With the (not surprising) release of wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, your Houston Texans are now set for a free agent shopping spree unlike anything Texans fans have ever seen. And, while foolishly spending money on high dollar free agent contracts isn’t wise, with the team closer than it’s ever been to tasting Super Bowl glory, this is the off-season to go all in on snatching up free agents to build out the roster.
While attending the Super Bowl, linebacker Whitney Mercilus echoed what a lot of us already know to be true:
“No doubt when you’re around that environment, you really want to be there,” Mercilus said. “We’ve got even more motivation. We’re definitely close.”
And, say what you want about the coaching staff, but general manager Brian Gaine did a great job last off season in the draft and by bringing in a few key free agents. Now, with the window closing on J.J. Watt’s historic career, the tandem of Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins hitting its prime and players like Jadeveon Clowney, Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney and a few others in full stride, it’s time to push the chips to the middle and play for keeps.
With that in mind, here’s some scenarios that might bring this team closer to winning it all than they were in 2018:
Resign Jadeveon Clowney to a long term, high-dollar contract.
It’s easy to argue he hasn’t been as productive as expected when coming out of college, but no player seeks to get injured, and few have ever recovered from such a devastating injury the way Clowney has. He’s a key reason this defense is what it is, and not a player easily replaced. With the cap space, Houston would be utterly foolish to let Clowney walk. Pay the man and move on.
Ink Kareem Jackson and Tyrann Mathieu to cap friendly deals.
There hasn’t been enough water under the bridge to forget watching guys like A.J. Bouye, Glover Quinn and Daniel Manning move on and make an impact for teams that don’t call H-Town their home town. Do some cap magic to make sure they don’t eat up a huge chunk of space in the next two seasons, and get it done. The reality is there aren’t that many defensive backs out there right now, so keeping the ones Houston has should be a priority.
Acquire not one, but two solid offensive lineman in free agency
Some are hot, some are cold when it comes to bringing in Trent Brown - but no matter where you fall, he’s an improvement over the players Bill O’Brien trotted out to protect Deshaun Watson’s blindside last season. Guys like Ju’Wuan James, Donovan Smith, Daryl Williams, Roger Saffold and Ramon Foster could all upgrade the Texans line.
Make a run at Antonio Brown
This is probably not a popular idea, and Brown may or may not be the high character guy the Texans covet, but pairing him and D-Hop takes the Texans passing offense to the level of freakishly scary. Add Will Fuller V and Keke Coutee to that mix, knowing those two will seldom be available at the same time due to injury concerns, and the Texans passing game instantly has the potential to become historically good.
Throw some love at defensive lineman
With DeMarcus Lawrence, Grady Jarrett, Trey Flowers, Frank Clark, Sheldon Richardson and a few others potentially hitting the free agent wire, chances are Houston could snatch up a game wrecking defender to add to the Watt-Clowney-Mercilus mix which would catapult Houston’s pass rush from highly feared to straight up shut down.
Do what’s necessary to upgrade the cornerback room
And start by sending Kevin Johnson down the road. There’s absolutely no valid reason to sink $9 million plus into a player with Johnson’s body of work. None. Nada. Zilch.
While former general manager Rick Smith didn’t whiff often in the first round, he did with Johnson. Time to cut bait and move on. Guys like Ronald Darby, Steven Nelson and Bryce Callahan are all better uses of cap space than Johnson. While this position group isn’t flush with talent for the 2019 free agency, there are still some players who could immediately upgrade Houston’s cornerback room. Then, if other slots are filled via free agency, Houston can look to draft some solid corners when April rolls around.
Bring in a dump truck and hand them the ball often
Having a running back that can hammer the A-gap and punish defenders would do wonders for Deshaun Watson and Houston’s passing attack. Sadly, Lamar Miller isn’t that guy, and Alfred Blue isn’t even in that conversation. So, a guy like Le’Veon Bell would do it, but chances are Bell never lands in Houston. If they wouldn’t take Adrian Peterson, who was practically begging to wear battle red, no way Bell lands here either. Unfortunately, there aren’t many options that fit this description after you look at Bell and Peterson. Maybe this needs to be a draft priority instead, but Houston should at least kick the tires on guys like Mark Ingram, Spencer Ware and C.J. Anderson, with eyes wide open.
If the Texans can address enough in free agency to fill the roster gaps ahead of the draft, it puts Gaine in a much better position to draft for talent than need, which usually works out better for a team - and the more talent on the roster, the better the odds that the team can overcome the One and Done playoff history we’ve seen so far.
What do you think? Given the fat bank account, who are the key free agents you’d pursue once the tampering period starts on March 11th, less than a month away? Give us your shopping list in the comments section!