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2021 NFL Free Agency: Houston Texans Welcome Disaster, Re-Sign Vernon Hargreaves III


Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Let’s go back in time. It’s the 2019 NFL season. The Texans came into the season with Aaron Colvin, Johnathan Joseph, Lonnie Johnson Jr., and Bradley Roby as their cornerbacks. Colvin lasted one game after failing his team on Monday Night Football against the New Orleans Saints. At that point, the Texans realized they didn’t have enough cornerback depth, something everyone else already knew. They eventually traded a third round pick to the Raiders for Gareon Conley in an attempt to address that hole.

With injuries to Johnson Jr. and Joseph, depth was still an issue. So Houston resorted to the waiver wire and plucked Vernon Hargreaves III off the scrap heap. Hargeaves was a former first round pick who failed in Tampa Bay. Some thought he’d play better in Houston because they play more press man coverage (they don’t). Others thought he’d play better in Houston because he could man the slot (he didn’t). But Hargreaves was the only answer the Texans could muster that far into the season.

Hargreaves ended up starting two games in 2019 and playing in six games for the Texans. In those games, he allowed a completion percentage of 69.7%, 11.7 yards a completion, four touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 124.6 when he was targeted.

Last offseason, the Texans cut Hargreaves and then brought him back on a one-year deal. The idea was Hargreaves already knew the system, was part of the culture, and could provide depth at the cornerback position. The funny thing about depth is that sometimes depth has to be put into action. Houston assumed Conley’s ankle would correct itself for the season. It didn’t. Conley missed the entire 2020 season. With Conley on the bench, it was time for the next man up. The next man up was Vernon Hargreaves III.

Rather than start two games and play in the slot, Hargreaves became the Texans’ starting outside cornerback on a team that stared in the mirror and convinced themselves the culture, not the talent or the playcalling, was the reason they kept stumbling in the postseason. A team with Vernon Hargreaves III starting at outside cornerback thought they would get over the Divisional Round hurdle they were trapped under.

Hargreaves started every game at cornerback for the Texans in 2020. He allowed a completion percentage of 68.2%, 12.4 yards a completion, 6 touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 109.1 when he was targeted. He was the singular domino. With Conley out and Roby suspended, the depth past Hargreaves was forced to play as well. Behind him were Phillip Gaines and Keion Crossen starting at outside cornerback. Eric Murray forced to play the slot. The Texans’ pass defense tumbled into the cellar even with J.J. Watt starting every game. Houston finished 29th in pass defense DVOA.

The Texans did not learn lessons from any of this. New general manager Nick Caserio was not here when these previous failures occurred, but he’s allowing them to continue. Rather than cut bait and sign someone, anyone, anyone at all, who would be an improvement over Hargreaves, someone who could offer some scant probability of being something more than a fifth cornerback on a bad pass defense, the Texans decided to bring Hargreaves back again, presumably because he’s a former first round pick, because he fits the insidious culture, because he’s nice, or whatever ridiculous reason they could come up with.

The Texans are going to trade Deshaun Watson. They are going to be horrendous next season. Vernon Hargreaves III is going to play another season in Houston after being one of the worst cornerbacks in the NFL last season. He’ll probably play real snaps for this team next season.

Whatever it is the Texans provide to your psyche, you should already start looking now at somewhere else to find it. This team will be nothing more than slapstick entertainment for years to come. The only thing to root for is how bad it can get, to see how far deep the bottom goes, because the football itself doesn’t matter at all.

Vernon Hargreaves III’s continued employment is a representation of exactly that. I hope all of you find peace elsewhere. We already know how this turns out.