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The Value of Things: Linebacker Free Agent Options for the Texans

Who could be coming to Houston?

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

It’s a new day in Houston and that is true on any number of fronts. DeMeco Ryans has fans excited about Houston Texans football for the first time in years. The team has extra draft capital in the next two drafts from the Deshaun Watson trade. Arguably the best news is that they have nearly $40 million under the cap before free agency.

$40 million dollars never means you literally have that much to spend. Teams must allocate some of that available cap space for the upcoming draft and there are other rules you have to follow. Over The Cap is a terrific site that will help every casual fan understand the mechanisms behind the cap. Suffice it to say, the $37 million it lists is probably closer to $25 to $30 million in real spending money. At the same time, we have previously discussed cuts the team could make on offense and defense that could nearly double the amount they have to spend on free agents.

A large part of the calculus in free agency is looking at what is available in free agency in comparison with what you have in house. Nick Caserio signed a bunch of middling veterans at linebacker and now has Christian Harris who potentially could become a three down linebacker. Yet, it is highly possible that none of the veterans could be back with the team this year.

We are looking at the top fifty free agent linebackers according to and We will take a look at their PFF scores and basic statistics and try to find matches for the Texans. We will also include their projected contracts according to PFF.

The Consensus Top 50

Lavonte David— Tampa Bay Buccaneers ( #28, PFF #6)

Contract: 2 years, $22 million

The good news is that David does everything well. He led the Bucs with 124 total tackles and added ten tackles for a loss with three sacks. He adds an elite pass coverage grade at 88.0 PFF. The Texans haven’t had a linebacker that was good in coverage since Brian Cushing. The bad news is that he is 32 years old. So, he would be a short-term option. Yet, if you wanted a guy that Harris could learn from then he wouldn’t be a bad option.

David Long— Tennessee Titans ( #25, PFF #17)

Contract: 4 years, $55 million

This is one of those cases where you could make your defense stronger and one of your divisional rivals weaker. Long has had issues staying healthy, but he added two interceptions last year and showed he can do everything you want a linebacker to do. In particular, he is strong against the run and as a pass rusher, so he could be a three down linebacker.

Tremaine Edwards— Buffalo Bills ( #36, PFF #25)

Contract: 3 years, $45.75 million

We’ve covered Edwards before. He might be the best coverage linebacker in the game (90.0 PFF) and having someone that strong at coverage allows a defensive coordinator some flexibility. He added one sack and one interception, but a lot of that is how you end up using a guy. His lowest grade is against the run (60.1 PFF), so there are areas for concern, but maybe DeMeco can unlock something.

Others Receiving Votes

T.J. Edwards— Philadelphia Eagles ( NR, PFF #27)

Contract: 3 years, $40.5 million

Edwards is one of the reasons why the Eagles defense has been so strong. He rates as 77.1 PFF or better in all three phases of the defense. The problem is that you might be overpaying a guy because of the team he’s on, but you’ll have to overpay anyone to come to Houston.

Leighton Vander Esch— Dallas Cowboys ( NR, PFF #41)

Contract: 3 years, $20.25 million

When Vander Esch is healthy he is pretty good and he is stronger in coverage than anything else. This is when we get to the portion of the shopping list when you aren’t getting three down guys. You are getting a guy that might only play in passing situations, but if you have the other pieces that’s a nice thing to have.

Bobby Okereke— Indianapolis Colts ( NR, PFF #49)

Contract: 3 years, $25.5 million

He is another example of making yourself better while making a divisional rival worse. He graded 48.5 PFF as a pass rusher. That’s terrible. However, he rated well against the run (79.3 PFF) and that is the biggest need the Texans have. He conceivably could be a three down linebacker if you use him to cover backs or tight ends rather than rushing the passer. He led the Colts with 151 tackles, so he could be a nice tandem piece with Christian Harris.

The Final Verdict

If the Texans do clear an additional $30 million in cap space they could end up adding two of these guys. Vander Esch or Okereke could be nice secondary linebackers with one of those top three guys being the primary addition. You would be sinking $20 million into your linebacking core, but doing that might turn your running defense around in one offseason.