The folks over at ESPN recently released grades for all 32 teams’ Free Agency moves this offseason. The Houston Texans scored a C-plus, near the bottom of the list. As a Texans fan I have to admit a small amount of bias, but I think this grade is very unfair.
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The main reason Houston’s grade is so low, is the sheer number of players that they lost. Included in the players that the Texans did not resign from last season are: wide-recievers Andre Johnson and Damaris Johnson, linebacker Brooks Reed, center Chris Myers, guard Cody White, safety Danieal Manning and Kendrick Lewis, defensive linemen Jerrell Powe, Tim Jamison, and Ryan Pickett, and quarterbacks Thad Lewis, Case Keenum, and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
While a few of these players certainly were huge impact players last year, many of them can be easily replaced, or simply did not do much for the team anyway. In fact, the Texans managed to fill several of the holes left by these players already.
Quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett were two of the biggest signings Houston made this offseason. While neither of these players is already an elite talent, I think they both could be serviceable starters.
Hoyer, who previously played for the Cleveland Browns, is the only starting quarterback for that team since 1999 to have a winning record (10-6). While this may not translate directly to success in Houston, it says something about his ability to manage a team, even one like the Browns with a history of losing.
Mallett on the other hand, has had very little opportunity to showcase his skills. In limited work for the Texans last season he showed some spark, but ended up getting injured and missing most of the season. I believe that should he have a chance to start for an extended period, he has the skills to become a very good quarterback.
At wide-receiver one of the biggest offseason stories has been the departure of Houston legend Andre Johnson. He was the longest tenured player for the Texans, and the best offensive player they had seen. However, his numbers had slightly decline of late, and the Texans thought they needed to move on from him.
"“Athletes never want to acknowledge that they’ve lost a step or they can’t quite do what they did before” said Texans General Manager Bob McNair in regards to Johnson."
Houston’s first move to replace Johnson was in the signing of former Jacksonville receiver Cecil Shorts III. Shorts has been in the league for five seasons but they have been plagued by injuries, which have caused him to miss a total of 14 games to this point.
While Shorts may not be the absolute solution for replacing Andre Johnson, I think he is a big step in the right direction, and offsets much of Johnson’s loss. Should he stay healthy, Shorts has the potential to be a big playmaker for Houston, and could be a huge signing.
The Texans resigning of Jackson was huge, and even though they spent quite a bit of money to get him, I think it was worth it. He has started for Houston since 2010 when they drafted him out of Alabama, and has become a cornerstone for their defense.
He’s versatile, as he has been used often both on the outside and at the slot position. With over 50 career passes defended and 10 interceptions, the 27 year old is a great player who likely will continue to improve.
The Texans managed to snag safety Rahim Moore away from retirement, and hope he can play a huge role on their team.
"“I actually wanted to retire there,” Moore said about his former team the Denver Broncos. “I loved it that much, but since I’ve come here I’ve realized that there is more to offer here.”"
Moore is friends with both Kareem Jackson and Texans safety D.J. Swearinger, who he works out with in the offseason. He was one of the top safeties available in this years free-agency class, and Houston was lucky to sign him to fill one of their big holes.
Speaking of filling big holes, the signing of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork was quite literally a huge signing. The 6′ 1″ 330 pound lineman will clog up the middle for a defense with two stars in J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney on the outside.
After spending his entire career with the Patriots, the 5-time Pro Bowler has a lot still to offer, and hopefully he will be just as dominant in Houston as he was up north.
The loss of linebacker Brooks Reed left a big hole for the Texans in the middle of the defense, but signing Akeem Dent hopefully alleviated some of that. He is unlikely to be the only replacement at the position, but should take some of the pressure off of finding another linebacker. Dent started 6 games for Houston last season, and while he didn’t shine, he was able to be a serviceable player.
Overall, the Texans had some very big losses this free-agency, but managed to plug up their holes fairly well. Most of these patches are fairly makeshift, but I think they should be able to hold out.
I also see huge potential in the signings of Mallett, Shorts, and Moore, for these players to become some of the elites at their positions. Given the proper circumstances and a lack of injuries, I can easily see each of these guys being very dominant.
ESPN gave Houston a C-plus rating, but I have to upgrade Houston to a B. While this may not seem like a huge upgrade, it would move Houston up into the top quarter of NFL team free-agency grades, which I think is much more fair.
It remains to be seen what other moves the Texans make this offseason and what moves they make in the draft, but I have very high hopes for the 2015 season given the current roster.