It is no secret that the Houston Texans had minimal expectations heading into the 2023 season. The team had the second-lowest win projection in the NFL, according to CBS.
While Houston started off slow, the squad started rattling off big wins against quality opponents shortly thereafter. Although the campaign did not end with the Texans hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, there is no denying that the team far exceeded expectations. Not only did it make the playoffs, but winning the division went a long way toward changing the public's perception.
The Houston Texans did not just change the perception; the players and staff established the building blocks to open a championship window. A rookie stud at quarterback (C.J. Stroud) and defensive end (Will Anderson Jr.), along with a rookie head coach (DeMeco Ryans), all of whom came from winning cultures, set the foundation for the team.
With these players, in addition to key contributors like Nico Collins, Tank Dell, Jalen Pitre, and Derek Stingley Jr., just to name a few, on rookie contracts, general manager Nick Caserio has a lot to think about with free agency on the horizon.
Since the major building blocks on the team are on lower-paying rookie deals, Caserio has plenty of cap space to attract free agents within the offseason. To be exact, the Houston Texans have the fifth most available cap space in the NFL, with $66.1 million available, according to Spotrac.
The teams with more money available are the Commanders, the Patriots, and a pair of division rivals, the Titans and the Colts. While Houston does not have the most available cap space, they have one thing over the teams above them in that category: A nucleus of both players and coaches that has proven they can get to the playoffs in its current form.
Not everyone from the 2023 team will return for the next season; such is the nature of the business of football. However, that core of young players on rookie contracts will return. That group has merely shown a glimpse of what they can accomplish. Those players know there is a lot more left to do, and they are hungry to get that job done while they are together.
That is another reason why free agents would be attracted to Houston in the coming years. The championship window with the current nucleus of young players on rookie contracts is wide open, leaving plenty of room for veterans to sign in the offseason.
In a few years, that window will begin closing. There will be fewer chances to sign big free agents to the lucrative deals they seek once the youthful core gets extended to deals worth a lot more money than the ones they are on currently.
The time to take advantage of the championship window being wide open is now, and this is one team that can capitalize on the promise it showed in the 2023 season.