Salary Cap Breakdowns for the Texans
For many fans of the NFL, free agency is a time of great excitement. New, tantalizing players can be signed, and slumping franchises can suddenly turn into contenders. For the Texans, however, the rigid, seemingly evil salary cap makes life during free agency hell. The Texans are currently 12.9 million under the cap, leaving them with very little money to spend in free agency this offseason. In fact, it is quite likely that the Texans will be unable to address any needs at all in free agency; they simply do not have the money. Several key free agents are up for new contracts, and the Texans will be forced to spend the majority of their cap space on them. Think the Texans can manage to maneuver through this miserable cap situation? It's very possible, but they will need to make the correct moves to ensure team growth and free up cap space for future offseasons. Here is how the Texans must manage their dreadful cap situation this free-agency season.
Free Agents to keep:
James Casey: Casey is one of the most versatile players on the Texans' roster, as he does a little bit of everything for the offense. He is able to effectively block for Arian Foster, though the Texans' offense does not usually feature an every-down fullback.
Where Casey does the most damage is in the passing game. He is able to consistently sneak out of the backfield and make first-down grabs. He has exceptional pass-catching and route-running ability for a fullback, as his secondary position is tight end. He is an offensive force that defensive coordinators must account for, and the Texans absolutely should re-sign him.
Justin Forsett: Forsett, a third-string running back for the Texans, got a lot of action last season. With Ben Tate sidelined for the majority of the season, Forsett got a chance to prove himself to the coaching staff. He was able to effectively fill in for Arian Foster, and he broke off several big runs. Forsett understands Houston's zone-blocking scheme, and with Tate's contract status up in the air for 2014, he should be re-signed.
Rashad Butler: Butler was in a heated battle to take over the starting job at right tackle with Derek Newton before the start of last season. However, a season-ending injury landed him on the IR. While the starting job at right tackle is currently solely in the possession of Newton, Butler could provide valuable depth to a struggling offensive line. His veteran presence would be greatly beneficial for the right side of the line composed of mainly young players.
Jesse Nading: While Nading makes zero contribution to the defense, he is a valuable special teams asset. He can be re-signed for cheap, and there is no reason not to bring him back.
Tim Dobbins: Dobbins displayed hard downfield tackling ability for the Texans last season. He made several key goal-line stops, as he is excellent at lowering his pads and attacking opposing running backs. His poor coverage skills prevented him from seeing more playing time, but he still proved to be a valuable backup. He should definitely be brought back for 2013.
Brice McCain: McCain is an experienced nickel cornerback who can effectively cover any slot receiver in the NFL. And with more and more NFL teams using their slot receivers as starters, the nickel cornerback position is becoming more and more valuable. The Texans' secondary struggled after McCain went down to a season-ending injury midway through last season, and it became apparent that he was integral to the defense's success. McCain should be brought back at all costs.
Alan Ball: While not by any means was Ball an effective corner for the Texans last season, he at least did not play awfully. Where Ball made his true impact was on special teams. On a unit that struggled heavily throughout the season, Ball was one of the few standouts. He managed to consistently make plays, and he is a valuable special teams asset that the Texans should not let slip away.
Glover Quin: Quin is the unsung hero of the Texans' defense. He does not make the flashy plays, but he gritty, physical and determined. As opposed to many safeties in the league, Quin possesses the physicality to match up well with receiving tight ends. Quin also is a great run defender. The Texans essentially ask him to line up as an extra linebacker, diagnose the running play and effectively fill the lane. A major reason why the Texans' run defense did not collapse after the loss of Brian Cushing was because Quin helped hold it together. He led the Texans in tackles, and he is extremely important to the defense's success. Quin must be brought back. He is the most important free agent the Texans have.
Donnie Jones: Jones had an excellent season punting for the Texans, which was actually quite the pleasant surprise. He should be brought back.
Free Agents to let Walk
Kevin Walter: The age of Walter as the Texans' second-string wide receiver in Houston is coming to a close. Walter hardly contributed to the offense last season, and he was outshined by a struggling group of young, inexperienced and inconsistent receivers. That doesn't say much about Walter. Cutting Walter would save the Texans a decent amount of much-needed money. The Texans need to pave the way for the receiving generations of the future, and they must get rid of the dead weight in Walter.
Antoine Caldwell: Like Butler, Caldwell was in a competition to win the starting job at right guard before the beginning of the 2013-13 season. In fact, Caldwell was named the starter for the season opener, and his future looked bright with the Texans. Caldwell, however, did not take advantage of his opportunity. He struggled to play consistently, and he failed to open up running room for the Texans' starting running back, Arian Foster. Re-signing Caldwell would be an awful mistake. He has struggled with injury issues in the past, and by the end of last season, rookies Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks were receiving playing time over him. Re-signing Caldwell would mean spending money on an unnecessary player, and the Texans cannot afford uselessly wasting money right now.
Andrew Gardner: While Gardner understands the Texans' zone-blocking scheme, he is not a talented nor extremely skilled offensive lineman. The Texans would benefit from bringing in a rookie who could have the potential to succeed in the future to replace him.
Ryan Harris: Harris, once a great player for Denver, has not been the same since suffering a myriad of devastating injuries. He is aging and performed terribly for the Texans when given playing time.
Shaun Cody: It is time for Shaun Cody's stay in Houston to come to an end. The starting nose tackle for several seasons, Cody has failed to become the game-changer fans have yearned for at the position. While Cody does not harm the defense, his average play does not help elevate it to an elite level. It is time for the Texans to do their defense a favor and find a dominant, playmaking nose tackle, and save a little bit of money in the process.
Connor Barwin: Barwin had a breakout season in 2011 for the Texans. He stepped up after Mario Williams suffered a torn triceps, and he managed to lead the team in sacks as the primary pass-rusher. Barwin, however, did not live up to his expectations last season. He started every single game, but he only managed to notch a grand total of three sacks. He was unable to effectively rush the passer, and he had an absolutely terrible season. Barwin will likely ask for a lot of money in the free-agency market because of his terrific 2011 campaign, and the Texans should not bite on the trap.
Bradie James: James, who was signed to replace the loss of DeMeco Ryans last offseason, did not have a great year for the Texans. He replaced Brian Cushing as the No. 1 inside linebacker on the roster after Cushing went down with a torn ACL, and he did little to alleviate the loss. James' old age showed on the field, as he failed to display the lateral quickness to effectively stop the running game and cover tight ends. Opposing offenses were able to prey on James, and this was a major reason for the Texans' defensive collapse at the end of the season. The Texans could easily replace James in the draft where there are many solid linebackers available.
Stanford Routt: An extremely fast athlete, Routt never truly panned out in the NFL. He could not develop the skills to match his freak athleticism, and this caused him to struggle guarding NFL wide receivers. Routt was brought onto the Texans in lieu of several defensive back injuries, and he did little to contribute.
Quintin Demps: Demps was by far the worst member of the Texans' secondary last season. He seemed unable to grasp the concept that he must cover the receiver that he was assigned to cover, as he was burned time after time for huge gains. He absolutely should not be re-signed; his play his severely detrimental to the defense.
Shayne Graham: While Graham was accurate and did not majorly hurt the Texans in any way, Randy Bullock is the Texans' kicker of the future. He was selected in the fifth round of last year's draft for a reason, and he will be ready to play next season after spending last year on the IR.