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How The Texans Can Replace Justin Reid

Sweeping away the last vestiges of a winning team.

Los Angeles Chargers v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Anyone who stopped watching the Houston Texans after their historic collapse in the 2019 NFL Playoffs to the Kansas City Chiefs would be hard pressed to recognize anyone on the current roster. Of the few players left from that “era”, Justin Reid is one of the most memorable. Drafted in 2018, Reid immediately contributed to the team, compiling 70 solo tackles, 3 interceptions, and a 101 yard pic- six as a rookie.

Since then, Reid’s promising career has been mired in the Texans’ punchbowl, swirling the drain as the front office has flushed just about everything good about the 2019 team down the tubes. While it’s no forgone conclusion, the prevailing thought is Reid’s days in Houston are over now that he’s a free agent.

Justin Reid:

I don’t want to leave the Houston Texans, I love Houston, I love the fans here, the community. But the NFL is a business and those conversations haven’t started yet. My agent and the Houston Texans are going to be talking about it, so if we’re able to come to an agreement where all parties are happy then it’ll happen and if not then unfortunately I’ll move on. But, one thing is for certain, I’ll always keep a home here in Houston because Houston is home to me now.

Sportstalk 790:

Veteran safety Justin Reid is expected to leave the Texans with a strong market awaiting the pending unrestricted free agent, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly.

A lot of what led to this climate of impending change seems to have been driven by (A) David Culley and Reid not seeing eye to eye and (B) Reid not loving the idea of Tankathon 2021. With Lovie Smith calling the shots now, does that mean Reid will stay?

Likely not. Why is that? Well, a young safety like Reid has the ability to cash in pretty well right now.

Sportstalk 790:

The highest paid safeties in terms of average per year are the Denver Broncos’ Justin Simmons ($15.25 million), the Arizona Cardinals’ Budda Baker ($14.75 million), the Chicago Bears’ Eddie Jackson ($14.6 million), the Tennessee Titans’ Kevin Byard ($14.1 million), the Washington Football Team’s Landon Collins ($14 million), the Kansas City Chiefs’ Tyrann Mathieu ($14 million), the New England Patriots’ Devin McCourty ($11.5 million) and the Cleveland Browns’ John Johnson ($11.25 million). To join that elite category in terms of pay, Reid knows he can only control what he can control: his performance.

All that to say, it’s not unreal to expect Reid to command north of the $10 million annual mark, which is a lot more than Houston should dedicate to a safety right now with so many holes throughout the roster. It doesn’t make sense for Reid to squander the prime of his career in a perpetual rebuild, and it doesn’t make sense for Houston to eat up a large chunk of their very limited cap space for a safety. Odds are Reid’s time in battle red is over.

#SAD.

Sorry, Joe Danna. Your group is about to diminish in quality.

Assuming Reid departs as expected in free agency, what can the Texans do to replace him? There are three options.

Houston Replaces Justin Reid in the 2022 NFL Draft.

The first, most obvious, choice to do this is Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. Labeled as the one ‘surefire’ pick at this position in the upcoming NFL Draft, Hamilton is widely viewed as a top ten pick. Houston currently holds the third slot on draft day. While using that pick on Hamilton might not be wise, Texans general manager Nick Caserio could trade back a bit, land a pick in the 5-10 range, and possibly nab Hamilton there. A player with just as much or more potential as Reid had coming out of Stanford, Hamilton would provide several years of play on a rookie contract, complete with Pro Bowl potential.

Or the Texans could trade back into the 15-20 range and take Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker. A bruiser of a defensive back, Brisker carried a PFF grade of 89.5 in his final season with the Nittany Lions.

A trade a bit further back could net Alabama safety Jordan Battle, who has done nothing but improve throughout his collegiate career. Houston could hope to land Battle in the mid-20s range.

However, Safety shouldn’t be quite as high on Houston’s “To Do” list for player acquisitions as offensive and defensive linemen, so there’s a good chance Caserio won’t spend a high draft pick to replace.

Houston Replaces Justin Reid in Free Agency.

Unlike drafting a rookie and allocating the cap space in a manner only rookie contracts can do, Caserio might grab a replacement in free agency. Spotrac currently has the Texans sitting at $19.85 million in cap space, but that number can easily change and includes the $35.1 million in dead cap expenses due to ridiculously bad cap management over the last few seasons.

Now, if Houston can offload Deshaun Watson’s salary for 2022, that should vastly improve their cap situation. As we’ve seen since the #EpicFail Jadeveon Clowney trade, the math of a salary cap seems like a foreign language in the bowels of NRG Park, so who knows?

Seattle Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs has seen his name linked to Houston in several rumors and/or free agency wish lists of late. However, Spotrac has his expected market value at $12.1 million. That’s probably more than a rebuilding Texans squad would want to pay.

Minnesota Vikings safety Xavier Woods is predicted to land in the $4.3 million range; that is far more palatable for a tight budget.

Houston Simply Doesn’t Replace Justin Reid.

Of all these scenarios, this is the most likely in my mind. When building a team from the ground up, strapped to a tight salary cap and burdened by terrible cap management, there just isn’t enough coin to go around to address the safety position. With that in mind, it’s likely Caserio brings in someone else’s second or third string contract casualty, signs him to the league minimum deal, and uses the savings to address another roster hole.

Or maybe Caserio brings back Vernon Hargreaves III and tries him at safety.

/shudder