The Texans have been completely silent in free agency thus far, opting to let veteran leaders go free to get paid elsewhere (against their will, in some cases) rather than spending any money of their own. Houston has a relatively minuscule cap space of $13,350,127 to work with, per Over The Cap, which has likely been the biggest contributing factor to the lack of money flowing from Bob McNair’s coffers thus far. Just because Rick Smith has not spent any money yet, however, does not mean that there are not some great values to be had in the coming week.
Two such names that I have had my eye on from the beginning are former Raiders/Bengals defensive tackle Pat Sims (all 325 pounds of him) and former Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman. Sims in particular fills an area of critical need as the all important run-stopping nose tackle in a traditional 3-4, a skill set that has allowed him to make a living throughout his entire career. Levi Damien of our sister blog, Silver and Black Pride, hopes that Oakland can retain his services.
Pat Sims had a breakout season with the Raiders in 2013. He was not considered a player who could be an every down player or stay healthy, and he came to the team on a one-year deal hoping he could prove he could. He outplayed expectations, starting every game of the season and playing the bulk (so to speak) of the snaps at the DT/NT spot. He proved he can carry the load over a full season with strong run stopping abilities as well as some power to get into the backfield. I have him as a high priority for the Raiders to return but not everyone sees his return as imminent. It is very possible he could hit free agency so as to gauge his market value. If the Raiders want him back, they have plenty of money to make that happen. But they won't overpay so if another team is willing to pay him more, they'll let him walk.
The 28 year old Sims excelled in his "prove it" deal in Oakland at a measly $1,750,000, and he will likely want to significantly increase that number as he looks for what is probably the last long-term contract of his career. Taking into account the space needed to sign rookies, as well as an estimated $5,000,000 plus per year contract for Garrett Graham, it will be nigh impossible to sign anyone this free agency period without cutting Matt Schaub, which would save an estimated $4.5 million against the cap.
That brings us to Julian Edelman, the exceptionally quick ex-slot receiver extraordinaire of the New England Patriots. Coming off the bench in place of the oft-injured Danny Amendola, Edelman racked up an impressive 105 catches for 1,056 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2013. Tom Brady leaned as hard or harder on Edelman as he ever did on Wes Welker to convert first down after first down throughout the season; it's not crazy to say that without Edelman, the Patriots would not have even sniffed a playoff bye. That kind of production will not come cheap, but a combination of Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Julian Edelman in a Bill O’Brien offense might just be tasty enough to get Rick Smith to pull the trigger.
So what does this all mean? The Texans have some decisions to make. Do they keep Garrett Graham rather than letting him go make his money on one of the many tight end needy teams in the NFL? Do they grab the run-stopping nose tackle that is desperately needed in Romeo Crennel's system? Do they bring in the dangerous slot receiver that drives defensive coordinators crazy?
The sad reality of the NFL is that there is only so much money to spread around to 53 players. Unfortunately, not everyone can follow up a Super Bowl appearance by throwing money at Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, and DeMarcus Ware. We shall see what happens in the coming days and weeks, but it is becoming more and more apparent that the Texans' roster cannot improve through free agency as long as Matt Schaub’s albatross of a contract is still on the books.