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BRB Groupthink: Nick Caserio’s Free Agency Plan

Discussing Nick Caserio’s offseason strategy.

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Nick Caserio has added more than a dozen free agents to the Houston Texans. Multiple linebackers, cornerbacks who can play special teams, wide receivers who can return kicks, and depth along the line of scrimmage. The contracts are short and inexpensive. The talent level is low. For this week’s groupthink I asked the masthead the following question:

After three days of free agency, how do you think Nick Caserio has done? Are you a believer in his depth over everything, and his bottom of the roster churning strategy, or do you wish he added actual top talent instead?

These are our responses:

MIKE BULLOCK:

Totally unimpressed. Still.

I like the Andre Roberts signing, and think Tyrod Taylor is a much better backup for Deshaun Watson than all the pocket passers Bill O’Brien trotted out, but otherwise it seems like a lot of cap space eaten up for not much return. And, if Caserio comes out and asks us to “trust the process” I’m giving all my Texans gear to Goodwill and replacing it with Arizona Cardinals stuff.

L4BLITZER:

Unfortunately, it is hard to give an overall grade on Caserio’s performance so soon into the tenure. Granted, the team that “wins” the free agency sweepstakes usually does not “win” the Super Bowl. As for the flurry of moves from the Texans in the past couple of weeks, it would be helpful to know what the exact strategy is. Since the team has not published a strategy document or anything of the sort (and I am not counting the ‘Building the Texans’ propaganda in this one), we can only assess based on the moves the team is making.

With few quality draft picks and a salary cap bloated by horrible contracts, the spate of moves by Caserio seem to point towards 2021 being a lost season, where the team will attempt to rebuild its depth with low-risk/high-reward contracts that can come off the books for next season. Couple that with the fact that the team will have a full complement of draft picks (which should all be high ones, given what the new season will most likely present) and can purge some contracts that they currently cannot (Cobb, Mercilus), the Texans should (operative word here: should) be sitting in a nice position for the 2022 off-season. Depending on what happens with Watson over the rest of this calendar year, the team could either have a head start on a rebuild for this draft, or be armed with that many more assets for rebuilding for 2022.

All that to say, I wasn’t impressed with the flurry of moves, but I didn’t expect the team to be major players either. Caserio seems to be making the most of a bad hand and playing for the future. I have no expectations for 2021 and the Texans are thus far meeting them. The final grade for Caserio and the McEasterbys will be based on how well they set up for 2022 and try to crawl out of their self-inflicted nuclear meltdown.

KENNETH L.:

I wasn’t expecting the Texans to be making any moves this week. I also didn’t expect players WANTING to come to Houston. It’s a mutual desperation that seems to be at play. Kind of like the dates I go on...

I think this year the tactic is to get rid of the big bad contracts, put a bandaid over the team to help transfer the talent and knowledge to get the new defensive system in place, and actually completely start over in 2022. With all of these one year deals, they aren’t solving for tomorrow, but rather retooling the team to begin the process soon. 2021 is the tear down year. 2022 is the rebuilding year. They have to add in veterans to help usher in the new talent we bring in over the next 24 months. Big picture these small moves and contracts are just the bridge into the new era.

BIGFATDRUNK:

Big Matt said it best: we are signing a lot of fringe 53-man roster kinds of guys for $2 million a pop who probably wouldn’t get these kinds of deals anywhere else. We’re basically Godfathering roster spots by making guys offers they can’t refuse. Up to $12.5MM for Tyrod Taylor? Cmon, y’all, that’s pretty crazy.

Plus, our two huge offensive line acquisitions in the off-season are both coming off missing the 2020 season AND are both on the wrong side of 30.

The only player who moves the needle even a little is Andre Roberts, who is 33 this year.

If the goal was to marginally improve special teams play and sign bodies so we have a full roster for 2021? Mission accomplished. If the goal was to improve? Welp, this roster, today, looks like a legit 0-16 roster once Deshaun Watson is traded/cut.

DIEHARD CHRIS:

For the most part I think these are run-of-the-mill “competent NFL GM” moves. I do like the McKinney for Lawson swap.

I think it’s an interesting issue with Caserio that, in judging his work in preparation for 2021, there’s not much he can do to show how good he could be, but there is plenty he could do to show how bad he could be. It’s just the classic case of inheriting a disaster. I have not seen anything so far that shows that he’s really good or really bad. I hate the David Johnson contract re-work and think that is an actively bad move. Regardless of who ordered that move, it’s a bad one. If it was Caserio’s call, it’s bad. If it was from Easterby’s influence and Caserio went through with it - it’s bad. But the other “roster churn” moves I really just think are mainly the result of the situation than anything else. Uncertainty with the start QB. A roster that was just ripped to shreds by Bill and Jack. A reduced salary cap, and so on.

I just feel like it’s hard to judge Caserio beyond “okay, he’s not terrible”, which I think it’s clear he is not. The bar is extremely low in Houston right now, but I can look past that and I think he’s shown that he’s capable of “competent NFL GM” moves right now. I just can’t stretch that, based on what’s happened so far, into anything that shows he’s really good or really bad. Quantity of moves does not equal quality and the short-term deals match the rebuild mode the Texans publicly state they are not in.

So, for the ultimately boring answer - it’s an incomplete.

JOE CRITZ:

Underwhelming is a good word for it. I like Shaq Lawson, Christian Kirksey, and Tyrod Taylor, but all will not be here beyond 2021, and if they are, may be past their peak by then.

If we’re going to fill out the roster, it should be with players that will contribute when we have a chance to be good. We shouldn’t be spending this amount of money on players that will ultimately do little to help this team win next year, and do even less to help this team win beyond.