Houston came off of a 2011-2012 season that was the most successful year in franchise history. I knew for sure I was going to renew my Texans tickets until coming into the off-season. I expected the team to load up for a legitimate run to the Super Bowl. Alas, the 2012 off-season hasn’t quite worked out that way I wanted and now I am starting to wonder what I should do about my Texan tickets.
They started their off-season aggressively by re-signing running back Arian Foster to a five-year deal. The Pro Bowl running back will be paid $43.5 million of which $20.75 million is guaranteed. As the dominant running back is in the top rated rushing attack, the move made sense on a number of fronts.
Along this line, they also moved to re-sign center Chris Myers. Myers made the Pro bowl last season and was due to become a free agent. Instead, the team locked him up with a four-year deal that will pay him $25 million total with $14 million being guaranteed. For a player just coming into his prime, the contract represents a good deal as Myers would be able to command much more in another couple of years.
As is the case with most NFL teams, the organization had to cut a number of players to get under the salary cap before free agency started. What was surprising was the quality of some of the players that they cut. While getting rid of quarterback Matt Lineart and safety Quintin Demps wasn’t particularly surprising, the decision to cut tackle Eric Winston and fullback Lawrence Vickers was. The team has no clear replacements for Winston or Vickers. This is particular troubling since the team favors a run first offense and both players were key to its success.
Free Agent Losses
In addition to cutting a number of players, they suffered two significant free agent losses. The player that is getting the most attention is defensive end/linebacker Mario Williams. A one time first overall pick in the NFL draft, Williams had come into his own as a pass rushing specialist. Once he became a free agent, teams were climbing all over themselves to try to sign him. Ultimately, it was the Buffalo Bills that won out when they signed him to a staggering six year contract for a cool $100 million. This makes Williams the highest paid defensive player in the league, a contract that had no hope of matching.
An additional loss that is perhaps more important, but isn’t getting as much mention, is the loss of offensive guard Mike Briesel. The team wanted Briesel back, but he signed a five-year contract for $20 million with the Oakland Raiders. When combined with the loss of Eric Winston, the team has now lost two of its starting five offense linemen. It is difficult to see how losing almost half your offensive line will not have an effect will on the team’s vaunted rushing attacks.
On a lesser note, they also lost cornerback Jason Allen to the Cincinnati Bengals. Allen missed the 2011 season due to injuries, but still managed to convince the Bengals to sign him to a two-year contract for $8.2 million. Although they have other cornerbacks in the fold, this will undoubtedly force them to look to the draft to develop some depth.
Free Agent Signings
Listing the free agents that the Houston Texans have signed since the free agency period opened is extremely easy. This is because they haven’t signed a single player. There was some talk that Peyton Manning might come to the team since he was already familiar with the division and would be able to get revenge on the Indianapolis Colts, but that now appears to be a pipe dream.
The 2012 off-season has been a frustrating one for fans. The team looked so close to going to the Super Bowl in 2011 and may well have made it if starting quarterback Matt Schaub and not been lost for the season with an injury. Unfortunately, it now appears as though the team is taking a step back. While they have retained two key players, they have lost a lot of quality players and now have some serious holes to fill. The Texans are going to have to have a very productive draft if they hope to maintain their momentum as an up-and-coming team.