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Red Zone Play: Examining Some Suggested Houston Texans Roster Upgrades

Let’s take a look at what some arm chair general managers think Brian Gaine should do this off season

New England Patriots v New York Jets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Something about the off-season has always fascinated me. Maybe it’s the ripeness-of-potential teams have - the seemingly endless possibilities of roster upgrades; fantasy football in its penultimate incarnation.

Maybe it’s a memory of childhood when we used to swap trading cards, dreaming of a perfect team. Or reminiscent of (re)building a roster on Madden football to fill all the depth chart holes that drive fans crazy.

Whatever the allure actually is, it’s a thing for sure.

This past week has had some head scratchers, thought provokers, promise-makers and a few that actually make a whole lot of sense. So, let’s dig in and discuss:

From the Sporting News:

23rd pick - Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama

The Texans may need an immediate starter at strong safety to put next to second-year rising star Justin Reid as both Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson are free agents. Thompson (6-2, 196 pounds) is the rangy playmaker who can clean up against the pass, and he’s solid in run support, too.

While having a player like this certainly wouldn’t hurt, with the far more immediate needs at offensive line and cornerback, spending their very first pick on what amounts to a “luxury” selection makes no sense at all - unless the Texans somehow manage to plug those other holes through free agency. Now, if they let Kareem Jackson and Tyrann Mathieu walk in free agency, this suddenly makes a little more sense...

Bleacher Report adds one from the “Can’t seem to get this itch off my brain” file:

23. Houston Texans: Jachai Polite, DE, Florida

Again, having a player like this would be great, but it’s a luxury Houston can’t afford with their first pick unless free agency is far more kind to them than ever before.

ESPN gets in on the insanity:

The Texans will sign Le’Veon Bell to a deal that eclipses Todd Gurley’s

Bell didn’t just sit out a whole season to take a penny less than the four-year, $57.5 million contract Gurley signed with the Rams last summer. And in spite of that missed season, Bell will have a market for his services. The Jets, 49ers and Texans are all in it, but Houston wins out by selling Bell on what he can do in an offense that features Deshaun Watson at quarterback and DeAndre Hopkins at wide receiver.

The Texans must -- and likely will -- address the offensive line in free agency and the draft. But Bell is what my colleague Bill Polian calls a “BYOB” back (bring your own blocking). He can help elevate the Texans’ offense to where it needs to be to compete for an AFC title.

Nothing about Le’Veon Bell speaks to Houston ever signing him. Sure on paper he could be a huge improvement over the Texans current running back options, but a guy willing to sit out an entire year is anything but someone trying to “be the best teammate I can be.” Which translates to a big “NO” from Texans’ brass.

And, to round out the “are you out of your mind?!” options, Bleacher Report steps in again:

Potential trade: Texans acquire [Donald] Penn from Raiders in exchange for a second-round draft pick

After all, thanks at least partly to terrible blocking from bust left tackle Julie’n Davenport, quarterback Deshaun Watson was sacked a league-high 62 times in 2018. And the Texans also have plenty of money to spend this offseason.

Considering that defensive star J.J. Watt is probably on the back nine of his career, Houston’s contention window might also be closing a little faster than Cleveland’s. And that could cause the Texans to prioritize Penn over an elite draft pick.

Regardless, landing a former Pro Bowler with a reasonable salary would be the optimal offseason trade development for the Texans.

Where is the upside to signing a player clearly on the back end of his career, who would be long odds to play 16+ games, to fill a role that desperately needs stability and chemistry in order to improve? Now, if Penn can be had for a 3rd day pick, then this starts to make a little more sense. But, giving up a 2nd rounder to rent a guy clearly ready to ride off into the sunset makes no sense at all.

In sifting through all these, there is one unlikely source that brought some common sense to the “silly season” antics.

iSportsWeb has some solid options:

Trent Brown - OT - New England Patriots

The Patriots traded for Brown last offseason to become Tom Brady’s blindside protector. In 2018, the Patriots gave up the third fewest sacks in the NFL at just 21. The Texans, on the other hand, gave up a league high 62 sacks—many of which were allowed by left tackle Julien Davenport. The Texans may opt to give Davenport another year at tackle, or simply use one of their three picks in the first two rounds of the draft to address the offensive line. If the Texans decide to go the free agency route, Trent Brown should be at the top of general manger Brian Gaine’s wish list. Brown is not elite in any one part of his game, however, even average left tackle play is crucial in today’s NFL. According to ProFootballFocus, Brown graded as an above average run and pass blocker, and would fit into the Texans’ offense perfectly.

Signing Brown makes far more sense than giving up a 2nd rounder for Donald Penn.

Ja’Wuan James – OT – Miami Dolphins

Unfortunately for the Texans, the issues along the line do not stop at left tackle. The Texans played Seantrel Henderson, Martinas Rankin, Julien Davenport and Kendall Lamm at right tackle last season. Lamm was the best of the bunch, but can’t be seen as the long term answer at that spot. Enter Ja’Wuan James. Much like Trent Brown, James doesn’t excel in any one department, but offers a solid, all-around game that would instantly upgrade the Texans’ offensive line. James would come much cheaper than Brown, and would allow the Texans to give Julien Davenport one more year to prove himself as the long-term answer at left tackle. Don’t expect the Texans to splash on two offensive lineman, however.

Targeting James as well as Trent Brown makes sense too.

Sheldon Richardson – DT – Minnesota Vikings

The importance of pass rushers simply cannot be overstated in the NFL. Many assume the Texans have an abundance of pass rushers with J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus on the team, however, the Texans have absolutely zero interior pass rush, which hurt them tremendously in 2018. Opposing quarterbacks were able to routinely step up in the pocket and pick the Texans’ secondary apart, especially when Clowney and Watt lost contain on the edge—which happened quite frequently. Sheldon Richardson would be an expensive option here, however, I opted for him over Grady Jarret of the Atlanta Falcons. Richardson will likely sing a long-term deal with the Vikings, but paring Richardson with D.J. Reader in the middle of the Texans’ defensive line would allow for much more pass-rushing flexibility and would certainly improve their interior pass rush.

Hard to argue with this logic, either...

Jason Verrett – CB – Los Angeles Chargers

The free agent cornerback market is not strong this year, so the Texans may have to take some chances with who they sign. With Johnathan Joseph entering his 14th season, the Texans need to begin to build a new, young secondary. Verrett has faced injuries his entire career. He didn’t play in 2018, but could sign a deal similar to Tyrann Mathieu’s one-year prove-it deal a year ago. When it comes to the cornerback position, don’t expect the Texans to make any big moves in free agency. With the impending contracts of Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson in the secondary, look for Houston to use the draft as their main avenue to securing the future of their secondary. Players like Verrett, Bradly Roby and Bryce Callahan could be options for the Texans.

This is the only partially-head scratching idea in the bunch from iSportsWeb, but the argument can be made to pul this trigger...

And this one probably isn’t really on anyone’s radar, but really seems solid:

Levine Toilolo – TE – Detroit Lions

The Texans are in dire need of a “Y” tight end to help in blocking situations. Ryan Griffin, Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas simply don’t look like they will ever be able to help in blocking situations. With the issues along the line, Levine Toilolo could step in as the in-line tight end while Akins and Thomas focus on receiving duties. Toilolo could come cheap, and has experience catching passes from Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford. Not a flashy option by any means—but Toilolo could elevate the Texans’ offense in a pinch.

Having an extra tackle that’s designated a tight end who can play like both is certainly something the Texans could use in their arsenal.

Maybe we should add Sean Christensen to the masthead before he lands at Bleacher Report or some other site spouting crazy ideas and inane trade possibilities that only benefit other teams...

What do you think? Agree/disagree with any of these? What’s the most off-the-wall, nonsensical prediction you’ve seen so far? Share it in the comments section so we can all continue to scratch our heads.