggest criticism you have, then it’s likely going to be remedied.
So, am I missing something? Where are your criticisms? Where are the bad contracts (other than Jacoby)? Where did they take their missteps to end up in this salary cap Hell? I don’t think there were any egregious ones. I think this is what happens when your team gets good. Other teams want your players. Where we will ultimately end up judging the Texans will hinge not on these recent necessary moves but how the Texans front office reacts to them moving forward. The Texans’ next man up philosophy—in short, their depth--was a major reason for their success last year and their ability to replenish that depth with shrewd, cost effective moves will determine whether they are here to stay.
Which of course leads us to the draft. I’m by no means an expert on the college game and so I will not go into detail. Every opinion I have is based on the evaluations of media sources I trust as well as my knowledge of the Texans needs and the MO of the front office.
My big board of people I’d like to see on the Texans, or really, my mini board. This is by no means exhaustive, and I left off people I don’t think will still be there. In order:
Randle/Wright, Mercilus, Perry, Poe, McLellin, Fleener/Hill
My gut feel: For whatever reason, I’m starting to get that inkling that the pick is Wright if he’s available and that’s my prediction.
Ta'amu, Curry, Sanu, Irvin second round
Mark Martin, Josh Chapman
Obviously, I would love a NT. Ta’amu in round two really excites me, but I’m not sure if he would be there and if he is, I’m not sure they would take him. Martin in round three would excite me almost as much.
That’s it. Hit me up if you have thoughts. Criticisms of the Texans free agency that I missed or thoughts on the draft.