When I left for Spring Break last week, I felt safe letting Rick Smith watch over the house because of his proven track record. I left him a short list of what needed taken care of during my absence and had not a care in the world when I hit the open road. The break flew by fast out in the wilderness and reality started to creep in yesterday after leaving Lock Your Doors, New Mexico. I finally turned my phone on to plug back into the motherboard of the sports world as I crossed the railroad tracks of Texaco to mark my return back to the glorious state of Texas. During the trip, my phone was locked in the glove box while I hiked through mud and snow, hung out with the Patriarchs, felt how truly small and insignificant I am on top of Observation Point, and was read bedtime stories by the surrounding pink titans that have watched over the area for over 150 million years in Zion. For the first time in a long time, thoughts about the Houston Texans did not run around through my brain.
Little did that sad sap know what was occurring during his state of oblivion.
I returned home to a proverbial house that came straight out of an episode of Hoarders. The gate to the backyard was left wide open, the dogs were missing, the place was a wreck because my housekeeper left to clean another house because of Smith's refusal to pay her, and their was a steaming upper-decker greeting me in the bathroom. The situation was only helped when Smith lowered my cable bill by cutting out the Encore movie channels I rarely watch.
After a couple of beers to deaden my anger, I checked my email, ESPN, Twitter and text messages. After reading through them at a pace that even Dr. Spencer Reid would be jealous of, I dropped my gallon jug of water like I learned the real identity of Keyser Soze. My offseason wish list was shredded in front of me like a child's Christmas list in the hand's of an evil stepmother. James Casey-gone, Kevin Walter-cut, Glover Quinn-gone, Connor Barwin-gone with no one to replace them.
James Casey, gone to the Eagles for three years, $14.5 million. This deal shocked me. Never did I think James Casey would get paid around $5 million a year. He was underutilized as a fullback blocker in our offense, and a more creative Chip Kelly should be able to tap into his potential. He may blow up in Philly as a playmaker, but he can be easily replaced in Houston with a fifth round pick.
Kevin Walter is now searching the newspaper and Monster.com for a new job. Rarely do I feel happiness when a player is cut after all the time and effort they put into a team, but it's time Walter has a different logo on the side of his helmet. Walter was unable to get separation on short or intermediate routes and could only get open on play action passes. It's a bummer that the Wes Welker signing destroyed Walter's chances as Peyton Manning's next gritty wide receiver. Walter's departure opens the door for the wide receiver the Texans will draft next month and/or Martin/Posey/Jean. I may be the only optimistic soul on the planet to think that our current combo of young receivers will yield a great receiver. LeStar is probably my favorite of the bunch, but his fate hangs on the unlikely chance that Matt Schuab gets his mojo back on the deep throws.
Glover Quin, gone to the Lions for five years, $23.5 million. Rivers did a great job breaking this down and I will delve into this a little more later this week.
Connor Barwin, gone to the Eagles for six years, $36 million. His reasoning? The Eagles offered him a better deal. Philly is switching to the 3-4 after having a stale pass rush that managed to take down the QB only 30 times last season. Barwin is coming off a season where he produced 43 tackles, 5 passes deflected, 3 sacks and 1 safety. He gained 15 pounds last offseason to bulk up to 265, improving his strength at the expense of his speed. The results made him an extremely inefficient pass rusher while improving his value in the run and screen game. Barwin's departure is not much of a shock, considering he turned down an extension last summer and Houston drafted Whitney Mercilus last April. His departure is the antithesis to Glover Quinn leaving. Barwin didn't produce up to his capabilities last year and was mightily overpaid.
Just like last offseason, Rick Smith is doing nothing in free agency to improve the Houston Texans. He will instead look to the draft to plug holes while letting young players from previous drafts have their chance to make an impact. First round pick will be an OLB, unless Keenan Allen is available. Then use later picks on DBs, a blocking TE, NT, a kick returning WR, and maybe an offensive lineman. It's a great way to slowly turn a 4-12 team into a playoff team, but not the best way to run a championship contender.
This strategy is still in play while the 49ers trade for Anquan Boldin, the Seahawks trade for Percy Harvin, the Broncos sign Welker and the Falcons sign Steven Jackson. Houston went 12-4 last year and is one or two players away from going to New Jersey next February. As a GM, when you have the window to win, you must grab it and go for it. Chances like this don't come often. Beating Cincinnati in the first round should not be this team's goal; beating the Pats, Broncos, and Ravens later in the playoffs should be. Houston seems to be sitting back and watching the rest of the league get better. At least my skin is now hardened from the mountains like Metapod and can handle the rest of what's been a disappointing offseason.