Nick Caserio has utilized a strategy even more confounding than last year’s to improve the team through free agency. Last season he restructured contracts to create salary cap space so he could sign seven terrible linebackers, one good linebacker, two bad cornerbacks, three bad wide receivers, and so on, and so fourth. The players he signed last year were the guards guarding the castle, the merchants repairing armor, the drunken man who gives you a side quest where you find his various pieces of clothing scattered throughout the land. This offseaosn he has doubled down. He’s resigned the same players he signed last year to build a 4-13 football team, and has traded Deshaun Watson.
Through three weeks of NFL free agency, after adding AJ Cann, resigning Maliek Collins, trading Deshaun Watson, and trading for Blake Cashman, what has been the best move the Houston Texans have made so far?
This was the question I asked the masthead. These are their responses:
Let’s not overthink this one here: The best move was resolving the Watson situation, and its final resolution with the trade to Cleveland being six picks (and a throwaway pick from Detroit cause the Browns didn’t wait and “acted now”). Since the Texans hired Caserio, the Watson standoff overshadowed everything. Now it is done.
I suppose that the McEasterby’s feel like they are living right, as they not only got rid of Watson, but they can argue that the Texans came out the better, especially given all of Watson’s legal issues. If nothing else, the Watson trade took a lot of the heat off the team leadership and Watson is seen more as a villain than they are. Who would have thought that back in Jan 2021? That does not excuse the team management’s other failings, but they managed to rid themselves of a major liability, and picked up some rather nice draft assets in the process.
It was always going to be about the draft, especially with all the dead money this team is carrying for 2022. Otherwise, the team’s free agency moves are almost the exact same as last year. All that has changed is the date on the e-pay stubs.
So it is a combination of “running it back” with many of the same cast and crew that brought you a 4-13 “masterpiece” and the long-forgotten excitement of high, early draft picks. Not banking on an instant turnaround here, or even much of an improved record, but at least fans have a reason for some optimistic hope.
Optimism…hope…these are not words associated with the Texans for some time. Perhaps that is the biggest gain from the trade. It may not last long, but it is something.
Signing Maliek Collins to a two-year extension. The contract was friendly, and much more cost effective than the signings lesser players like Sebastian Joseph-Day received. Collins is still only 26 years old, is one of the better interior pass rushers in the NFL, and has been the exact thing the team has needed for several years now, back when Houston had J.J. Watt and actual pass rushers. His pass rush production should jump if he can remove the penalties, and although he isn’t, and will never be a good run defender, Houston already has that in Roy Lopez.
The Houston Texans need good football players. Resigning Collins is one of the rare times where Nick Caserio understood this idea.
like the Collins signing, and I’ve been a big fan of Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. Otherwise, it seems that Caserio’s plan is to get the band back together.
Ya see, it’s one thing if the band includes people like Matt “Guitar” Murphy and Donald “Duck” Dunn and Steve “The Colonel” Cropper and Tom “Bones” Malone. Those guys were actually, you know, elite.
Caserio’s band includes Pharoah Brown and Andy Janovich and 57 linebackers. Again. For some unknown reason.
I’m not hating on Caserio, but his infatuation with signing a bunch of has-beens and never wuzzes is astounding. Instead of signing 27 and 28 year olds, why not go for players who might theoretically peak in a couple of years? Go read Rivers McCown for some suggestions.
There’s a lot of pressure on Caserio to hit on draft picks because he’s not making the team better through FA. I don’t necessarily disagree with this strategy, but I also have yet to see a coherent plan to make the Texans better.
They didn’t re-sign David Johnson. Yet.
Most of the signings I liked were the depth pieces: Dare Ogunbowale, Scott Quessenberry, etc. The most underrated signing, though? Ogbo Okoronkwo. As much as my love for the Texans has grown since I started writing for BRB, I have also been a Rams fan for many years. Okoronkwo was one of our best-kept secrets, and it’s a bittersweet feeling knowing he got away. Scary to think he might not have reached his ceiling yet, but I know Lovie Smith is going to take full advantage of that.
As for signings I would like to see happen, Marlon Mack is a name that stands out above the rest. Mack spent several seasons with the Colts and has faced the Texans many times. Not only is he a familiar face to the team already, but many forget that he had a 1,000-yard season just 3 years ago. Of course there has been an Achilles tear and a dramatic drop-off in production since then, but we all know the running back market has been on the decline. I’ll end this with two words: cheap potential.
The best move has not been over extending ourselves in free agency. There’s no purpose. We finally have our first round picks. Everyone else in our division is stocking up. we have a casually difficult schedule this year. Tank. Tank, hard. Do not spend unnecessary dollars for a cast the no one will be paying to see at the box office. The Texans shouldn’t be bad this year, they should be woefully inept to the point of disinterest. It should be colder in NRG than a San Francisco summer. The Texans are rebuilding, so they should wait until everyone’s asking price drops post-draft and snag 5-7 veterans looking to land on a roster.
They also shouldn’t make too many acquisitions because of the quantity of rookies they intend to bring in. They have ten draft picks and are likely to trade back with either the 13th or the 37th. That means they could have at 11 or more picks depending on what occurs later in the draft. That’s an entire offensive or defensive unit they could bring in this class. Including undrafted free agents, they should expect over 15% of this starting roster to be rookies. They don’t need to bring in expensive free agents. They need to continue to stock up and invest in rookies.
Clearly the best move has been trading Watson and the haul that Nick got for him. Could he have gotten more? I suppose he could have, but given the limitations and mitigating factors he got what he could and he did it in time for him to explore options and evaluate prospects for the draft. From here, he could trade out of number three or thirteen and acquire more picks. Doing it in March gives him time to explore all of these options. I think everyone questions the idea of running it back, but really he is just marking time. I’d rather him roll the dice on some different guys. We know what these guys can do, so it isn’t all that exciting to see a defense with a limiting ceiling again.
Of course, we don’t know what the draft might hold. If he fills out the defensive line with a day one selection or if he adds to the secondary with a safety or corner then it might alter the outlook some. It comes back to opportunity costs again. We can imagine them adding on the defensive line, secondary, offensive line, or at receiver and running back. Realistically they can’t do all of those things with early draft picks. Something has to be punted to 2023. Talent wise, it finally seems they have hit bottom and are slowly making the ascension back to respectability. At least that is what we hope happens.