The Houston Texans enter the offseason with 29 unrestricted free agents on their team. That’s tied for second most in the league with the San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Indianapolis Colts. It also accounts for just over half of the current roster. The Texans are currently projected to have $23 million cap space heading into the 2022 season, according to Spotrac, though that number will surely change based upon the likely Deshaun Watson trade and other possible moves. Regardless, the Texans are bound to bring in new faces; when half of the roster is free to test the open market, you can expect a significant amount of change heading into next season.
Here are my tiers for each of the unrestricted free agents of the Houston Texans:
Already Coming Back:
Running back Rex Burkhead
Burkhead was a one-hit wonder this past season and earned a contract for 2022. His 149 yard performance against the Chargers helped him ink a one-year contract that’ll keep him in Houston after 2021. Burkhead showed he isn’t an every down back...he’s never been one. However, he’s worked his way through a muddy backfield and will be helpful to whoever we draft.
Linebacker Christian Kirksey, Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, Cornerback Desmond King, Center Jimmy Morrissey, Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins
This tier is defensive oriented, with multiple hidden gems here. Morrissey was a surprise among surprises on the offensive line; if he continues to develop, he could win over the full-time starting center job. Grugier-Hill’s season was fantastic; he was my personal favorite from the 2021 season. He stepped up when the Texans cut Zach Cunningham, as did Kirksey. Kirksey or King could become the highest-paid player on Houston’s defense if re-signed.
Developmental Depth Pieces Worth A Second Look:
Running back Royce Freeman, Defensive Tackle Vincent Taylor, Tight End Antony Auclair, Safety A.J. Moore, Linebacker Neville Hewitt
Running back will be a primary focus this offseason again. Freeman looked promising at times but lacked distinct skills that would warrant the Texans committing to him long-term. Taylor played well in Houston’s first win over Jacksonville, but was shelved on Injured Reserve afterwards. Moore was a guy everyone likes and a better defensive back than expected. Hewitt made some strong special teams plays and could be a good backup.
Nice To Have, But Replaceable:
Tight End Jordan Akins, Offensive Tackle Geron Christian Jr., Defensive End DeMarcus Walker, EDGE Jacob Martin
Martin has been the only positive from the Jadeveon Clowney trade, which feels like a distant memory at this point. But he was supplanted by second-year defensive end Jonathan Greenard as the premier pass rusher down the stretch. Tight end Akins was also surpassed by rookie Brevin Jordan, whose play-making ability elevated him above the veteran. Walker was a solid rotational defensive end who fit well in Lovie Smith’s system. Christian Jr. was a stand in tackle throughout the season and pushed Tytus Howard inside to guard.
Wildly Replaceable Veterans:
Center Justin Britt, Long Snapper Jon Weeks, Wide Receiver Danny Amendola, Wide Receiver Chris Moore, Defensive Tackle Jaleel Johnson, Safety Terrence Brooks
Britt was one of the more disappointing signings of the past offseason. The Texans were looking to get bang for their buck and received a pawn shop-esque performance from the veteran center. Weeks had another solid season, but the 35-year old and longest active Texan will most likely be done this offseason. The duo of Amendola and Moore never materialized; neither were able to secure a consistent slot role in a very wide open room. Johnson didn’t have the season he did last year with the Vikings, but he put up a good enough performance to warrant being re-signed depending on other players’ availability.
So Long, Farewell:
Safety Justin Reid, Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Running back David Johnson, Wide Receiver Chris Conley
Reid has been a pleasure to watch grow and develop, but it’s obvious his time in Houston is over. Taylor should have been more consistent and was hampered by an early injury (again). Johnson needs to put this chapter in his book behind him and find another fresh start with another team. Conley’s inability to secure the WR2 position made the entire offense collapse at times.
No-Names With No Worries:
Linebacker Tae Davis, Cornerback Grayland Arnold, Linebacker Eric Wilson, Linebacker Hardy Nickerson Jr.
Several of these players saw playing time near the end of the season, and some may be back on the roster in limited roles next year, but depending on what the new coaching staff is able to cobble together, this may be a list of players who aren’t long for Houston.