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2021 NFL Free Agency: The Texans Sign ALL The Linebackers

Nick Caserio signs a record number of free agents in one day.

Washington Football Team v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

In perhaps what was the busiest single day in free agency for your Houston Texans—aside from the yearly undrafted free agent yield—new general manager Nick Caserio was a flurry of motion, signing 10 free agents.

In the process of a little over 24 hours, Caserio pulled off 2 trades as well.

If nothing else, he’s not interested in making this rebuild a slow process.

With incoming defense coordinator Lovie Smith, the Texans are switching from their multi/3-4 defense run by previous defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to a modernized Tampa 2 Smith perfected in Tampa Bay.

This means the Texans need different personnel on the defensive side of the ball as the ones they had weren’t necessarily suited to run a 4-3... and based on last year’s stats, not a 3-4 either...

While he signed tackles and defense backs, the position given the most attention was linebacker.

On Sunday, Caserio sent incumbent interior linebacker Benardrick McKinney to the Miami Dolphins for outside linebacker/EDGE Shaq Lawson.

Yesterday, Caserio signed former Washington Whatevers outside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, former Green Bay Packer outside linebacker Christian Kirksey, former Miami Dolphins linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill and former Dallas Cowboy linebacker Joe Thomas.

Houston Texans Sign a Pile of Free Agent Linebackers

With recently locked down inside linebacker Zach Cunningham and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus still on the roster, this gives the Texans six potential starting linebackers.

In a system that only calls for three starters, odds are one or more of these guys will line up at defensive end from time to time. But, in looking deeper, it appears some of these guys are depth signings more than potential starters. Not the sort of splash move fans want on day one of free agency, but it is what it is.

Kevin Pierre-Louis enters his eighth season in the league with only fifteen starts under his belt. The career backup has gone from the Seattle Seahawks, to the Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Washington and now Houston. In that time he’s only amassed 56 combined tackles, 36 solo stops, 3 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and 1 interception. Odds are, he’s riding the pine more than prowling the gridiron at this stage of life.

Kamu Grugier-Hill enters his sixth season, having played the first four in Philadelphia before signing with Miami last off-season. In his five seasons, he’s started just sixteen games, ten in the 2018 season and only one last year. In that time, Grugier-Hill has made 126 combined tackles, 97 solo stops, 12 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 1 interception. Definitely not a big threat to Whitney Mercilus’s starting spot.

Joe Thomas is also riding into his eighth season, after four years with the Green Bay Packers and three with the Cowboys. Like the rest, Thomas’s starting resume screams backup. He’s started in fourteen games, seven of which came in 2016 with the Packers. To date, he’s contributed 205 combined tackles, 142 solo stops, 12 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks and 1 fumble recovery very.

Next up we have Shaq Lawson. While his contract is actually larger than that of Benardrick McKinney (a player many assumed Houston would dump due to his cap hit), he's only started in 24 of the possible 64 games of his 5 year NFL career. Lawson has brought down opposing players 140 times, 80 of which done on his own. Many consider him a sack specialist, but his career sack total is only 20.5 (J.J. Watt did that in a single season - twice), and 2019 was his best year for getting after the quarterback when he contributed 6.5 to the Buffalo Bills’ defensive efforts.

Christian Kirksey appears to be the lone clear-cut starter of the bunch. (Although, Lawson should be able to start based on the lack of competition at his position.) Also entering his 8th season in the NFL, Kirksey has started 65 games, including 11 for Green Bay last year. He also participated in two post-season games during his single season with the Packers. Unfortunately, he was cut by the Pack with a failed physical designation. Questions about his injury history haunt Kirksey, but given the train wreck that is the Texans defensive roster rolling into this off-season, if he can stay healthy, he’ll get a chance to show his worth to the world.

Are the Houston Texans Trading Deshaun Watson?

While the flurry of motion from Nick Caserio on the 1st day of the NFL’s legal tampering period certainly put the Texans in the news feed early and often, it’s hard to believe most of these signings would do much for a defense that ranked among the worst in the league in 2020. And, none of it addresses the Texans biggest need: making Deshaun Watson happy.

Are these signings to address the team leadership and culture? Make Deshaun Watson happy? Show the league the Texans can bring in new players? Burn through the newly cleared cap space so Caserio can take the rest of the spring off? Only time will tell.

Which of these signings do you think will do the most to move the dial on defense? has Caserio impressed you yet? If not, you can prove to the world you’d make a better general manager here.