Houston Texans taking calculated approach in free agency
By Jair Lopez
Houston Texans are taking a calculated approach in the early wave of free agency.
Despite not making splashy moves to the start of free agency, the Houston Texans front office have had an eventful start and executed most of their objectives through the early stage of NFL free agency. General manager Brian Gaine has brought the majority of the Texans depth pieces back in play for the 2019 season.
Gaine re-signed DeAndre Carter, Brennan Scarlett, Brandon Dunn, Joel Heath, Angelo Blackson, and Ka’imi Fairbairn on the first day of free agency. Dunn, Heath, and Blackson were all underrated rotational defensive lineman in the front seven and were important players to retain after showing they were good fits within defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s scheme.
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Fairbairn is a huge component in the success of the rebound the Texans special teams had in 2018. He certainly built his case to have been nominated for the Pro Bowl after being at the top of the league among his peers in several statistical categories. Fairbairn finished the 2018 season making 37 out of 42 field goals attempted, completing 88.1 percent of his kicks, and leading the NFL in total points scored with 150.
Texans also placed the franchise tag on pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney with the intention of keeping with the defense for the long run. Clowney has continued to improve since missing the majority of his 2014 rookie season recovering from microfracture surgery in his knee. Through five seasons since being drafted number one overall, Clowney has 205 tackles, 29 sacks, 64 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, 67 quarterback hits, 11 pass deflections, and two defensive touchdowns.
Even if the Texans had decided not to tag Clowney and let him test the market, it would have been challenging to retain after having other teams with vasts amount of cap space trying to lure him away. The third round compensatory pick the Texans would have gotten in return for Clowney would not have been sufficient value to let a player of his caliber sign with another team.
The truth to the matter is Gaine will have a different approach in managing the personnel than Texans former general manager Rick Smith. Gaine has made it known that he expects the Texans to build their team through the draft. Entering his second offseason, he has taken a cautious approach in free agency and making sure the fit for free agent makes sense.
In Smith’s tenure with Texans, he has signed notable free agent like safety Ed Reed, safety Danieal Manning, cornerback Johnathan Joseph, quarterback Brock Osweiler, running back Lamar Miller, defensive end Antonio Smith, and punter Shane Lechler. Out of all those moves, the most impactful one is arguably signing Joseph away from the Cincinnati Bengals.
Texans have been a playoff team, and AFC South champions not because they build through the free agency but the draft. J.J. Watt, Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Deshaun Watson, Benardrick McKinney, Justin Reid, and even past Texans like DeMeco Ryans, Brian Cushing, Kareem Jackson, and Duane Brown all have played a part in improving the franchise since being founded in 2002.
Gaine signed free safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback Bradley Roby to begin the first wave of free agency. Depending on their upcoming moves, Texans have the opportunity to earn a third-round compensatory draft pick in 2020 for losing safety Mathieu in a bidding war with the Kansas City Chiefs. Signing Gipson won’t factor into the NFL compensation formula since he was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars and was originally under contract entering 2019.