Our spin around the NFL brings us to the Houston Texans and their Help Wanted needs. The Texans played like one of the best teams in football last season. When they lost their quarterback, Matt Schaub, mid-season it torpedoed their chances at the Super Bowl, and they dropped out of the playoffs in the divisional round.
That being said, they made their run without some key pieces, which speaks volumes to the quality of the roster, much of which returns intact. They do have some key players hitting free agency though, so much of their off-season will be dictated by how they treat those players. In fact, their most glaring needs would come as a result of free agents allowed to walk.
Let’s take a look at what their needs are as free agency comes ever closer.
Primary Need: Center
Chris Myers (+32.6) was simply the best center in football last season. The Jets’ Nick Mangold started the season banged up, but even when he got healthy he couldn’t take back the lead of Myers in the PFF rankings, such was the play from the Texan. Myers has been steadily improving as a Texan and is at the peak of his game just as he hits free agency. It stands to reason that he should be looking to command some pretty big money. Having spoken to him though, he wants to return to Houston. The Texans have to want him back, because he is the perfect zone-scheme center, and they won’t find a replacement easily.
This is only a need if the Texans allow Myers to walk, and therefore the move to plug the hole is to find the money to re-sign Myers long-term. This is so he can anchor an offensive line that has been playing together now for a few seasons and getting better each one. Myers is an excellent player, but his value is highest to the Texans with their scheme. It is the one destination he is most keen on landing, so it only makes sense for the two sides to find a way to get a deal done. If they do manage to lose him, they could do worse than look at Samson Satele (+3.0) from the Raiders. Satele is a mobile, run blocking center who is himself best in a zone-scheme like the Texans run, and could probably plug the gap for a lot less money, even if it would be a significant downgrade.
Secondary Need: Wide Receiver
The Texans have one of the league’s best in the shape of Andre Johnson (+8.1), but they need to add some foil for him on the other side and also a bit more insurance in case he misses time again through injury. Kevin Walter (-0.5) is a solid player who doesn’t drop passes, but he struggles to gain separation and can’t assume the number one role. Jacoby Jones (-4.7) has never been able to raise his play to his potential and remains an inconsistent weapon. The Texans would become a much scarier prospect on offense if they had a legitimate receiver opposite Johnson for teams to worry about that could force them to play their coverages honest.
There is wide receiver value out there in the free agency market, but in truth this might be a need that is best addressed in the draft. If they do choose to look to free agency they are going to be targeting second tier players who can still do a decent job against coverage. Robert Meachem (+4.2) has never been able to distance himself in the Saints offense, but they will spread the ball to other weapons. He would likely get a much steadier dose of the football in Houston and could emerge as a real threat as he does have big-time potential. Reggie Wayne (+7.1) may be declining, but can still do some damage. He may be best suited as the second receiver on an offense, and would be an interesting option for a team that might consider loading up for a run.
Tertiary Need: Cornerback
There is an argument that nose tackle is a major need too, with Shaun Cody (-1.2) a player you can upgrade upon. The Texans are so quick to move to their nickel defense that I’m not sure it’s a big problem. Cornerback on the other hand is still an issue. Jonathan Joseph (+11.8) single-handedly transformed the unit from a disaster to mission-capable. He does need someone on the other side to keep an opposing offense honest and prevent them from just avoiding Joseph. The Texans though already make that tougher on offenses by using him to shadow receivers. The cornerback market is dwindling with the use of the franchise tag on some top players, but there are still options out there that would upgrade what the Texans currently have out there.
Carlos Rogers (+9.4) is almost certain to see the open market after the 49ers tagged Dashon Goldson. Rogers will be 31 by the time the season rolls around so how much of a contract can he really command? If the Texans can get him for a reasonable price for a few seasons, he could be a real boon for a defense that is very close to being an excellent unit. William Gay was a starter for the Steelers all last season and didn’t disgrace himself. He wasn’t the best corner in the world, but he wasn’t beaten for a reception longer than 27 yards all season. That kind of ‘tough to beat’ ability is more than enough to upgrade the current situation opposite Joseph and make life more difficult for opposing offenses.