April 20, 2014

The Four Pieces of the Texans Offseason

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The Houston Texans are coming off one of the most embarrassing seasons in team history and the upcoming off-season is full questions and speculation. Newly anointed Head Coach Bill O’Brien has made his presence felt since he arrived, and now with the Super Bowl coming in less than a week, the new league year will be closing in.

The off-season will be full of decisions that will set the Texans up for what could be potentially franchise mover under O’Brien. By mover, it could be up or down, which makes this one to watch.

 

Dead Money/Cap Casualties

Everyone wants to slice and dice high paid players like Matt Schaub, Owen Daniels, Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning to open up cap space. That currently sounds like the best plan at the moment, but there has to be back up plans for each player. With a roster that looks to be reshaped for 2014, we take a look at each players possible contract ramifications.

- The first thing to take in account is what is left on the failed Ed Reed experiment. Reed was signed to a three-year deal with almost $6 million guaranteed, after being cut in the middle of the first season of the deal he is still owed $2.66 million for the next two years.

MattSchaub- Matt Schaub is an interesting factor and the key piece financially for the Texans as a team moving forward. Schaub has $37 million left on his final three seasons of his deal, but the positive is that only $10.5 of this deal is guaranteed. The Texans have a chance to save $11 million on the 2014 cap and $10 million on the 2015 cap (have to pay the remaining guaranteed money in two seasons) If the Texans want to take advantage of this so-called “savings” they would have to designated Schaub a post June 1st cut, but with NFL teams looking for all the cap room possible, the Texans will need to explore every option before pulling the trigger. Factors like potential free agent quarterbacks, possible trade scenarios for Schaub should be looked at, because the Texans can ill afford to flush down $10.5 million down the drain.

- Johnathan Joseph has been criticized for his poor play this past season, which is a little over blown at this point. Joseph has two seasons left on his deal but only $5 million ($2.5 a season) is guaranteed with $2.5 million ($1.25 a season) in season bonuses. His cap numbers are where it gets a little tough to handle in 2014 ($11.25 cap hit) and in 2015 ($12.25 cap hit), so Joseph could be a candidate to take a pay cut or possibly restructure his deal. Joseph is still a top corner in the this league, and right now the Texans have no answers to take Joseph’s position. Keeping Joseph in Houston could be the right thing to do for the short-term and to keep above average talent in place.

- Danieal Manning is entering his last season of his free agent deal when he arrived to Houston in 2011. Manning is guaranteed $1.5 million in 2014 with a cap hit of $6 million, and they could open up some decent room if the Texans decide to part ways with safety with and save $4.5 million . Much like the corner back position, the Texans are weak at safety and Manning was playing at a high level prior to his injury. One season of keeping Manning around could be a stop-gap until the Texans figure out what to do at the position, and just like Joseph the Texans could find ways to alter his contract.

- Owen Daniels could possibly be another long time Texans player that could be a cap issue. Also entering his last year of his deal, Daniels is due $6.25 million with only $750k guaranteed and a $1 million in season bonus. The June 1st date will come into play with Daniels just like Schuab. By cutting Daniels the Texans would be saving around $5.5 million with potential move. The emergence of Ryan Griffin could put Daniels, the second longest tenured Texan, out of Houston.

One thing the Texans also need to account for is if they can keep Daniels and Manning around and let them walk after their contracts have expired, the Texans could be in position to get compensatory picks with their departures.

 

Roster Evaluation

One thing is for certain, the Texans will have a new look for the 2014  season. Currently with 57 player under contract, there are 25 of those players with zero guaranteed money in their contracts. Head Coach Bill O’Brien is working on this roster, and has said there is talent on this team. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will be faced with the task to figure out the talent on the defense.

The lack of starters at defensive line, outside and inside linebackers, running back and quarterback is distributing and overall depth at all the positions up and down the roster. The direction of the roster will take shape before the NFL draft gets here, and it will all start with the decision on Matt Schaub.

 

Free Agency

Will the Texans spend in free agency? The Texans will have to change their mentality of spending on free agents for the long run and look for veterans that are looking for quick pay days that could result in 1-2 year deals.

These are a few examples of players that teams took advantage of to fill their rosters for the 2103 season,

Michael Bennett (DL) (Seahawks) 1 year/ $5 million

Terrance Knighton (DT) (Broncos) 2 years/ $4 million

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (CB) (Broncos) 1 year/ $5 million

Dustin Keller (TE) (Dolphins) 1 year/ $4.25 million

Aqib Talib (TE) (Patriots) 1 year/ $5 million

Cliff Avril (DE) (Seahawks) 2 years/ $15 million

Wes Welker (WR) (Broncos) 2 years/ $12 million

Shaun Phillips (OLB) (Broncos) 1 year/ $1 million

Karlos Dansby (ILB) (Cardinals) 1 year/ $2.25 million

This is just a small portion of the type of players who signed a free agent deal looking to stay in the NFL. With the influx of younger players, veterans contracts will be on a year to year basis. The trend started the past two seasons, and it is opportunities like this that the Texans have to take advantage of to help build their roster.

 

NFL Draft

Positions will matter after the when it gets closer, and right now it is hard to think the Texans will not come out of this draft without a quarterback. This draft seems to have a high level of importance sitting at #1 overall and trying to make up for a poor 2013 draft and 2-14 record.

The speculation of the draft has started and there is over three months before the NFL draft starts. The Texans will start with at least seven picks going into the draft, and all will be on the top of each round. Also, there is a chance that some compensatory picks will come to add to the total picks for the draft.

This draft  will be a vital part of the start of the O’Brien era in Houston.

 

You can follow Patrick on Twitter.  He is the Editor of State of the Texans.

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