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2021 NFL Free Agency: Grades For Houston’s Free Agency Moves

The experts weigh in on the Texans’ decisions.

Cleveland Browns v Tennessee Titans Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

NFL free agency has exploded, detonated, however you want to call it, and now it’s starting to fizzle. The first week saw enormous contracts, zany decisions, and unexpected cuts. After that initial burst, teams typically settle down, analyze their roster, and readjust their plan as they get ready for the 2021 NFL Draft.

The professional football writing people have been grading the biggest moves of the NFL offseason all week. This is what they had to say about your Houston Texans.

Desmond King II, CB, Houston Texans

The deal: One year, $3.5 million

Top 100 ranking: 18

Grade: A-

This is a really strong one-year rental for the Texans. King was an excellent slot cornerback during his early years with the Chargers, but his career got upended a bit when the Chargers signed veteran Chris Harris Jr. Ultimately, they traded him to the Titans last season rather than initiate long-term contract discussions.

As it turned out, King was one of many players who entered the market knowing that a one-year deal would be the best-case scenario, one that would allow him to reenter the market in 2022 when he would be 27. In the meantime, the Texans got good value here for at least one season. — Seifert

Tyrod Taylor, QB, Houston Texans

The deal: One year, up to $12.5 million

Top 100 ranking: 95

Grade: C+

Fast-forward to Week 3. The Texans have traded Deshaun Watson to Miami and selected Justin Fields with the No. 3 overall pick in April’s draft. They’ve spent the summer swearing they want Fields to sit and learn while Taylor starts, and Taylor has started the first two games. Then, some bizarre physical issue knocks Taylor out of the game, Fields goes in, plays well, takes the job and runs with it. Seen this movie before?

Taylor sure has, last year in Los Angeles and three years ago in Cleveland. But hey, as of now it looks like he has a real shot to start for the Texans, who may or may not trade Watson, who may or may not show up if they don’t. As the Chargers kept telling us last year, he has plenty of NFL starting experience, including some in the playoffs.

Houston had been pounding the pavement for quarterback fallback options, checking in on Alex Smith, among others, in recent days (per sources), because the organization is painfully aware of the uncertainty around the Watson situation. This deal is most likely not the full $12.5 million but rather in line with the Cam Newton and Jameis Winston deals in which that’s the value if he hits his incentives.

A ton of stuff can happen between now and Week 1, so there’s really no way to know what Taylor’s opportunity will be there. But he does give the Texans a much-needed answer to the question, “Who plays quarterback if they trade Watson?” — Graziano

Dolphins trade Shaq Lawson to Texans for Benardrick McKinney

Miami Dolphins get: LB Benardrick McKinney and a 2021 seventh-round pick

Houston Texans get: LB Shaq Lawson and a 2021 sixth-round pick

Dolphins grade: B-

Texans grade: B

On the surface, this deal might look like a swap of mostly interchangeable front-seven players. It’s not. Instead, the deal is best viewed as an exchange of players neither team wanted.

McKinney appears to be a replacement for Kyle Van Noy, a utility-role player whom the Dolphins released one year after giving him a free-agent contract. Lawson, meanwhile, will give the Texans a situational pass-rusher after a 2020 season in which their defense compiled the NFL’s fourth-worst Total QBR (67.6).

The Texans deserve credit after finding a landing spot for a player who missed 12 games last season and was due to earn $7.75 million with a salary cap number of $7.94 million. Lawson will be playing for his third team in three seasons and is due to make $17 million over the next two seasons.

We’re cutting the Dolphins a bit less slack here because it has been only 12 months since they signed Lawson to a big deal. They’re doing a lot of work to fill a position that isn’t generally considered one of the most important on a defense. — Seifert

The King signing, like the Lindsay signing, is a great example of why Nick Caserio’s free agency plan was intelligent. The execution was off. With the Texans in limbo at quarterback, the current state of the roster, and the state of the salary cap, signing players to short-term contracts was the right idea. The problem is that Caserio signed nobodies and has-beens. Non-playable characters. You can sign good players on short-term and cheap contracts. King and Lindsay are examples of this. Terrance Mitchell is not.

The Tyrod Taylor signing makes sense. It’s just boring. Taylor would be a perfect backup for Deshaun Watson since he’s mobile and could run the same offense as Watson. As a starter, the Texans would not only be bad with Taylor under center; they would also be extremely boring. Power running. Game managing. The type of thing that works behind a great defense. The problem is the Texans have a terrible defense. Taylor’s best quality is that he doesn’t throw interceptions. Wooooooo!

Trades can be symbiotic, and that’s what the McKinney-Lawson swap was. One team doesn’t have to win while the other suffers. Houston added a front four pass rusher that immediately becomes the best pass rusher on their team, a sad thought, and Miami scooped up the run-stopping linebacker they have been craving, the type of player they didn’t get by signing Kyle Van Noy. This was a good trade for both teams. We will love you forever, Benardrick.

The rest of Houston’s signings weren’t impactful enough to make it to the pay wall. For now, this is all you and I, which means we, get. Because we are all sickos, and we are all in this together.