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What To Do At DE?

Now that we've finished analyzing the current options on one side of the ball in BRB's "What To Do..." series, we turn our attention to the other side of the ball.  So without further ado, let's begin breaking down what your Houston Texans currently boast on defense, and how that'll affect how they proceed in free agency and the draft.  The opening salvo?  Defensive End.  Here's what the Texans have on the roster as of the date of this post at DE:

  1.  The Biggest Bust In The History Of Sport
  2.  Anthony Weaver
  3.  Earl Cochran
  4.  N.D. Kalu
  5.  Eric Powell

We'll start from the bottom up:  Eric Powell was not on an NFL roster last season after getting cut by Buffalo in early September.  Upon further analysis, it doesn't look like he's actually ever been activated for a game in the NFL.  While we all can certainly hope for Powell to become the Texans' version of "Rudy," I'm not betting on it.  But sweet would it be to have a scene like this at Reliant next year?

Hold on a allergies are acting up again...

Whew.  So absent a miracle from Powell, he's probably not in the team's long-term plans.  N.D. Kalu is a free agent, but has made it clear that he has no interest in playing anywhere but Houston next year.  Given the quality of his play this past season and perhaps more importantly, the value of his counsel to the youngsters on the roster, I have little doubt Kalu will be re-signed for 2008.

And so we come to the real dilemma at DE on the roster:  The value of Earl Cochran in light of Anthony Weaver's cap number in 2008, estimated to be a team-high $6,200,000.00.  In my mind, there's no justification for paying that kind of dough to a defensive end who has posted one (1) sack in two (2) years as a Texan.  But wait, you say...Tim, aren't you the same moron who's spent a considerable amount of time bitching that sacks aren't the be-all-end-all for judging the productivity of a defensive end?  To which I say:  Touche, salesman.  But I would further respond that Anthony Weaver has not consistently done the things a quality DE does (e.g., tie up multiple blockers, create opportunities for other defenders, demand that the offense accounts for him on every play, force plays to be run to the opposite side, etc.).  Weaver flat out hasn't shown that he's worth more than six million cap dollars this next year, and that point is driven home even more powerfully by the fact that Earl Cochran looked better than he did in limited action.  The same Earl Cochran who can be re-signed for a fraction of what Weaver is scheduled to earn.  In other words, Cochran should give you equivalent to greater productivity at a greatly reduced cost.  I'm no general manager, but that call seems like a no-brainer to me.  If Anthony Weaver is willing to renegotiate his contract, great; welcome back.  If not, I'd bid him a fond farewell.

With regard to No. 1 on the list above, I think it's pretty safe to assume he's got one of the starting spots at DE locked up.  I'm comfortable with leaving the analysis of his play at that.

Where do we go from here?  Not surprisingly, there's not exactly a plethora of free agents available that strike me as great fits; here's a pretty nice list of who can be had at DE.  Of the names there, I just don't see anyone out there who qualifies as an automatic upgrade while demanding anything approaching reasonable money.  I realize that I may be in the minority here, so I'm interested to see what everyone else thinks.  Is there any free agent defensive end that you think the team should target?  If so, at what price?

The draft?  While I'm not as resolute as some others who think we'll go DE in the first round (see here as well), I have to admit that the more I think about it, the more I like the idea.  Adding a guy like Calais Campbell at No. 18 could give the Texans a nasty set of bookend pass rushers that'd be unmatched by almost every team in the league.  Indeed, if the Texans do go best available at No. 18, it's entirely possible that Smithiak goes DE in the first round.  I still submit that the secondary is of far greater concern, but the lack of perceived first-round talent at DB could mean the team opts to address it later in the draft.  In any event, I believe that the team drafts a DE.  The million dollar question is when.