Once the coaching staff is cemented in place, the next frontier will be free agency. According to multiple sources, the Houston Texans have $37 million under the cap they could theoretically spend on free agents. Naturally, that number is fluid for any number of reasons.
Teams have to leave a certain amount aside for the draft. So, that $37 million becomes closer to $30 million when all is said and done. However, there are cap capsulitis every year. Teams can sometimes cut as much as $20 to $30 million from their cap by either cutting veterans or restructuring their contracts. Before we start looking at free agency we probably should look at those contracts to determine who should be back and who should be cut.
Multiple sites provide fans with contract information. Over the Cap is a popular site that helps fans breakdown contracts and understand the various implications of signing or cutting a player. Spotrac is another source that can provide the same information. We will look at the players on defense currently under contract that could be cut or restructured to open up some cap room for the Texans.
The Easy Cuts
When we identify the easy cuts we are looking at guys that will be on the list for two different reasons. First, they could be too expensive for what they offer the team. Secondly, they may be easy to improve on. Occasionally you might get both at the same time. Let’s see how much we can save.
Mario Addison— Defensive End
Addison will account for $4.42 million on the 2023 cap if he makes the team and cutting him could save $3.60 million immediately. Addison had an overall 57.8 PFF grade. That means he wasn’t quite as good as you would expect a rotational player to be. We can do better than this either through the draft or free agency.
Christian Kirksey— Linebacker
Kirksey will count $6.25 against the cap if he is on the roster. He could save you up to $5.25 million. Kirksey is a perfectly nice guy and a decent guy to have around on a bad team, but his 56.1 PFF grade is indicative of a defense that just wasn’t good enough. That five million and change could go elsewhere to upgrade the defense.
Eric Murray— Corner/Safety
Murray will account for $5.36 million on the cap and could save you four million if you cut him. His 65.1 grade is a decent grade for a depth piece, but seeing him on the roster is probably causing fans PTSD from the O’Brien era where a rotational guy was given starter’s money. When the concept of Value of Things is given an image and a name it is Eric Murray.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin— Linebacker
He hardly played last season and yet has a cap hold of $4.25 million. Cutting him clears out $3.50 million from the cap. This is just low hanging fruit (41.7 PFF) that will make too much sense when the league year begins. The Jake Hansens of the world are proof you can do better than this with undrafted free agents.
Blake Cashman— Linebacker
Cashman actually got some decent run and he will count only $1.60 against the cap. You can cut him without giving up any dead money. His 54.0 PFF grade isn’t absolutely terrible and his cap figure isn’t ridiculous. It’s just time to start upgrading the unit through free agency and the draft.
Demone Harris— Defensive Line
I don’t know why I mention this, but cutting him gets you $1.09 million and I suppose every little bit helps. He had a 49.5 PFF grade last season in minimal time, so this is just one of those moves where we thank you for your contributions and send you on your way.
Jonathan Owens— Safety
Owens will only save $900,000 on the cap, so if he is back it wouldn’t drive me nuts. After all, he’s a good dude. Everyone loves his story and the guy works his tail off to get about as much out of his body as he can. That ended up scoring him a 48.3 PFF score last year. We have to do better at safety next year
Total Savings: $19.97 million
The Harder Cuts
There are some players making considerable money, but their performance last season will make it harder to give them the axe. So, we seriously doubt Caserio will make the move to cut these guys, but we will list them anyway just in case something happens.
Maliek Collins— Defensive Tackle
Collins could save the Texans $8.50 million if he were cut, but he was also one of the best players on the defensive line last season and is potentially the only legit starter returning. Cutting him would leave you with just Roy Lopez, Kurt Hinish, and Thomas Booker. Those were the guys that gave us the worst run defense since the NFL merger.
Jerry Hughes— Defensive End
I could go either way on Hughes. As a TCU alum I love any former Horned Frog. His nine sacks led the team this past year, but he will also be 35 next year. Cutting him would save you five million dollars, so I suppose if you think you have a younger guy that can do the job then that $5 million could come in handy.
Desmond King— Cornerback
King also doubles a punt returner, so cutting him would open up two slots on your roster. He is actually a pretty damn good slot corner (73.2 PFF grade) and those guys aren’t necessarily that easy to find. Cutting him would net you $3.50 million, but that money is probably better spent keeping him around.
Steven Nelson— Cornerback
Nelson might actually have been the best defensive free agent last season. He held down the second corner spot even while Derek Stingley was going down. His 66.7 PFF grade may not absolutely be starter quality, but he is close and a good depth piece at $5.63 million. He’d save you $4.75 million if you cut him.
The Final Verdict
I’m inclined to keep all four of the tough cuts because you need veteran depth on this defense, but I could be convinced to cut Hughes in the right circumstances. Having an additional $25 million to spend before you make a single offensive cut is appetizing. That effectively doubles your real spending cash. It makes any possible spending spree that much more interesting.