Free Agency Notebook: The Houston Texans Have Filled Important Spots Without Anyone Noticing
The Houston Texans have taken care of some depth at offensive line which went unnoticed by many.
The Houston Texans continue to watch the days move and sit patiently while most are wondering what the team is trying to accomplish. The organization has moved Brock Osweiler, freeing up $10 million in cap space, and has lost four of its own players from the 2016 roster as they head to new teams via free agency. Most expected for the Texans to cut checks to fill holes in the roster but that is not the plan at the moment, with the Tony Romo situation sitting on the back burner.
As much as many want movement from the Texans this off-season, using the 2016 off-season as a barometer, that off-season was an outlier on how the Texans usually conduct business in free agency. The Texans went all in with Brock Osweiler but had solid deals for Lamar Miller ($6.5M APY), Jeff Allen ($7M APY), and Tony Bergstrom ($2.87 APY).
Many felt that the Texans would be moving on from both Tony Bergstrom and Chris Clark heading into this next season but given their contracts and how the market is out of control for offensive linemen, the market has positioned the two as valuable depth players. Bergstrom enters the second year of his 2-year deal worth $5.75 million, while Clark enters his final year of his 2-year deal worth $6 million. Those two deals would rank them on the bottom end of the contracts handed out this off-season but remember these are depth signings from the start.
The Texans know they have to find a starting caliber right tackle and that was shown with early inquires on Ricky Wagner and Mike Remmers when free agency kicked off. Wagner and Remmers are two tackles who have played at a decent level but their contracts were high dollar when it was all said and done.
Besides an inflated market for offensive linemen, the Texans make it a habit to do their free agent shopping when most do not realize it is taking place.
What do we mean?
The Texans make it habit, when they sign players at any point, to have a long term outlook on players. Most signings occur to replace injured players, but the Texans make sure to select players who have a trajectory pointing upward for the future to add to their roster.
There are key examples of this over the years, especially in the Bill O’Brien era. Some have been with reserve/futures contracts that were in-season signings.
One player in particular mentioned in private discussion that when he was signed by the Texans, he was told from the start that the team wanted him to learn the system and it would be a learning period for the remainder of the season. The following season, they would want to see him put what he learned in that short time on the field and give him a chance to stay on the roster. The Texans kept an eye on this particular player since college, showing overt interest, and when they had an opportunity to finally sign him, they did. This player had a chance to play on game days and become an intergral part of the roster, filling in on key spots and making plays.
Which leads us to this off-season: why are the Texans not making moves, especially for the offensive line?
There were two key signings that most brushed off during the season, offensive guard/tackle Josh Walker (pictured above) and offensive tackle Laurence Gibson. Walker has experience at right guard and tackle, while Gibson is considered a swing tackle with his better fit at right tackle. Both Walker and Gibson have had time to learn the system and, most importantly, are thought of highly inside the building.
Walker played some regular season games with the Green Bay Packers mainly at right guard. The 6’5”, 328 lbs. offensive lineman is only in his 2nd season out of Middle Tennessee State and is a youth signing who the Texans are trying to develop. Walker even played in two games for the Texans in 2016 and was signed immediately to the 53-man roster when he arrived.
As for Gibson, the 6’6”, 305 lbs. offensive tackle was a 7th round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2015 NFL Draft. Gibson was an NFL Combine invite and was in the top five in his position group with a 5.04 sec. 40-yard dash, 33.5 inch vertical jump, 113 broad jump, and a 4.56 20-yard shuttle. The tape on him coming out of Virginia Tech showed NFL-level ability with inconsistent tape, but has the tools all teams want to develop. The Texans had him visit NRG Stadium for a pre-draft visit in 2015, which shows the Texans have been interested in sometime in Gibson. (Read Here)
The Texans have young players in-house who they have been working with to develop in both Walker and Gibson. Gibson arrived in late October of 2015 while Gibson signed early December, allowing both players time to develop in the system.
If the Texans would have had on the transaction report that the team signed offensive lineman Josh Walker and Laurence Gibson, most would feel better about the Texans “trying” to do something to help their roster.
As onlookers wait for the Texans to start making moves, the Texans have already done so in order to get ready for the upcoming season. They continue to make signings when people least expect it, ensuring they have depth and beating the mad rush as other franchises overpay players. The Texans really concentrate on young players they have put the time into with the draft process so they are ready to go a few years down the road.
The depth is already in-house, now it is about finding that front line player who the Texans can trust for the long haul for the season.