Houston Texans: Last-Minute Free Agents Texans Should Sign
Following a day full of tough choices and roster-trimming comes a week full of opportunity. Management and coaches will have the opportunity to scour the waiver wire in an attempt to find the best players available for their teams.
Players who so suddenly found themselves without a team and a job will now have the chance to rejoin an NFL franchise.
The Houston Texans, who have weak depth at several positions, should be scouring the waiver wire to improve an already terrific roster.
Since Rashad Butler suffered a second consecutive torn triceps injury that will keep him out for the whole season, the Texans have extremely weak depth at the offensive tackle position. They must, I repeat must, bring in a tackle who can be a quality backup in their zone-blocking scheme.
How are another team's scrubs going to help out the Texans' offensive line, you ask?
Well, the zone-blocking scheme that the Texans utilize in the running game allows for linemen who would otherwise struggle elsewhere to greatly succeed. Chris Myers, arguably one of the best players on the line, was drafted in the sixth round of the NFL Draft in 2005.
The reason for this was because he did not have the physical tools that are required of most centers and offensive linemen. Since he was traded to the Texans in 2008 for a sixth-round draft pick, his career has skyrocketed and now he is considered one of the best centers in the NFL.
This is not because the training staff in Houston allowed for him to dramatically increase his athleticism. No, it is because athleticism is not as necessary in a zone-blocking scheme as it is around the league.
Here are the 10 players (tackles, and maybe a tight end or safety) that the Texans must attempt to bring onto their team.
Nicholas Jean-Baptiste: NT
Nicolas Jean-Baptiste is a player whom I personally was hoping the Texans would select on draft day. The big-bodied nose tackle possesses all the physical tools that could allow him to succeed in a 3-4 defensive scheme.
The former Baylor defensive lineman stands at 6'2" and weighs in at an impressive 335 pounds.
These physical traits could allow Jean-Baptiste to be the space-filling, gap-eating nose tackle that Texans' fans have so long desired.
If the Texans' defensive coaching staff could get him to refine his skills, Jean-Baptiste could be a very dangerous player in the near future.
Matthew O'Donnell: OT
When a team like the Texans are looking to find quality backups who could play at a moment's notice, they should look for experience over potential. One would not want a project to suddenly be called upon to take over the starting role due to an injury.
The majority of the tackles featured on this list all fit into the category of not having impressive NFL careers up to this point, but they have started and played in many games. That's the type of player the Texans need on the depth chart.
Matthew O'Donnell, however, does not fit that bill. He is simply an incredible physical prospect that can be potentially molded into an effective tackle in the Texans' zone-blocking scheme.
Standing at an outstanding 6'9", O'Donnell has the size and strength to greatly help the Texans in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Since the biggest weakness of the Texans' offense in the past few seasons has been red-zone offense, it is likely that O'Donnell's physical power could greatly help the Texans in those situations.
O.J. Atogwe: S
O.J. Otogwe is a very experienced safety that the Texans could very much use in their defensive backfield.
After surprisingly cutting Troy Nolan to keep the inconsistent Shiloh Keo, the Texans are in need of a quality backup at the safety position.
Keo has proven in the preseason that he is very much a special teams player, as he has given up some major plays on defense due to his poor speed and lack of coverage skills.
If Danieal Manning or Glover Quin happens to suffer an injury, the Texans' only viable backup at the safety postion would be Quintin Demps.
Otogwe has had an up-and-down NFL career, but he would certainly be an upgrade over Shiloh Keo if the Texans' safeties were to experience injuries.
Pat McQuistan: OT
For the Dallas Cowboys, Pat McQuistan has had a long NFL career. Despite only starting eight games in six seasons, McQuistan has suited up for 65 NFL games, which is much more than most other players that are currently on the free-agent market.
McQuistan has a ton of experience in the NFL, which is the primary reason the Texans should snatch him up.
The Texans have virtually zero experienced backups on the offensive line, aside for Andrew Gardner, and it would be very risky to go into the NFL season like that.
It would be wise for the Texans to claim McQuistan as soon as possible.
Drake Dunsmore: TE
Drake Dunsmore is a tight end whom many Texans' sportswriters and fans were hoping would be taken on draft day.
Dunsmore can provide a lot of positives for an NFL team.
He does all the little things well, from impressive route running to solid pass- and rush-blocking to even playing well on special teams.
The addition of Dunsmore would allow James Casey, the Texans' fullback/ tight end to become even more versatile, as he won't be forced to be a blocker when the Texans utilize three-tight-end formations.
Dunsmore to the Texans makes sense.
Troy Nolan: S
No joke, the Texans should have never waived Troy Nolan.
When Danieal Manning went down with a leg injury last season, Nolan and Quintin Demps were called upon to play a lot more minutes and contribute much more to the defense.
They did not disappoint, and both made it seem like the loss of Manning was hardly a big deal.
Nolan was most likely waived because of money issues and because Shiloh Keo was Wade Phillips' draft pick and Phillips has faith that he could become a solid player in the NFL.
Regardless, Keo has greatly disappointed in the preseason, and no Texans' fan would be comfortable with him if he had to play a substantial amount of minutes in the regular season.
The Texans better hope that Nolan clears the waiver wire so they could possibly renegotiate a contract with him.
UPDATE: Troy Nolan has been claimed by the Miami Dolphins, who the Texans will play in the first week of the regular season.
Ryan Harris: OT
Ryan Harris, like Pat McQuistan, is an extremely experienced offensive lineman.
Harris has started 34 games in his NFL career after being drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 2007. Though his starting experience should earn him a job somewhere in the NFL, injury concerns have plagued Harris throughout his career.
He missed all of last season with a herniated disk, and that is preventing teams from picking him up and giving him a chance currently.
If he can remain healthy, he could be a steal for the Texans if they bring him onto the team. He would help stabilize the shaky depth the Texans have, and he is a player that I would have confidence in if Duane Brown or Derek Newton happened to succumb to injury.
Harris is also very familiar with Houston's zone blocking scheme, as the Broncos utilize nearly the same scheme in their offense.
UPDATE: Ryan Harris has been claimed by the Houston Texans, according to the Denver Post.
Richard Quinn: TE
Richard Quinn is the type of tight end that the Texans would love to have.
When he was drafted in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, his receiving skills were unknown. What caused him to go so high, however, were his incredible blocking skills.
The Texans often utilize three-tight-end formations, with the third tight end being the lead blocker for Arian Foster or Ben Tate. Quinn is still a very effective run blocker, and he would greatly help the Texans in red-zone situations.
Willie Smith: OT
Though he is not an experienced NFL lineman, Willie Smith could be a valuable pickup for the Texans.
Since he played his rookie season with the Washington Redskins, he is well versed in the zone-blocking offensive scheme, as Gary Kubiak developed the zone scheme with Mike Shanahan in Denver, who now happens to be the Redskins' head coach.
The Texans would not have to catch Smith up to speed as much as they would have to with other free-agent offensive line acquisitions, and Smith would have a solid understanding of the playbook.
UPDATE: Willie Smith has been claimed by the Oakland Raiders, per Adam Schefter.