The Houston Texans completely rebuilt their DL

The Texans have been able to find solid replacements that are cost-effective.
Minnesota Vikings v Dallas Cowboys
Minnesota Vikings v Dallas Cowboys / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

Going into this season, it was clear the Houston Texans defense wasn't going to be the same as last year. With countless free agents, the Texans couldn't bring back everybody. But not too many people envisioned this big of a rebuild. With 44 sacks on the year, Demeco Ryans changed how teams view the Houston defense in just one season. However, first round pick Will Anderson is the only returning starter from 2023, with Maliek Collins being traded, along with Jonathan Greenard and Sheldon Rankins leaving in free agency. So how much better will the defensive line be this year? Let's take a look at how 2023 compares to now.


DE: Will Anderson, Jonathan Greenard, Jerry Hughes, Dylan Horton

DT: Sheldon Rankins, Maliek Collins, Hassan Ridgeway, Kurt Hinish


DE: Will Anderson, Danielle Hunter, Myjai Sanders, Dylan Horton, Mario Edwards Jr, Marcus Haynes, Ali Gaye

DT: Foley Fatukasi, Denico Autry, Tim Settle, Khalil Davis, Kurt Hinish, McTelvin Agim

After losing Jonathan Greenard in free agency, the Texans quickly went out and signed 29 year old Danielle Hunter to a two-year deal worth $49M. Hunter had a career year last year, totaling 16.5 sacks and 83 tackles with the Minnesota Vikings. Landing Hunter at $24.5M per year is the best outcome that could have happened after losing Greenard, and the Texans pass rush wont miss a beat with him in the fold now.

The Texans lost Collins and Rankins, and found cheap replacements that have had very good NFL careers thus far. Foley Fatukasi might not have been the most fascinating player that Nick Caserio could have acquired, but what he brings to the team doesn't show on the stat sheet. the big 6'4 318 pound DT consistently eats up blocks to allow rushers a path to the QB, and is good in the run game too. The contract numbers haven't been revealed yet, but landing him for a presumably cheap deal will work out well for the Texans.

Denico Autry will be the pass rusher alongside Fatukasi, and he'll take his pass-rush ability to Houston, who was one of the best defenses last year. Autry is a well-rounded defender, with elite pass-rush skills, and run-defending ability throughout his career. Including positional flexibility, as showcased in his Tennessee Titans tenure where he lined up as both DE and inside at DT. Multiple teams, including the Texans, are trending more toward versatility at multiple positions. And this allows the Texans to maybe go deep at another position while remaining light on DL.

New addition Mario Edwards Jr, just signed on Tuesday, will provide experienced depth at the position. A former second round pick of the then Oakland Raiders in 2015, Edwards has bounced around the league, playing for now eight different teams. Since being drafted, he's totaled 21.5 sacks, and had his best season in 2020 with the Chicago Bears, totaling 17 tackles and four sacks. Another former Titan, Edwards won't be an impact player, but he'll provide you with good depth.

A much brighter day in Houston than how I initially felt after the Maliek Collins trade. The Texans have been able to find solid replacements that are cost-effective, and still have the financial flexibility to add to their team before the draft. A win for Caserio and the Texans, as they now have the freedom to go anywhere in the draft, and aren't tied to one position or one side of the ball.