According to Spotrac, the Houston Texans are currently sitting at an estimated $25,785,262 in cap space for the 2022 season. If you prefer Over The Cap, the number rises to $28,396,257. General manager Nick Caserio has done his best to bring the subpar 2021 roster back together, but with Deshaun Watson finally gone, it’s time to get serious about building a solid team.
Laremy Tunsil and Brandin Cooks are the only players in Houston making more than $5 million this season as far as cap hits are concerned. Both players are essential to the development of second year signal-caller Davis Mills or any rookie Caserio might decide to select in next month’s NFL Draft. At this point, Tunsil and Cooks, along with defensive tackle Maliek Collins, are the only players who should be a lock to start. That leaves an awful lot of roster holes.
The current remaining free agent market isn’t exactly a treasure trove of future Hall of Famers thriving in their prime. However, there are multiple guys out there who could make a big impact on a team like the Texans. Especially if they’re placed in a position to win their one-on-ones every week, a la what Caserio’s former boss, Bill Belichick, excels at nearly every Sunday. If Caserio retained that knowledge and can pass it along to Lovie Smith and Pep Hamilton, these players could thrive in H-Town.
The Texans Should Build From The Trenches
Mills, Malik Willis, or [insert quarterback here] won’t be able to do much of anything if the Texans don’t continue to bolster the offensive line. Right now, aside from Tunsil, every spot should be up for grabs.
The Texans Should Sign Center J.C. Tretter.
This team is no stranger to signing former Cleveland Browns. Rolling in at 6’4” and 307 lbs., the former fourth round pick of the Green Bay Packers carried an 83.7 PFF pass blocking grade last season, with a 74.8 against the run - both of which are improvements over Houston’s center play last season.
Tretter started 16 of Cleveland’s 17 games last season as part of the highest rated offensive line coming into last September. Setting him as the keystone of a revamped offensive line, with Tunsil holding down the left tackle spot, would immediately upgrade the entire unit.
The Texans Should Sign Defensive Lineman Calais Campbell.
Just like the offensive line, the defensive line needs help as well. Maliek Collins, Jonathan Greenard, and incoming free agent signee Ogbonnia Okoronkwo are better positioned for success than their counterparts, but the group is a shadow of the J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Vince Wilfork line of days past. Note that Clowney is still a free agent as well, but he's more likely to sack Jack Easterby at a random Whataburger than re-sign with the Texans.
Campbell is a versatile, Swiss Army knife sort of lineman who could flourish in head coach/defensive coordinator Lovie Smith’s system. While he’s getting long in the tooth, the wily vet still has gas in the tank and could help younger players like Greenard, Roy Lopez, and Ross Blacklock further develop their skills.
Campbell played 15 games for the Baltimore Ravens last season, contributing 49 combined tackles, five tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hits, and one fumble recovery. While no longer in his prime, Campbell is still an upgrade at a position of need for the Texans.
The Texans Should Sign Defensive Lineman Linval Joseph.
Houston’s defense gave away rushing yards like Mattress Mack handing out furniture deals last year. Joseph was one of the best run stoppers in recent memory and has started 12+ games every season after his rookie outing. Last year the Los Angeles Chargers employed Joseph in passing situations, where he scored a 83.0 grade from PFF. Like Campbell, Joseph would also bring a solid veteran presence that younger players could learn from as the season progresses.
The Texans Should Sign Cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
The fact this hasn’t happened yet, with Nick Caserio’s knowledge and relationship with Gilmore, speaks to x-factor issues that aren’t discernible from simply looking at stats and game film. Both the Cincinnati Bengals and Las Vegas Raiders have courted Gilmore, but nothing has come of it yet.
Houston hasn’t had a great cornerback in far too long. Gilmore isn’t a great cornerback at this point of his career, but he’s a better option than what Houston currently has on the roster.
The Texans Should Sign Running Back Melvin Gordon.
Not too long ago, under former head
coach team killer Bill O’Brien, there was a lot of rumor mill action about Gordon coming to Houston, but that seems to have died off of late. Right now, the Texans could use a yard-eating tailback who goes out on first downs and makes positive plays via a simple handoff. Gordon provides that. He might not work out as well in the passing game, but Houston has had several of the best pass catching backs in the league over the last several seasons and managed to do squat with them. Time for Pep Hamilton to install a grown-up running game.
To do that, Hamilton needs an RB1 who can pin his ears back and move the rock downfield more often than not. With an 83.4 PFF rushing grade, a 4.5 yards per carry average, and a 3.12 yards after contact average, Gordon provides just that.
Chances are the Texans sign exactly zero of these players, but there’s no obvious reason not to offer one or more of them a one or two-year contract and see what happens. That’s the major upside to having such a bad roster. Going after top-25 level free agents should almost always work out.