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Houston Texans Free Agency Early Moves: Getting Better or Status Quo?

Is Nick Caserio signing backups or starters?

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NFL: Houston Texans-Head Coach Lovie Smith Introductory Press Conference Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Last year’s free agency period might very well go down as the worst one in Houston Texans history. General manager Nick Caserio signed a record number of players, but fielded what was widely panned as the worst roster in the NFL.

Yesterday marked the first day of the “legal tampering period” (yet another head scratching NFL thing...) where teams were allowed to negotiate deals with free agent players.

While it’s a good sign Nick Caserio didn’t overreach with any big splash moves, the only legit move announced was signing offensive guard A.J. Cann. Having spent time on the Jacksonville Jaguars roster under new Texans offensive line coach George Warhop, Cann has started in 94 games since he was selected in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. PFF gave him a radically underwhelming 2021 grade of 47.7 overall...

The fact that Jacksonville couldn’t protect rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence last season may or may not land at the feet of Warhop and Cann. More on that later.

Aside from this, not so big splash, Houston was relatively quiet on the inbound player front. What they’ve also managed to accomplish, however, is re-sign a raft of players who contributed to last season’s 4-13 outcome.

QB Jeff Driskel

C Jimmy Morrissey

TE Antony Auclair

WR Chris Conley

WR Chris Moore

WR Davion Davis

LS Jon Weeks

LB Tae Davis

LB Christian Kirksey

LB Kevin Pierre-Louis

S Terrence Brooks

Now, seeing this list of names begs the question:

Did Nick Caserio have a plan all along to take last year’s starters and use them as 2023’s backups?

Or, do Caserio and Lovie Smith think they can surge into competitiveness with the same core of players who couldn’t get there last season?

Let’s not forget David Johnson is still a Texan. Justin Reid is not.

Davis Mills is still a Texans, Deshaun Watson soon won’t be.

So far, Brandin Cooks and Laremy Tunsil are, but the off-season has just begun.

Based on all the rumors and “verifiable source” info out there, Caserio has done a solid job of navigating the Deshaun Watson trade market. Allegedly, the New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers have solid offers on the table already.

What Caserio hasn’t done yet is build a solid, competitive roster.

Jeremy Chinn, a 6’3” 220 lb safety has started in 31 games over the last 2 seasons, racked up 224 combined tackles, 143 solo stops, 8 tackles for loss, 10 QB hits and 1 interception. PFF gave Chinn a 71.4 overall grade last season.

Brian Burns, a 6’5” EDGE rusher has started in 35 games since 2019, with 25.5 sacks, 133 combined tackles, 85 solo stops, 55 QB hits and 1 fumble recovery he returned for 56 yards and a touchdown. PFF graded him a 60.8 overall last season, with a 73.1 against the pass.

While both of these players seem closer to David Johnson than Christian McCaffrey, the three 1st round picks in this alleged deal offer hope for the future, if not 2022.

If this team is going to do anything other than win another handful of games in 2022, Caserio is going to need to try harder at landing starter quality talent. Expecting Brandin Cooks to carry this team all by himself is a fool’s errand.

However, free agency is young, there are a lot of players still out there and the Watson trade might still land a name player or two Houston can build around.

Stay tuned!