Following the 2018 offseason, the Texans got their organization straightened out. They paired coach Bill O’Brien with general manager Brian Gaine to work in cohesion to finally put the organization in position to consistently contend. Despite having no first and no second round pick last year, in part resulting from decisions made to move on from Brock Osweiler and acquire Deshaun Watson, Gaine was able to muster a pretty good draft class headlined by safety Justin Reid. The Texans also signed Tyrann Mathieu in free agency and rebounded from 4-12 in 2017 to an 11-5 AFC South division crown in 2018. Now, with free agency set to begin on March 13, the Texans have over 70 million dollars in salary cap space as well as having all their draft picks. O’Brien and Gaine have a bevy of resources to take the Texans to new heights.
The Texans need to be smart but also aggressive
A big advantage for Houston is knowing Deshaun Watson is in the middle of his rookie deal and won’t be due for a new contract for at least a couple more years. With that in mind, Gaine can be as aggressive as he wants; but he must also keep an eye on the road ahead to when the time comes to extend Watson. What does a successful off season look like for Houston?
Keep the defense intact: Safety Tyrann Mathieu, cornerback Kareem Jackson who spent time at safety during the season, defensive tackle Christian Covington, and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney headline the Texans’ free agent class. While Houston may not be able to retain everyone, keeping the defense intact as much as possible would establish continuity, which could lead to better results next season.
The big debate I notice on social media is whether to trade Whitney Mercilus or Jadeveon Clowney, or even both. Unless the Texans are blown away by an offer, meaning someone offers no less than a second-round pick and an immediate impact player at a position of need, in no way should the Texans ship off Clowney or Mercilus. Both have tremendous talent and ability to wreck the game. Besides, trading one or both for anything less than a king’s ransom would feel like a “win later” type of move, whereas the Texans are positioned to win now.
Rev up the offense: While the defense is built nicely to push the Texans towards a Lombardi trophy, to really push Houston over the hump is to revamp this offense. The offensive line needs a lot of work, but improvements are also needed in the backfield. A number two receiver is needed as well. In 2018, Demaryius Thomas was cut; Will Fuller wasn’t able to finish the season; and rookie KeKe Coutee was often injured. Houston needs to explore their options and look to find another receiver to try to help lessen the load for Hopkins.
Dan Graziano of ESPN predicts Houston will sign Le’Veon Bell. If that happens, Bell would be fresh after having sat the entire 2018 season out. But the question is, are the Texans willing to give Bell the type of money he is looking for? Another big name the Texans could target, but are not likely to acquire, is Antonio Brown. When you consider the way Brown’s time with the Steelers is ending, would the Texans be willing to give what the Steelers want for essentially a diva? Would Brown even be okay splitting targets with Hopkins and Coutee?
While the Texans could big-game hunt, other names who could help the Texans are Jaguars free agent running back TJ Yeldon and newly-released wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Sure, both guys aren’t top-dollar names, but both could have a positive impact in this offense while also allowing Houston the financial flexibility to make other moves.
Draft for need: It’s not likely to happen, but if Ed Oliver slipped down all the way to the 23rd selection where the Texans are picking, then yes, the Texans need a defensive tackle, and yes, they shouldn’t hesitate to select Oliver. Could you imagine retaining Clowney, and adding Oliver with JJ Watt? My goodness.
The Texans could move up in the draft, but at what cost? And are the Texans willing to pay?
The Texans do not necessarily have to spend big, but they have plenty to fix to contend next season. Deshaun Watson won’t remain on a team-friendly deal forever, but with over 70 million dollars in cap space and a GM and Coach who seem to be in sync, the time for the Texans to win is now.