According to Spotrac, the Houston Texans are currently sitting at an estimated $ 25,785,262 in cap space for the 2022 season. If you prefer Over The Cap, the number rises to $ 28,396,257.
General manager Nick Caserio has done his best to bring the sub-par 2021 roster back together, but with Deshaun Watson finally gone, it’s time to get serious about building a solid team.
Laremy Tunsil and Brandin Cooks are the only players making more than $ 5 million this season, as far as cap hits are concerned. Both players are essential to the development of second year signal caller Davis Mills, or any rookie Caserio might decide to select in next month’s NFL Draft.
At this point, Tunsil and Cooks, along with defensive tackle Maliek Collins, are also the only players who should be a lock to start. That leaves an awful lot of roster holes.
The current free agent market isn’t exactly a treasure trove of future hall of fame players thriving in their prime. However, there are multiple guys out there that could make a big impact on a team like the Texans. Especially if they’re placed in a position to win their one-on-ones every week ala what Caserio’s former boss, Bill Belichick excels at nearly every Sunday. If Caserio retained that knowledge and can pass it along to Lovie Smith and Pep Hamilton, these players could thrive in H-Town.
Mills, Maliek Willis or [insert quarterback here] won’t be able to do much of anything if the Texans don’t continue to bolster the offensive line. Right now, aside from Tunsil, every line spot should be up for grabs.
Houston Texans Sign Center JC Tretter
This team is no stranger to signing former Cleveland Browns. Rolling in at 6’4 “, 307 lbs, the former 4th round pick of the Green Bay Packers carried an 83.7 PFF pass blocking grade last season, with a 74.8 against the run – both of which are improvements over Houston’s center play last season.
Tretter started 16 of Cleveland’s 17 games last season as part of teh highest rated offensive line coming into last September. Setting him as the keystone of Houston’s offensive line, with Tunsil holding down the left tackle spot would immediately upgrade the entire unit.
Houston Texans Sign Defensive Lineman Calais Campbell
Just like the offensive line, the defensive line needs help as well. Maliek Collins, Jonathan Greenard and incoming free agent Ogbonnia Okoronkwo are better positioned for success than their O-Line counterparts, but a pale shadow of the JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Vince Wilfork line of days past. (Clowney is still a free agent as well, but he’s more likely to sack Jack Easterby at a random What-A-Burger than re-sign with the Texans).
Campbell is a versatile, Swiss Army knife sort of lineman who could flourish in head coach / defensive coordinator Lovie Smith’s system. While he’s getting long in the tooth, the wily vet still has gas in the tank and could help younger players like Greenard, Roy Lopez and Ross Blacklock further develop their skills.
Campbell played in 15 games for the Baltimore Ravens last season, contributing 49 combined tackles, five tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hits and one fumble recovery. While no longer in his prime, Campbell is still an upgrade at a position of need for the Texans.
Houston Texans sign Defensive Lineman Linval Joseph
The Texans defense gave away rushing yards like Mattress Mack handing out deals last year. Joseph was one of the best run stoppers in recent memory and has started 12+ games in every season after his rookie outing. Last year the Los Angeles Chargers employed Joseph in passing situations, where he scored a 83.0 grade from PFF. Like Campbell, Joseph would also bring a solid veteran presence that younger players could learn from as the season progresses.
Houston Texans Sign Cornerback Stephon Gilmore
The fact this hasn’t happened yet, with Nick Caserio’s knowledge and relationship with Gilmore speaks to x-factor issues that aren’t discernible from simply looking at stats and game film. Both the Cincinnati Bengals and Las Vegas Raiders have courted Gilmore, but nothing has come of the existing connection between player and Houston general manager.
Houston hasn’t had a great cornerback in far too long. Gilmore isn’t a great cornerback either, but he’s a better option than what Houston currently has on the roster.
Houston Texans Sign Running Back Melvin Gordon
Not too long ago, under former head
coach team killer, Bill O’Brien, there was a lot of rumor mill action on Gordon coming to Houston, but that seems to have died off of late. Right now, the Texans could use a yard-eating tailback who goes out on first downs and makes positive plays with a simple handoff. Gordon provides that. He might not work out as well in the passing game, but Houston has had several of the best pass catching backs in the league over the last several seasons and managed to do squat with them. Time for Pep Hamilton to install a grown up running game.
To do that, Hamilton needs an RB1 who can pin his ears back and move the rock downfield more often than not. With an 83.4 PFF rushing grade, a 4.5 yards per carry average and a 3.12 yards after contact average, Gordon provides just that.
Chances are the Texans sign exactly zero of these players, but there’s no obvious reason not to offer one or more of them a one- or two-year prove it deal and see what happens. That’s the major upside to having such a bad roster, going after top-25 level free agents should almost always work out …