The Houston Texans had a good 2015 season, but JJ Watt can only get the team so far. With a middle round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, it is highly likely that Bill O’Brien will look to the free agency market to try and plug many of the holes in his roster. Here is the list of what should be top priority during the Houston Texans’ 2016 Off-Season if they wish to stay competitive in the AFC South.
Houston Texans 2016 Off-Season: Top 3 Needs
The Texans need a new signal-caller, and they need him quick. Going into the season, ‘NFL Hard Knocks’ had played up the ‘highly anticipated’ battle for the job of Houston Texans starting quarterback, and neither Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett played like they wanted the role. The merry-go-round at the beginning of the year led to offensive instability throughout most of the season. In fact, it is testament to the ability of breakout star DeAndre Hopkins that the Texans were able to outscore their opponents at all. With Mallet out of the picture, and Hoyer playing like, well.. Brian Hoyer, it is clear that the Texans need to explore their options at the quarterback position this off-season.
With the 22nd pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, there is little chance that the Texans will see a franchise quarterback fall to them in this years class. Instead, their best bet is to look at the potential free agent market, or potentially try and trade for a passer who could take the starting job from Brian Hoyer. If you’re a Texans fan, the most intriguing storyline to watch this off-season will be where Robert Griffin III is playing football next year, because there’s no chance that he’s playing in Washington DC. The Dallas Cowboys are looking for a young quarterback to play back-up to Tony Romo, but it remains to be seen whether or not RGIII is able to take the NFL by the horns once again and play as a starter at a premier level. If his conditioning goes well, he will be certainly be worth a punt for any quarterback-needy teams, and no team needs a quarterback more than Houston.
Other high-profile names who may be looking for new teams in the spring include both Colin Kaepernick and Sam Bradford. Both have uncertain futures amidst coaching turnovers and early round picks for both teams, which could potentially leave both these men looking for a starting gig elsewhere. There are other names who may be worth looking to trade for. Young passer AJ McCarron showed that he had the tools to lead the Cincinnati Bengals in the absence of Andy Dalton, and there is every potential that the Texans front office may look to acquire the former national champion as a building block for this offense moving forward. However they do it, the Texans number one priority must be finding a new quarterback. DeAndre Hopkins deserves better service.
This is an awful situation for the Texans to find themselves in: Arian Foster is a quality starter and a productive football player, but he’s unable to stay healthy enough to depend on him. As Foster reaches 30, the age old superstition that his productivity will decline is surely playing on the Bill O’Brien’s mind, as he will have to justify handing a base salary of $6,500,000 to an unhealthy and aging running back. Perhaps instead, Houston cuts ties with Foster, allowing him to take a pay-cut in order to play football somewhere else, and look to either the deep free agency market or perhaps use their 22nd overall pick to find the elite talent that they so desperately need in this position.
The 2016 NFL Draft shows signs of promise for teams needing to rejuvenate their running back rotations. Ezekiel Elliot is a name that is generating huge amounts of hype. The former Ohio State star and national champion is expected to go in the first round of the draft, but would definitely be of value to the Houston Texans if he is on the board at 22. The former track star has speed, and is hoping to beat his average 40 yard time of 4.42 seconds at this year’s Scouting Combine. There is no doubt that he would be a welcome addition to a running back rotation which is short of a star name.
Jonathan Grimes and Chris Polk are both free agents this spring. Therefore it is unlikely that the Texans won’t test the water to see if they are able to upgrade on these players without taking too big of a cap hit. Lance Dunbar and Lamar Miller both look as though they are huge upgrades on a weak position for the Texans. If they do not wish to draft high on a running back, then they are both feasible options to replace an under-performing Arian Foster and co.
Many people would argue that the offensive line needs to be fixed, which is true to a certain extent. However, to ensure that this isn’t a wholly offensive piece, I have instead decided to focus on the defensive line of the Houston Texans. There are no standout names in the Houston Texans secondary. But they played lights out in the final weeks of the NFL regular season, and therefore I don’t believe that this is a position that needs to be overhauled this season.
In a 3-4 scheme, defensive linemen have to become accustomed to moving across the line. JJ Watt often finds himself pressuring opposing interior linemen, and both Jared Crick and Christian Covington have become used to doing the same. Nevertheless, there is still huge value in your stereotypical, big, nasty, run stuffing defensive tackle. With Vince Wilfork aging dramatically, it is unkown whether the Houston Texans are willing to give one of their leaders on defense one more year with the team. They would save over $4,000,000 by cutting him, but it is yet to be seen if this is an option they would be willing to take. Therefore, in a world of hypotheticals, it is necessary to look at the potential replacements for Wilfork if he leaves Houston. Opposite JJ Watt, there looks to be a hole come the beginning of training camp as Jared Crick is an unrestricted free agent, and he has been somewhat undervalued while on the same front as the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Man mountain Terrance Knighton looks to be a free agent again after his contract with the Washington Redskins is set to lapse. There is every chance that the Texans may look to pick up Knighton, who is arguably the scariest defensive tackle since Wilfork himself. Other options such as Haloti Ngata and Nick Fairley would be costly but valuable additions to a dominant front seven in Houston. B.J Raji could also be looking for a new home if the Green Bay Packers don’t wish to resign him, which would bring championship level experience to the Texans defense once again.
If the Texans have filled their running back spot via free agency, they may look to the draft to find a replacement for either Wilfork or Crick. If Robert Nkemdiche passes the character test with head coaches, and the back room staff look beyond the off-field issues, the former Ole Miss star may well be an option for the Texans in the first round. Emmanuel Ogbah (Clemson) and Jarran Reed (Alabama) would also be valuable additions to this defense early in the draft.
So long as they find a competent signal caller, the Texans are capable of returning to the playoffs. By adding a star running back and giving themselves another dimension to their offense there is the possibility that the Indianapolis Colts may have a power struggle atop the AFC South in 2016.