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Free Agency Preview: Houston Texans

Will the Texans make substantial moves in free agency and how will this impact the fantasy landscape? Hasan Rahim reviews the Houston Texans’ 2018 season, outlines players the team will lose to free agency and considers free agent targets.

Free agency and salary data included in this article was sourced from OverTheCap.

The Texans are currently projected to have $74,930,215 in cap space for 2019, assuming the league’s new salary cap is set at $189 million.

2018 In Summary

Deshaun Watson appeared to be fully recovered from the ACL tear that cut his rookie season short and he led the Texans to an 11-5 record. With Watson back under center for a full sixteen games, the Texans won the AFC South and secured a playoff berth. The boost Watson has provided the Texans’ offense since becoming a starter is quite noticeable.

Watson Splits

The Texans’ passing game ranked close to dead last in most categories, which could be directly attributed to Watson playing through several injuries.

Houston Offense

It’s quite likely that Watson got hurt playing behind one of the worst offensive line’s in the NFL. The offensive line offered less resistance than a wet paper bag, surrendering a league worst 3.7 sacks per game and 24 percent QB hit rate. Despite the issues Watson faced in pass protection, he posted one of the best QBR’s in the league. It’s safe to say that the Houston Texans have found their franchise QB.

Offensive Free Agents

Demaryius Thomas WR 31 $14,000,000 UFA
DeAndre Carter WR 26 $480,000 ERFA
Alfred Blue RB 28 $880,000 UFA
Joe Webb QB 32 $915,000 UFA
Brandon Weeden QB 35 $880,000 UFA
Ka’imi Fairbairn K 25 $541,667 RFA

AAV stands for average annual value and is calculated by dividing the total value of a contract by its life.

The Texans traded for Demaryius Thomas right after Will Fuller was placed on season-ending IR with a torn ACL.1 Unfortunately, Thomas tore his Achilles in Week 16 and was recently released after failing his physical.2

Fantasy parasite Alfred Blue is set to hit free agency, and I’d expect that the Texans look to upgrade via free agency or the NFL Draft. Blue was a replacement-level player and failed to capitalize on the opportunity he received last season. Houston RBsBrandon Weeden’s most memorable performance in the NFL was getting sacked by the flag and it’s highly unlikely that the Texans bring him back. I’d expect Joe Webb to be re-signed but the Texans need to address their backup QB situation this offseason. Quite frankly, there’s several QBs in the AAF who the Texans should consider inviting to training camp instead of overpaying for mediocre backups.

Potential Moves

I’d expect the team to release Lamar Miller and Ryan Griffin as both players can be cut in exchange for a minimal cap hit.

Player Position Dead Money Cap Savings
Lamar Miller RB $1,000,000 $6,203,125
Ryan Griffin TE $0 $2,687,500

Miller was a solid if unspectacular RB for the Texans. Lamar Miller

Miller may have underperformed expectations considering the hefty contract he signed as a free agent,3 and the Texans will possibly look to move on from his services this offseason. The Texans drafted D’Onta Foreman 89th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft and ostensibly expected Foreman to usurp Miller for the lead RB role. Unfortunately Foreman tore his Achilles in Week 11 of his rookie season, which hindered his performance last season.

Texans head coach Bill O’ Brien mentioned that Foreman remains in the team plans, but his quote suggests otherwise:4

Obviously a very talented guy, but it took him forever to come back from his injury. So, hopefully with a good offseason, here’s a guy that can really be an excellent player. I have a lot of belief in his ability. I think he’s somebody that can help us.

Doctor Jeff Budoff noted that Foreman wasn’t going to be close to 100 percent healthy until 2019, and it sounds like O’Brien is cautiously optimistic for the upcoming season. However, I’d expect the Texans to bring in competition for Foreman’s early-down role. Free agents such as Latavius Murray, T.J. Yeldon, Alex Collins, and Spencer Ware could be brought in cheaply and provide a similar skill-set as Foreman.

Additionally, I’d expect the Texans to draft another RB during the NFL Draft. Jordan Hoover has ranked Darrell Henderson, David Montgomery, Devin Singletary, Trayveon Williams, Benny Snell Jr., and Josh Jacobs as his top-6 pre-NFL Combine RBs. All six rookie RBs would make for a solid complementary add for the Texans.

Fuller is expected back six to nine months after his ACL surgery5 and should be ready to report by the middle of training camp. Although DeAndre Hopkins is a stud WR and Keke Coutee is a solid WR3, Fuller provides the Texans with a dynamic receiving threat.

Texans Receivers Fuller’s incredible ability to score touchdowns elevates his AYA far ahead of the other Texans receivers, and in his absence the Texans’ passing attack suffered. Will Fuller splits

Most importantly the Texans lose their premiere deep threat when Fuller misses time. They should look to free agency to fill this need.  Tyrell Williams, Chris Hogan, John Brown, or Phillip Dorsett are all good candidates for the Texans to target in free agency. Both Williams and Brown are solid additions, but I’d expect the Texans to sign a veteran WR cheaply and look to add depth via the NFL Draft.

As John Lapinski noted, neither Jordan Akins nor Jordan Thomas popped in Phil Watkins’ TE prospect model and the Texans could look to add a TE via free agency. Assuming the team opts to release Griffin, I’d expect them to try to sign Jared Cook or Austin-Seferian Jenkins if they’re looking to add a more reliable pass-catching TE.

Final Thoughts

The Texans’ primary target in free agency should be finding a way to bolster the offensive line. The team has found their franchise QB and should be looking to maximize the surplus value for as long as Watson is on his rookie deal. I’d expect that a significant chunk of their spending in free agency would go towards adding offensive linemen and upgrading their defense.

I’d expect any available funds to go towards signing a veteran RB and a veteran WR on the cheap, while also adding depth via the NFL Draft. Hopefully the Texans are able to build on their successful 2018 and are able to make a Super Bowl run in the near future.

  1. The team traded their 2019 fourth round pick and swapped seventh rounders with the Broncos.  (back)
  2. Thomas was owed $14 million in 2019 and his release frees up a significant chunk of cap space.  (back)
  3. four years, $26 million with $14 million in guaranteed money  (back)
  4. Emphasis mine  (back)
  5. October 28, 2018  (back)

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