Houston Texans Possible Free-Agent Acquisitions Heading Into the Offseason
The Texans franchise has long preached about the importance of building a franchise through the draft and their own player development program.
More often than not, this is the most efficient and most cost-effective way to put a competitive team on the field.
Unfortunately, though, the draft isn't an exact science. In any given draft, even the best-drafting teams will misfire with a couple of their picks. This is where free agency comes in. Free agency is often the place teams come to plug holes in their roster. In this respect, the Texans are no different.
Let's take a peek at some players the Texans might be looking at bringing in to plug some of the holes.
CB Johnathan Joseph
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The Texans' biggest need at this point is the defensive secondary. I think the team will look to the draft to get some help, but I feel that the failed experiment of a young secondary in this past season will scare them away from looking to the draft exclusively for help.
Given the going rate on free-agent cornerbacks, the Texans will put an emphasis on cost. Corners are often the highest-paid players in any given offseason, and this one will be no exception. Texans fans would love to see their team make a run at Raiders corner Nnamdi Asomugha or Broncos corner Champ Bailey, but those players will be well out of the Texans' price range.
The Bengals' Johnathan Joseph should fit in nicely, however. Not only will he likely come cheaper than the two or three elite free-agent corners, but he also gives the team a good balance of youth and experience. He is still young enough to have prime years ahead of him, but he is experienced enough that he will give the secondary a steady hand.
He is a ballhawk who tries to play the ball every chance he gets. He's a good athlete with good closing speed. If the Texans are looking to maximize their turnovers created, Joseph just might be the man they're looking for.
CB Carlos Rogers
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Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers gives you nearly everything that Joseph gives you. If Joseph can't be signed, the Texans will likely turn to someone like Rogers. It might also be the other way around. Depending on how the Texans scouts have them rated, the Texans might look at a guy like Rogers first.
Like Joseph, Rogers still has prime years left, but has been around for a while. He wouldn't be overwhelmed by anything and would embrace the opportunity to cover the opposing team's top receivers.
Joseph has better ball skills and is a better overall athlete. That being said, some people are turned off by the fact that Joseph can tend to be an all-or-nothing cover corner. He'll intercept his share of passes, but he'll get burned on his share as well.
Rogers is the steadier player in this regard. He is less flashy and intercepts fewer passes, but he also won't take as many chances.
SS Quintin Mikell
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Unfortunately for the Texans, their problems in the secondary aren't limited to the cornerback position. They have just as many problems at safety. Guys like Eugene Wilson and Bernard Pollard are fine as long as you let them roam around the middle of the field, react to the play, and help clean up the tackle.
It's when you are asking them to help your young corners in coverage that it becomes a problem. Too often last season, that's what the Texans asked Wilson, Pollard and others to do.
Pollard is a free agent himself and likely won't be returning if the Texans can find a suitable replacement. That replacement might come in the form of Eagles strong safety Quintin Mikell.
Mikell gives you a lot of the qualities that you love in Pollard, like the fact that he is hard-nosed and battle-tested. As an Eagle, Mikell has played in a ton of playoff games as part of one of the best defenses in the NFL over the last near-decade.
Mikell also gives you some things that Pollard can't. For one, he can play the ball and be trusted to cover receivers. Mikell has 10 career interceptions, including three this past season.
Along with the interceptions, Mikell also has totaled seven career fumble recoveries. That tells you that Mikell makes a habit of being around the ball. For a team desperately needing to force turnovers, that's what you like to see.
LB Paul Posluszny
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Whereas the Texans have gaping holes in the secondary, they just need more depth at the linebacker position. They have talent there, but injuries hit them hard last season, leaving them very thin.
I look for the Texans to keep that from happening next season by signing a guy like Paul Posluszny. Posluszny isn't a huge name or a particularly flashy player, but when you are looking to add depth, he's the type of guy you want.
Posluszny can play at several different linebacker spots and can give you a lot of different things. He can play middle linebacker and be the quarterback of the defense, chase down running backs from sideline to sideline at outside linebacker, and drop into coverage as a big safety.
When the Texans run their 4-3 defense, having a linebacking corps of Brian Cushing, DeMeco Ryans and Paul Posluszny would be a big asset.
LB Stephen Cooper
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Stephen Cooper has been a forgotten man of sorts in the San Diego Chargers defense over the last few seasons. He doesn't often make highlight-reel plays like past and present teammates Shawne Merriman, Antonio Cromartie and Eric Weddle, but he has been an incredibly durable and productive player since his rookie season of 2003.
Although he has largely been healthy during his career, Cooper was shut down late last season with a knee injury. How his rehab in the offseason comes along will have a lot do with how many teams are interested and how much money he commands.
With other, bigger-name linebackers on the market like Kirk Morrison, Chad Greenway, Dhani Jones, Chris Kelsay, Barrett Ruud and Chargers teammate Kevin Burnett, Cooper may once again slip under the radar and find himself in a Texans uniform at a good price come training camp.
DT Haloti Ngata
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I will preface this entry by saying that this possible signing will probably end up being just a pipe dream. I dare to dream, though, because Ngata would be the perfect nose tackle to anchor the defensive line when the Texans run their 3-4 defense.
If Wade Phillips is serious about using a 3-4 defense at times next season, he will have to find a space eater in the middle. Signing Ngata would end that search rather quickly.
Unfortunately for the Texans (and any other team that wishes to sign him), I'm sure Ngata and his agent are well aware of the big man's place among defensive tackles in the NFL. I wouldn't be shocked if Ngata signs a deal that rivals the biggest contracts ever given to any defensive tackle.
As a rule, the Texans try to stay away from the type of contract that Haloti Ngata will receive. It will be long-term and will have a ton of zeroes at the end of it. If the Texans were inclined to splurge like they never have on one player, Ngata may very well be the guy to splurge on.
DT Brandon Mebane
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Brandon Mebane is another defensive tackle option for the Texans, but he is different from Ngata in just about every way. Mebane would probably be strictly a 4-3 defensive tackle as he lacks the girth to plug the holes created in a 3-4 defensive front.
He will also come at a much more reasonable, if not cheap, price.
Even a decade in to their existence, the Texans are still striving to find a consistent pass rush. The Texans get a good pass rush from certain players like Mario Williams and Brian Cushing at certain times, but you can't count on the rush getting there from play to play.
The signing of Mebane would help to address that issue. Mebane is more of a pass rusher than many of his defensive tackle counterparts. In the 2008 season, he totaled 5.5 sacks. That's a more than respectable total for an interior lineman.
Not only would Mebane hopefully be a remedy for the anemic pass rush, but he would give the Texans more depth along the defensive line, where they have had to lean on inconsistent players like Amobi Okoye or marginal talents like Tim Bulman.
Current LBs Zac Diles and Kevin Bentley
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It bodes well for Zac Diles and Kevin Bentley that the Texans put an emphasis on re-signing their own free agents when they can and that the Texans desperately need depth at linebacker.
We could argue all day about whether or not Diles and Bentley have a place on this team or even in the league, but I think it's a moot point.
Diles and Bentley are low-risk, known commodities that the Texans can plug right into the rotation without much fear that they will embarrass themselves. There's something to be said for that when you have the worst defense in the NFL.
That's not to say that the duo offers nothing. Diles is a serviceable linebacker who diagnoses the play well and gets to the ball carrier quickly. Bentley is a smart player who also has the advantage of being a very good special teams player.
I expect these two to re-sign with the Texans relatively quickly to play roles similar to the ones they played last season.