Texans Go Backwards to Move Forward with Losses of Casey, Quin

Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistMarch 13, 2013

Kubiak and Quin share a hug in the safety's final home game.
Kubiak and Quin share a hug in the safety's final home game.Bob Levey/Getty Images

With everyone around him losing their heads, Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith is keeping his.

As expected, the Texans have remained silent in the first day of free agency, even as a line of talented veterans leaves town.

In the span of a few days, the Texans have parted ways with Kevin Walter and lost James Casey and Glover Quin to other squads.

In a press release, the Texans announced they were releasing the 31-year-old receiver who had been with the team for seven seasons. Walter's production simply didn't match his salary and he is now free to sign with any team.

Coupled with Casey's departure to Philadelphia (per the Associated Press, h/t ABC), the Texans have lost more than 20 percent of their passing offense from 2012.

Of course, both exits pale in comparison to the impact of losing Quin to the Lions (per ESPN's Adam Schefter). Quin helped anchor the back end of the Texans' secondary. The team wanted him back, but knew when it failed to franchise him that losing him was a real possibility.

Houston's secondary showed signs of cracking late last year, as injuries and the age of Danieal Manning led to diminishing returns throughout the season.

Meanwhile, linebacker Connor Barwin is still on the open market as well. While he struggled in 2012, he'd be yet another piece of the puzzle that needed replacing, damaging the team's depth if nothing else.

The free-agent losses mark the second time in as many years the team had to endure painful cuts and a drain of talent thanks to a maxed-out salary cap.

The Texans spent heavily in recent years to build a contender and it's hard to argue with the results. For a franchise desperate to win, two division titles and two home playoff wins represent a fantastic payoff.

Still, the roster continues to move incrementally in the wrong direction. Instead of panicking, however, Smith has played it cool and allowed overpriced veterans to leave. The roster is declining, but the cap hole isn't getting any deeper as a consequence.

As compensation for their losses last year, the Texans are expected to be flush with compensatory picks in the 2013 draft and Smith will need a banner year to shore up the holes in the roster.

Smith's hands were all but tied and he's making the right move. Cap struggles can be painful to escape from, and if he tried to push money out to make a run in 2013, the long-term future of the club would be very much in peril. 

Houston has serious issues with age and hefty existing contracts, but it does have the advantage of playing a weak division.

Their rivals in Indianapolis and Tennessee have made aggressive moves while the Texans have had to sit back and watch good players go, but overall Houston still has the best roster top to bottom in the division.

The only way out of the money mess it finds itself in is to go right through it. Fortunately for the Texans, the core of the team remains intact and likely to compete for a playoff spot again in 2013.

The NFL is an ebb-and-flow league and Houston's tide is low at the moment. Come April, Smith will try and make it rise again.