Heading into the 2011 season, the Houston Texans were picked by many football experts to finish behind the Colts in the AFC South and out of the playoff picture. A franchise-best 10-6 regular season record, first ever division title and playoff victory later, they became a force to be reckoned with, highlighted by a lock-down defense that ranked second in the league.
With a young and talented roster, this Texans team should be able prove that 2011 was not a one-year wonder. Key players on defense such as J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed, Connor Barwin, Brian Cushing, and Jonathan Joseph are all 28 years old or younger and under team control for at least two more seasons. On offense, Matt Schaub, Owen Daniels and Andre Johnson, though on the wrong side of 30, should remain consistent while continue to wear battle red, steel blue and liberty white for the next couple seasons barring anything unexpected. Four out of five starting offensive linemen also will return. As long as they stay healthy, the amount of talent generated among this group should guarantee the Texans postseason berths for years to come.
Now that the Houston faithful had seen their beloved Texans secure a division title and playoff victory for the first time, they would, naturally, dream big and demand for more. These hungry fans will certainly not settle for just another early postseason exit; they want more than that, a deep playoff run, a trip to New Orleans next February, or even a Lambeau trophy. In order to please their ambitious fans, GM Rick Smith and Co. have no other choice but to be ambitious as well. The Texans currently possess a deep, balanced, and high quality roster as of now, but could still use some extra pieces to push them over the top and become a Super Bowl-caliber football team.
And they can address those needs this offseason.
But first let’s take a look at the Texans’ current cap room situation.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the NFL salary cap, here is a brief explanation of how it works. Under the new CBA agreement signed in 2011, the NFL requires all teams to build their roster under a salary cap of $120.375 million. There’s no salary floor, however, until 2013, when every team has to spend at least 89% of the cap. For the upcoming 2012 season, each team HAS to spend 99% of the cap, which is $119.2 million. Essentially, the amount of money a team can spend on player salaries in 2012 must fall between $119.2 million and $120.375 million.
Back to the Texans, this is how their projected 2012 cap room expenditures look at the moment:
2012 Dead Money: $7,860,000
- RB Steve Slaton (Dolphins) – 555,000
- DT Amobi Okoye (Bears) – 3,615,000
- QB Dan Orlovsky (Colts) – 2,250,000
- WR David Anderson (Redskins) – 1,440,000
2012 Projected Total Contract Value: $86,928,881
- WR Andre Johnson – 9,328,571
- QB Matt Schaub – 8,316,667
- DT/DE Antonio Smith – 8,100,000
- LB DeMeco Ryans – 7,150,000
- TE Owen Daniels – 6,500,000
2012 Projected Cap Space: $25,611,199
And here is the list of the Texans’ pending free agents:
- RB Arian Foster
- C Chris Myers
- OLB/DE Mario Williams
- K Neil Rackers
- CB Jason Allen
- S Dominique Barber
- S Quintin Demps
- G Mike Brisiel
- TE Joel Dreessen
- ILB Xavier Adibi
- P Brad Maynard
- RB Derrick Ward
- C Jon Weeks
As you can see, the Texans will have tough decisions to make regarding their big-name free agents such as Foster, Williams and Myers and other solid contributors in Rackers, Allen and Dreessen. Who should they retain? Who should they let go? And with more than $25 million to spend on addressing the team’s needs, what would they do? Would they turn their focus onto the draft? Or would they prioritize free agency? Readers, we at ToroTimes would like to present you with a challenge, now that you understand how the salary cap works, what the Texans current cap room situation looks like, and players whose contracts have run out, let’s try to fill in the shoes of GM Rick Smith for a day or two and come up with your own plans as to how the Texans should spend their money this offseason. What would be YOUR decisions if you are the one in charge?
In a follow-up post, ToroTimes will examine what we think are possible offseason approaches for the Texans and how each of them makes sense. Stay tuned!