Heading into the offseason, the Texans have many positions of need to address. With several of their defensive and special teams starters scheduled to become free agents, who will the Texans attempt to re-sign and who will they let go? Let’s take a look at the top UFAs for 2017, along with their current contracts and contributions.
Vince Wilfork, DT: While Wilfork still has yet to confirm his retirement, the 35-year-old nose tackle has said, “I think I have played my last football game.” If he decides to return, the Texans could look to re-sign the veteran, perhaps in the hope of giving D.J. Reader another year to develop.
A.J. Bouye, CB: A breakout talent this season, Bouye was a disruptive force for the Texans. The fourth-year corner compiled 70 total tackles, 22 passes defended, and three interceptions in 2016 (including two in postseason games). One of Houston’s top free agents this year, Bouye is set to get a huge pay raise on the open market. Will the Texans be able to retain their rising star with three first-round corners (Kevin Johnson, Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph) already on the roster? Will they try to keep Bouye and move on from one of their other CBs? In 2016, Bouye earned a base salary of $1,671,000. His next contract, if in keeping with top NFL cornerback salaries, could be worth over $11 million per year. If Houston can find a way to keep the former UDFA, he will likely be a top priority this offseason.
Quintin Demps, S: Demps had a solid season in 2016, with nine passes defended, six interceptions and a forced fumble. Part of Houston’s shutdown secondary, Demps forced several crucial turnovers this year. The Texans’ safety will be 32 before the start of the 2017 season and is coming off of a one year, $1.5 million contract. Personally, I think that the Texans may look to the draft to bulk up their talent at safety, but they could also attempt to bring Demps back. He brings talent and experience to the position, and is probably the strongest player in a group that houses Andre Hal, K.J. Dillon, Corey Moore and others.
John Simon, OLB: Simon had 51 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and two passes defended this season, starting five games for the Texans. He played on a one-year, $1,671,000 contract in 2016. Houston needs depth at the OLB position and may well hope to bring Simon back. He has steadily improved over his three seasons with the Texans and could be a priority for them this offseason.
Akeem Dent, ILB: Dent is at the end of a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Texans. The backup linebacker plays behind explosive starters Brian Cushing and Benardrick McKinney. While not a priority, Dent could be retained by the Texans for the depth he provides.
Shane Lechler, P: Houston’s reliable punter put together yet another solid campaign in 2016. With 17 years of NFL experience, the 40-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down, finishing with an average 47.5 yards per punt. This season, he played on a one-year contract worth $1,800,000. Lechler has played four years with the Texans and could very well be back for a fifth season.
Nick Novak, K: In March, Novak signed a one-year, $965,000 contract to play with the Texans. He certainly had his hands full this season, leading Houston’s struggling, all-field goal offense. Novak made 85.4% of his attempted field goals and 88% of his attempted extra points in 2016. If he returns in 2017, it will be his second full season with the Texans.
Ryan Griffin, TE: Houston’s offense struggled this season, but fourth-year tight end Griffin still managed 442 yards and two touchdowns. He is coming off of his best season to date, with a 2016 salary of $694,670. Second on the depth chart behind C.J. Fiedorowicz, and ahead of UDFA Stephen Anderson, Griffin may or may not be a priority for the Texans to re-sign.
Jonathan Grimes, RB: Sitting behind starter Lamar Miller and backup Alfred Blue on the depth chart, Grimes managed 105 rushing yards this season on a one-year, $900,000 contract. Houston has a bevy of running backs on the roster, and Grimes may or may not make the cut for the 2017 season.
Houston has a handful of other players who will become free agents in 2017, including Antonio Smith, Don Jones, Oday Aboushi and David Quessenberry. The Texans also have a huge 2018 season of free agency on the horizon; they may attempt to sign some of those players before they hit the market.
It’s no secret that star wideout DeAndre Hopkins was looking for a contract extension prior to the start of the 2016 season, and the Texans have already picked up his fifth year option for 2017 (worth $7,915,000). On the open market, Nuk could make north of $15 million per year. Hopkins won’t be the only big name to come up in 2018, with Xavier Su’a-Filo, Johnathan Joseph, Chris Clark, Alfred Blue, Tom Savage, C.J. Fiedorowicz and Andre Hal all set to become free agents then. Will the Texans attempt to lock up Hopkins or any other impending UFAs before their contracts are up?
What are your thoughts, Texans fans? Are there any free agents that you hope Houston prioritizes re-signing? Who do you think stays and who goes? Feel free to discuss in the comments section below.