Key Additions: Ryan Fitzpatrick ($3.6M per year), Chris Clemons ($1.4M)
Key Re-Signings: Garrett Graham ($3.8M per year)
Key Losses: Antonio Smith (Raiders), Joe Mays (Chiefs), Earl Mitchell (Dolphins), Ben Tate (Browns), Darryl Sharpton (Redskins)
Major Cuts: Owen Daniels ($4.5M cap savings), Danieal Manning ($4.5M), Matt Schaub ($3.9M- trade)
Free Agency Thoughts:
The team with the worst record in the NFL had an offseason with little entrances and many exits. The biggest move came when the team was finally able to trade QB Matt Schaub whose role with the Texans had to come to an end. Schaub was the classic example of a QB who, for a time, is looked at as a good player when expectations are low and the cost is low, but every flaw is ripped apart when those situations change. The extension was always questionable for Schaub and with the team expected to compete for a title the fanbase turned on him when it became clear he was a level below the Super Bowl quality QBs. It clearly rattled his confidence and there was no way he would get it back in Houston.
He will be replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick, who the team signed to a two year contract. Fitzpatrick, who went through a similar situation as Schaub in Buffalo, is a gamer and will likely be accepted by the fans since the expectations are so low. His contract by no means blocks them from drafting a QB and he won’t cause issues when and if he moves to the bench. Fitzpatrick does not have much physical talent but he is a good fit for the team.
Garrett Graham showed some flashes and can do enough to potentially be the main tight end for the next two or three years. If they move to a young QB Graham is valuable for the season as a safety valve. Chris Clemons is a nice bargain contract. Clemons surprisingly had limited suitors in free agency and there is no risk in his contract if they need to release him next season as the dead money is just $100,000.
Most of the other cuts and losses were all veteran players who would not have a role on this team going forward. Ben Tate would be the lone player where you can argue the move, but if the Texans are going to keep their fingers crossed that Arian Foster is healthy there is no way they can sink more money into veteran runners on the team. Tate likely would not have been willing to return anyway since he wanted more opportunities.
Overall Grade: C+
Free agency is not meant for a team like the Texans. Ideally free agency is meant for good quality teams who might be a piece or two away from a playoff run. It is not meant for rebuilding teams unless it is just to find a few bodies to throw on the field. The way the Texans approached free agency was an admission that it was time to completely rebuild after their two year window was slammed shut and that was the right decision. I am certain that many Texans fans wish that the team could have added a few pieces, but the team was capped out following big contracts given to Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub, Brian Cushing, Arian Foster and others.
This was the first year in some time that the Texans did not tinker with the contract of Johnson for cap relief. That was an absolute must and another nod in the direction that the team is eventually headed. It will be interesting to see if they consider fielding trade offers for him either this year or next. Either way I would expect his contract to change next season when his cap charge is over $16 million. Between not touching his contract, letting the veterans walk, and getting something in return for Schaub this was a successful free agency period even if on the surface they look like they are giving up.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.