Yesterday’s “Big News” out of NRG Park came by way of the Houston Texans officially re-signing another pair of veteran players from last year’s 4-13 squad.
Texans make it official, announcing their deals for Antony Auclair and Neville Hewitt— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 30, 2022
Last offseason, incoming general manager Nick Caserio signed a record number of veteran free agents, presumably to fill the roster out entirely and see if any of those players worked out well enough to keep around for the long haul. Unfortunately most of them did not, but that hasn’t stopped Caserio from bringing a raft of them back again for another go-round.
4-13? Bottom ranked offense and defense? Why not get the band back together for a sequel?
While Caserio has so far not done anything great in free agency, he did arguably have a very solid draft last year, and did so with very limited resources.
Where he missed the mark in 2021 was the undrafted free agent pool. In any normal offseason, a team might add upwards of 20+ undrafted free agents (UDFAs). Caserio took a different angle last year, signing 20+ veteran linebackers and only four undrafted free agents.
The NFL does have a minimum salary cap spending number each season, and it’s sitting at $180 million this year. So maybe Caserio wanted to make sure he gave away enough money to hit that number in 2022? Not likely, as the team’s cap was a total mess last year.
At the recent NFL Owners Meeting, Houston head coach Lovie Smith commented about his excitement for the upcoming NFL Draft. He’s also spent considerable time at NCAA Pro Days, eyeballing prospective draft picks such as Sauce Gardner and others.
Does this mean Smith gets it? That building a roster for the future requires bringing in a raft of rookies instead of aging, middle of the road, or worse veterans?
The Texans currently hold ten picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Barring any trades that might bring in more picks (and trading back from the #3 overall spot could certainly happen), that’s ten young guys to potentially build around. If the Texans can then grab up 15-25 more rookies via the UDFA pool, Houston could get a solid look at plenty of young, unproven players who don’t bring the baggage and lack of success you see from guys like A.J. Cann and Blake Cashman. Those rookies don’t require the salary commitment, either.
Quite frankly, the undrafted process is a little bit more position specific just relative to what your needs are because a lot of those players you’re looking to add for depth or whatever the case may be, and if you have X amount of players at one position, if you add a player at that position, are you adding a player that’s necessarily better than what you have?
Is Nick saying there wasn’t a single UDFA running back last year who was a better fit than David Johnson? Really? Washington’s Jarret Patterson would beg to disagree.
Since most of Houston’s 2021 roster was bad, it’s hard to imagine there weren’t more than four better undrafted rookies available last offseason. While the UDFA pool isn’t always swimming with future Pro Bowlers (a lot of these guys go undrafted for a reason, right?), there are always at least several who make competent NFL starters.
They can’t all be superstars, but the NFL does have a rich history of UDFA success: Wes Welker, Drew Pearson, Chris Harris, Nate Newton, Adam Vinatieri, Donnie Shell, James Harrison, Rod Smith, Jeff Saturday, Michael Bennett, Antonio Gates, Priest Holmes, John Randle, Warren Moon, Kurt Warner, Arian Foster, and many, many more went undrafted.
With two New England Patriots on that list who played while Caserio worked for that organization, he certainly has to grasp the value of this talent pool. Maybe Caserio needs a Fathead of Arian Foster on both sides of his office door as a constant reminder of what diamonds are found in the UDFA rough.
Either way, hopefully the 2022 roster is bolstered with quality draft picks, quality UDFAs, and a lot of the below average veterans who contributed to last season’s 4-13 record become camp cuts. Like Coach Lovie said, you build for the future with young players.