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Now we come to the players the team would like to have back if the price is right. Since none of them were franchised, the only way to gauge their value will be to offer their services on the open market.
Should they be enticed to return after testing the waters, here are some educated guesses on what will be required to reacquire them.
SS Glover Quin
When it comes the Texans’ decision makers, he is the apple of their eyes. While not a great cover safety, most of the players at his position are equally challenged. What makes him so valuable is how well he fits the system.
Once upon a time, there was a position on college teams called rover or “monster man.” Half-linebacker, half-defensive back, their chief duty was to back up the run and provide coverage on the handful of passes thrown.
This is where Quin does a superb job, playing close to the line in nickel and dime defenses. He does this well enough to overlook his shortcomings when receivers come his way.
2012 Cap Hit: $1,430,562
New Contract: 4 years, $20 million
OLB Connor Barwin
His team-leading sack figure of 11.5 in 2011 had him poised to cash in if he came anywhere close to that number. Not content to sign an extension early on, he thought a banner year would enhance his bargaining position.
His season total of three sacks was less than he recorded in a single game versus Jacksonville in his coming-out year. Barwin was still able to get into the backfield on a consistent basis, but could not make an inside move when the tackle took him wide.
In an interview on Sports Radio 610 in Houston, he admitted he started pressing when things did not go his way. His preference is to remain on a winning team like Houston, so will probably accept less than the going rate to re-sign.
2012 Cap Hit: $917,500
New Contract: 3 years, $12 million
FB James Casey
Everyone who follows the Texans knows who James Casey is, but cannot agree on what he is. Is he a fullback, tight end, H-back, or simply a man without a typical position?
As a fullback, he is not a sledgehammer-style lead blocker but can put a hit on someone to create a hole. As a tight end, he has great hands, good speed, but not the kind of size that fits the new NFL prototype. H-back is just a label, since no team actually uses anyone in that capacity these days.
Casey defies any standard description, but does enough things at an efficient level that he deserves a place on this squad.
2012 Cap Hit: $661,250
New Contract: 3 years, $8.5 million
There are a handful of players that should stay on the roster, provided the bidding for their services does not get out of hand. None will receive more than a one-year offer, and could get just a marginal raise in the bargain.
In 2012, ILB Tim Dobbins, RB Justin Forsett, OT Ryan Harris and P Donnie Jones were all paid the league minimum based on their years of service. That meant $700,000 for all but Jones, who earned $890,000.
Jones was rated the top punter by Pro Football Focus, and seems deserving of a bump just beyond seven figures. The others played above their pay grade, but not so much that their reward should put them on the same scale.
That leaves the wild card, CB Brice McCain. A broken foot is not a serious injury to recover from, but when you are a speed guy like McCain it could have a lasting effect.
His performance last season was not up to the level of the prior year, as teams found ways to set picks and knock him right out of the play. He will probably be looking for 3-4 years at $10-15 million, which seems like a lot to pay for a nickel back.
Wade Phillips may have seen enough promise in his replacement, Brandon Harris, to let McCain walk. There may not be enough change left in the till to do anything else.