I acknowledge that this is a post about a list of players who will likely never don a Houston Texans uniform, because if you haven't already heard, our front office isn't exactly the type to go out and spend big bucks on free agents. Unless we're talking about FA defensive linemen who love to jump offsides and rip teammates helmets off, the only exception to the rule.
In all seriousness, I think there's a chance that this is the one off-season where Smithiak sets their eyes on some higher profile free agents than usual, given that they surely realize that if the defense performs at or near the same level they did last year, they likely won't have their jobs. Bob McNair also might want to ease some of the heat the fan base has thrown in his direction for retaining Kubiak by bringing in a big name FA. Again, as unlikely as it is, if there's ever a year we see the Texans make a FA splash, this is it.
The establishment of a new CBA will obviously have a huge impact on free agency and when/how we're allowed to pursue players, but for fun, and mostly to serve as an informative exercise as to who MIGHT be available, I'll be detailing potential options for you, with posts being separated by positions of need. Positions like running back and quarterback obviously won't be touched on, even if you think Matt Schaub needs to go.
With all the attention being given to Nnamdi Asomugha and the Raiders front office that makes ours look holy, I'll start with cornerbacks on the market this year. Note that the analysis of the players that I provide is a compilation of what I think is the consensus surrounding that player from various NFL sites around the web, since I don't have time to watch every NFL game ever. Or, I do, but I'm too lazy. Also, be sure to check out Chris' similarly themed post over at HDH. He's much smarter than me. Now jump, you fool.
Unrestricted Free Agents (In no particular order)
1. Nnamdi Asomugha, Age: 29
Do it. Do everything possible to get him. Make him the highest paid corner in the league if that's what it takes (and that's what it will take for any team to sign him), because he provides instant credibility to one of the worst defenses ever. The importance of a corner who can make the opponent's best receiver completely irrelevant can't be understated. Think about the impact Andre Johnson has on the Texans. Against most opponents, he commands constant double and sometimes triple teams, which opens up near every other receiver on a possession to single coverage. That doesn't happen when you have a player of Asomugha's caliber on your team. All you need to know to be convinced he's worth the money is that he wins his battles with The Great One nearly every time they play. In 2009, Dre had just 2 catches for 66 yards. 2008: 2 for 19. 2006: 1 for 9 ('Dre was injured in both the 2007 and 2010 meetings). That being said, the likelihood of him coming here is slim to none, as it's been said that he wants to play for a perennial winner and playoff contender. In other words, everything the Texans are not. * Sigh *
2. Champ Bailey, Age: 32
His name's been thrown around a lot and not just because he could continue the Denver-Houston connection, but because he's still one of the best at his position. Many predicted given his age and heavy usage that this would be the year The Champ fell off productivity wise, but from all accounts he's still the shutdown corner at this point that he has been his entire career. The problem is, at some point within the next few years, he's going to decline. His next contract will likely be his last big payday, but I'm not sure he's worth the investment at his age. Much is being said about his so-called willingness to switch to safety, but here's the exact quote from an ESPN article by Len Pasquarelli.
Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey is willing to take less money when he switches to the interior secondary position in a few years, which the 11-year veteran conceded he will do later in his career.
But he likely won't make the conversion for another three or four seasons, and he expects to be paid premium cornerback money for that stretch.
That means at the age of 36, we could still be on track to give Bailey top 5 money for his position, which has seen some hefty trend-setting contracts to both Asomugha and Darrelle Revis, not to mention exorbitant amounts of money to guys like Dunta Robinson. I'll pass.
3. Ike Taylor, Age: 30
Since we here in Houston love corners that just don't give up touchdowns, like the almighty Q-Tip, we'd love Taylor. Taylor was responsible for just one touchdown all year and when he was given the responsibility of shadowing the opponent's top receivers, he gave up none in the last seven weeks of the season. Move over, Glover. He's also good in run support, a trait the Texans have coveted over the years from their defensive backs, so it wouldn't be too shocking to see the team make a run at him. As with the other corners, he'll be asking for big money and if we predictably lose out on the other two, he's not a bad "fallback" option at all.
4. Carlos Rogers, Age: 29
For years now I've wanted Rogers to be a Texan. He was great just a few years ago for the team coverage-wise from what I've read, but struggled mightily in 2009 (even getting benched at one point) and of course was a part of a Redskins secondary this year that rivaled the Texans for worst in the league. "Change of scenery" is a term thrown around a lot, but I think it could actually help someone like Rogers, a former first-round pick who was once pretty damn good at his position. He's just 29 years old and wouldn't command nearly as much money as the others on this list would. While he probably wouldn't get fans jumping out of their beds (he's not very flashy and doesn't get picks), he could be a steal given the right opportunity. At worst, he'd be a legitimate starter opposite Quin and probably a better pure cover corner than him. I'd be extremely happy with him.
5. Drayton Florence, Age: 30
A fancy name? Probably one of the least known on this list. However, he started all 16 games for, statistically, the third best pass defense in the league (192 YPG) yardage-wise. His asking price should be fairly low, although the market could dictate a higher price since teams might flock to him after losing out on the big names. If the Texans pull out of the race for the others early, they could get Florence at a reasonable rate. He'd be an upgrade over what we have opposite Quin, as redundant as it is to say that. At age 30, he's still in his prime.
6. Phillip Buchanon
Just to spite us all. (ed. note: You are so freaking banned, DreKeem.)
Restricted Free Agents
1. Antonio Cromartie, Age: 26
Do you remember the 10-interception effort Cromartie had in his sophomore season, including a hat trick against Peyton Manning in prime time? Things have changed so much then. Once labeled the next great playmaking corner, Cromartie had fallen of the wayside the past few years before finally rejuvenating his career in his first year with the Jets. I attribute a lot of that to Rex Ryan's scheme and him being in a contract year. He's not the type of player personality-wise (as if I know anything about him as a person) the Texans go after, considering he has nine kids, coming from eight different women and in six different states. Amazing. He could be available if the Jets decide to screw the rest of the league over and pair Asomugha with Revis and become the Miami Heat of pass defenses. They'll probably end up opting for the cheaper Cromartie, at least we hope.
2. Jonathan Joseph, Age: 26
This one intrigues me. Joseph combined with Leon Hall to form one of the most formidable corner duos in 2009, yet both participated in the decline of the Bengals defense this past year and both were culprits. If a team offers top starter money for him, the Bengals might hesitate to match, considering they have so many holes elsewhere. Then again, he's just 26 years old and still offers plenty of talent and production, so it's unlikely he'll be free, as it is with most restricted free agents. He'd be an outstanding addition though.
3. Richard Marshall, Age: 26
I've read that he's great at supporting the run but isn't a standout when it comes to coverage. You could read this is as him immediately being the best corner on our team and you'd probably be right. Given the new coaching staff led by Ron Rivera that's set to overhaul the Panthers roster, he might not be seen as someone worth keeping on board by the team. If the Texans go after him, they better look hard at some of the other available cover corners, or they're fooling themselves. He's also going to want big money, since Drew Rosenhaus is his agent.
4. Brent Grimes, Age: 27
Won't spend much time here, because there's not a chance the Falcons let him go. He's second in the league in pass breakups and is part of a defense that keeps getting better for the Falcs. This is probably Kerns' top choice (being an Atlanta fan) and he'd be a great fit, but he's not coming.
5. Fred Bennett, Age: 27
You shoulda seen this one coming.