The Houston Texans saw their season end in the playoffs, but the work to build a championship roster doesn't end when the games stop.
In 2012, the Texans battled salary cap issues and parted ways with players that could have helped. The right side of the offensive line never gelled, and caused problems the entire season.
Flash forward a year, and Houston faces many of the same limitations in free agency.
If there is good news for the Texans, it's that free agency is often a trap. It rarely pays off the way fans expect. In general, smart GMs stay out of the free-agent market entirely. Losing free agents without replacing them can result in compensatory picks which often wind up as cheaper, more valuable solutions than the players that were lost.
Houston should be flush with compensatory picks in the 2013 draft for the players they lost last year.
Here's everything you need to know about the Texans in free agency.
According to ESPN.com's John Clayton, the Texans have a modest $12.9 million in cap space available. They don't have many big money deals they could trim to create cap space, either.
The most vulnerable name on the roster would be Owen Daniels, but there's little chance the Texans would be interested in parting ways with him.
Cap space doesn't mean the team can use all the free money on free agents, however. They still will have some of their own players to retain.
The Texans will also have to leave between $4 million and $6 million for the rookie salary pool.
In the end, that simply doesn't leave much room if any for the Texans to improve the roster.
Players to Re-Sign
The following Texans will need their contracts addressed by the team if they are to return to Houston in 2013: James Casey, Shayne Graham, Rashad Butler, Ryan Harris, Antoine Caldwell, Shaun Cody, Connor Barwin, Tim Dobbins, Bradie James, Brice McCain, Glover Quin, Quintin Demps and Alan Ball.
Obviously, not all those players have to be re-signed, but replacing them won't be easy. Five members of the Texans' secondary are free agents and Quin was second on the team in snaps. In terms of secondary snaps, the Texans could lose their second, fifth, sixth, and seventh most used players.
Four of the top 11 Texans in terms of defensive snaps are free agents.
That's a lot of players to either re-sign or replace. Not everyone on that list is a star, and some of them aren't even very good, but Houston has to find players better than they are if the team is to improve. That will be difficult, if not impossible, with a tight budget.
Houston took big chances in free agency in 2011. It paid off big time with Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning, but the consequence is a tight cap moving forward. The team is going to lose talent over the next six weeks, but has two division titles to show for it.
Most everyone would agree it was well worth the risk.
Positions to Target
In a perfect world, the Texans would be flush with cap space to upgrade the right side of the offensive line, wide receiver and the secondary.
None of that is going to happen.
The Texans are going to struggle to retain the few players they target off their own roster and are going to have pick up a veteran here or there for the league minimum.
Free agency is not going to be a fun period for Houston fans.
The payoff, of course, will be when compensatory picks are announced from 2012, and the Texans get four or so additional selections. That same payoff will likely happen again in 2014.
March will be rough, but April should be bright.
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