The first 10 days of NFL free agency in 2014 has been marked by a flurry of players changing addresses. Among the players who signed the 20-richest contracts, Vontae Davis of the Indianapolis Colts is the only one who re-upped with the same team he played for in 2013.
The Houston Texans, as befits the style of Rick Smith during his tenure as general manager, were the least active team in free agency until they inked Jerrell Powe to a contract of undisclosed terms on March 18. Now the roster has at least one defensive tackle on it.
Tight end Garrett Graham re-signed with the Texans after a visit to the Green Bay Packers, where the former Wisconsin Badger may have decided returning to the Sun Belt was the best antidote to the harshness of a Midwestern winter. This two-man tidal wave of activity took Houston out of the free-agent cellar. The St. Louis Rams are now down to a single signing after the trade of Rodger Saffold to the Oakland Raiders fell through due to a failed physical exam.
The Texans took their usual “addition by subtraction” approach and let most of their unrestricted free agents walk. During the 2013 offseason they lost starters Glover Quin, Connor Barwin and James Casey. The response was to add 35 year-old Ed Reed, a clubhouse lawyer with an ailing hip whose best days were behind him.
This time their defensive lineup took an even bigger hit. Defensive end Antonio Smith, nose tackle Earl Mitchell, slot corner Brice McCain and inside linebacker Joe Mays flew the coop along with backup nose tackle Terrell McClain and special-teams standout Bryan Braman.
The only significant losses on offense were running back Ben Tate and tight end Owen Daniels. Their absences will still hurt because Tate was one of the most productive reserves at his position. Daniels, who was released in a cap-saving move, had been the starter since being drafted by the Texans in 2006 and is second only to Andre Johnson on the team’s career receptions list.
The most anticipated move that has not been made regards the status of Matt Schaub. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network has reported that the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders are interested in acquiring the two-time Pro Bowler. The idea that the two most poorly run organizations in the league would be willing to swallow his $14.4 million cap hit is conceivable but a stretch of the imagination.
What the Texans have done, or not done, in free agency has created more uncertainty than anything else. This will be reflected in several positions as we proceed through the lineup.
Quarterback: Matt Schaub
Running Back: Arian Foster
Wide Receivers: Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins
Tight End: Garrett Graham
Left Tackle: Duane Brown
Left Guard: Ben Jones
Center: Chris Myers
Right Guard: Brandon Brooks
Right Tackle: Derek Newton
Left End: J.J. Watt
Nose Tackle: Jerrell Powe
Right End: Jared Crick
Left Outside Linebacker: Brooks Reed
Left Inside Linebacker: Jeff Tarpinian
Right Inside Linebacker: Brian Cushing
Right Outside Linebacker: Whitney Mercilus
Left Cornerback: Kareem Jackson
Right Cornerback: Johnathan Joseph
Slot Cornerback: Brandon Harris
Free Safety: Danieal Manning
Strong Safety: D.J. Swearinger