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Meltser: Texans Needs Post Free Agency

What do the Texans have left to do?

MAD Radio
April 04, 2018 - 4:11 pm

1 - Offensive Tackle - I thought the Texans did a reasonably good job of addressing the interior of the offensive line through the law of averages. Signing Zach Fulton and Senio Kelemete should give the team a minimum of one starter and a swing guy who can play a few spots. The fact that Fulton’s strength is in pass protection makes me feel better, especially having watched Xavier Su’a-Filo combine generally decent run-blocking with epic breakdowns. Houston also has competition on the inside, with Jeff Allen, Greg Mancz, Chad Slade, Kyle Fuller, and David Quessenberry. There are enough options to cobble together a respectable interior, with upside for more.

However, I have yet to be sold on the plan at tackle. The Texans went hard after Nate Solder, and you can sway me on the idea that they are better off not over-paying for a decent player. Still, Solder was clearly plan A, and now you’re left with essentially Julien Davenport, Seantrel Henderson, and Kendall Lamm. Lamm is dreadful. Henderson seems like a nice spin of the roulette wheel, but he’s started one game in the last two seasons. Davenport is a developing player, but not someone I fully trust at a key position.

Based on the lack of depth, I’m surprised the Texans weren’t more aggressive at pursuing the likes of Justin Pugh or Cam Fleming, especially given the fact that they were apparently willing to hand out a large contract to Solder. This is priority 1A and 1B in the draft. I think the hope is you draft a tackle who can compete right away. That won’t be easy without a first or second round pick.

 

2 - Tight End - Fun fact: the Texans actually have 6 tight ends under contract, even though it feels like they only have about 1.5 real ones. I’ve always liked Stephen Anderson, but he’s not exactly a dual-threat at the position.

The impending retirement of C.J. Fiedorowicz leaves an obvious hole for a TE who can be a threat in the passing game while also being able to help out in the run game. Like the offensive tackle situation, I’m a little surprised that Houston was not more aggressive in trying to add an option in free agency.

I do like some of the prospects in this draft at TE, although most come with question marks in terms of run-blocking. I fully expect the Texans to use one of their many mid-round picks to address this need.

 

3 - Cornerback - Heading into free agency, my expectation was that Houston would sign a big-ticket CB like Trumaine Johnson, Malcolm Butler, or Kyle Fuller. The first two received big contracts, and the Bears used the transition tag to prevent Fuller from truly hitting the open market.

Signing Aaron Colvin, particularly with the addition of Tyrann Mathieu behind him at safety, makes a lot of sense. Colvin was a very good slot CB in Jacksonville, and came far cheaper than the top end of the market at this position.

Re-signing Johnathan Joseph to a fairly cheap two year deal has some logic, although I would love to know how GM Brian Gaine valued other veteran CBs who signed short contracts, specifically E.J. Gaines, Rashaan Melvin, and Morris Claiborne. It seemed like the familiarity with Joseph won out over the other options.

After signing Colvin, a number of questions remain at this position: how well can the former Oklahoma Sooner play on the outside? How long can Joseph hold off Father Time? And perhaps the biggest question of all: can Kevin Johnson regain his 2016-2017 form? The last question is one of the three or four biggest question marks for the Texans as they head into 2018.

 

4 - Defensive End - We haven’t seen this position pop up too highly on a list of needs for the last few years. JJ Watt could be here for the next 5-6 years, or he could be here for a much shorter time span. Nobody knows. You hope for the best while creating some viable alternatives for the future.

I like Carlos Watkins as a piece. Christian Covington has improved, but is scheduled to be a free agent after the 2018 season. Joel Heath seems fine. Angelo Blackson did actually show some flashes in the latter stages of the lost 2017 campaign. Overall, there’s not a lot to count on past this upcoming season. I think it’s time to add more young pieces through the draft, especially with some of the other financial investments that have been made (and will be made) on the back seven on defense during this offseason.

 

5 - Running Back - The Texans have decent options, but no sure things. It’s always felt like Lamar Miller has been an awkward fit in Bill O’Brien’s offense, utilized more like a workhorse than an “air back” kind of player. He’s averaged 4.0 and 3.7 yards per carry in his first two years in Houston, which is not much to write home about. I do believe that Miller’s strengths will be accentuated playing alongside Deshaun Watson, and he is a strong pass protector.

D’Onta Foreman rupturing his Achilles on a long touchdown run was almost symbolic of the 2017 season. I like what Foreman showed as a rookie; he has the type of explosiveness and power that Miller lacks, and he appears to have better big-play potential. However, that injury is very worrisome for an explosive athlete. If I could have “chosen” a season-ending injury for Foreman, I would have selected almost any injury other than an Achilles rupture. O’Brien recently said that Foreman will be ready for training camp. That makes me feel more hopeful, but I’m ultimately uncertain if you can count on him returning in exactly the same form he showed in 2017.

Having (for now) four picks between the third and fourth rounds, RB will be a consideration for Gaine and O’Brien. This has actually been a fertile area to pick up quality at this position. Since 2014, here are some RBs selected in those two rounds: Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, Tarik Cohen, Tevin Coleman, David Johnson, Jerick McKinnon, and Devonta Freeman.