Houston, we have a problem. The Texans are in a tough spot, potentially one hole away from a Super Bowl. The supporting cast is all there for a strong run with a strong defense, receiving core, and running back. This is a team full of promise who could be on the rise very quickly if they just address a few things over the off-season. Below are three of the biggest things the Texans should address to get over the hump and become contenders.
Houston Texans 2017 Off-Season: Top 3 Needs
A Fix At Quarterback
Put simply, Brock Osweiler was awful as the man under center for Houston this past season. He was a consistent weight holding down a team otherwise brimming with talent. After signing a massive contract last offseason, Osweiler has performed like perhaps the worst starting quarterback in the league. More interceptions were thrown by him than touchdowns and he failed to reach even 3000 yards. His inadequacy is the only thing preventing a team with so many pieces in place from being Super Bowl contenders. The defense is perhaps a top five unit in the league, and the offense has talents such as DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Lamar Miller.
The best thing to do may sound like cutting Osweiler, but Houston will accrue 25 million in dead money by doing so. Luckily, there are multiple more proactive ways the quarterback issue can addressed. One possible route is by signing somebody in free agency, but it’s doubtful the Texans could find their man of the future this way. Viable options from free agency are Kirk Cousins, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, E.J. Manuel, Brian Hoyer, Blaine Gabbert, Geno Smith, and Mike Glennon.
Cousins is proven to be a pretty good NFL starter, but his price will be high. If Houston is willing to invest upwards of 20 million per season, Kirk Cousins could very well be their guy. The rest of the guys in this free agent group likely won’t be what Houston needs, though Geno Smith and Mike Glennon do have some potential. Also expected to become available due to release are quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Tony Romo, but Cutler has never been great and Romo is known to be fragile and wouldn’t do well behind the weak offensive line of the Texans.
If the Texans want to take a different route in fixing their quarterback issues, they could also make a trade or take a chance on drafting a prospect to take over the job. The New England Patriots are reportedly shopping Jimmy Garoppolo, and if Houston is willing to part with a draft pick they could acquire him. Just like Osweiler before his signing, however, Garoppolo has flashed potential over a very small sample size. Signing him would be a gamble.
Should the Texans choose to draft a new signal caller, options that could be available to them at pick 25 and beyond will be scarce in a weak quarterback class. Fresno State’s Patrick Mahomes is perhaps the most promising prospect at the position and he could potentially be available to Houston in the first round. Beyond him, however, their best bet would be Cal’s Davis Webb or Pittsburgh’s Nathan Peterman on day three. Neither of those prospects are safe bets to be starter material.
Number one corner Johnathan Joseph is 32 years old. The best performer and breakout player in 2016, A.J. Bouye, is a pending free agent. Third man at the position Kareem Jackson is better at second or third on the depth chart. Behind these guys, there’s next to no depth and it’s reasonable to believe that both Joseph and Bouye could depart sooner rather than later. Johnathan Joseph likely only has a good season or two left in him and Houston has yet to reach any agreement with Bouye to keep him.
Retaining A.J. Bouye has got to be a priority. Per Pro Football Focus, Bouye actually graded out at 90.4, which is an elite mark. He performed like a top three cornerback. If Houston lets him go they lose an important asset to their secondary and weaken their defense as a whole. In today’s passing league, they absolutely must try to keep a strong secondary.
Drafting at least one corner for depth is something the Texans should take into consideration. The need is strong enough here that even a first round pick should be considered. This is a strong corner class with guys like Teez Tabor, Sidney Jones, Adoree’ Jackson, Tre’Davious White, and Gareon Conley potentially available to Houston at pick 25. All of those players have potential to have solid careers and could patch the hole should Houston lose Bouye. Even if they retain Bouye, drafting a Johnathan Joseph replacement should be on their minds as well.
Offensive Line Help
The struggles on offense weren’t helped by the offensive line Houston had in 2016. Left tackle and center were solid, but the other three spots on offensive line were big issues. Their starting guards were Xavier Su’a-Filo, who has performed poorly over his entire three year career, and Jeff Allen, who was solid last year but fell off significantly. Their worst spot on offensive line, however, was right tackle. Veteran Chris Clark struggled mightily throughout the season to keep Osweiler safe.
This draft class is extremely weak at offensive line. Luckily, there are plenty of viable free agent offensive linemen who could provide an upgrade. Several solid players are available at tackle and Houston should be able to find their replacement at an acceptable price. Likely fits for the team are Kelvin Beachum, Ryan Clady, or Matt Kalil, all three of which are currently left tackles who could benefit from a switch to the right side. Guard has a couple viable guys in free agency as well, like Luke Joeckel and T.J. Lang. Any of these signings would be improvements.