Texans should re-sign Brandon Weeden, spend on targets
Few expected the Houston Texans to win the AFC South, especially with such an unsettled quarterback position. However, with several stars on both sides of the ball—most notably, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and defensive end J.J. Watt—and the struggles of their divisional rivals, Houston was able to get it done. They may have been outclassed by the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs, but it was still a successful season for the team under new head coach Bill O’Brien. The task is now to build upon that this offseason, starting with free agency.
Here’s a look at what moves the Houston front office should make next month:
G Brandon Brooks
Brooks wasn’t great in 2015 (66.7 overall grade), but he wasn’t terrible, either. He had our 11th-highest pass-blocking grade among guards, with his run-blocking bringing his overall grade down. While he did struggle in that regard, he had the third- and fourth-highest run blocking grades in 2013 and 2014, respectively, so 2015 can easily be looked at as a blip. We have Brooks as the fourth-best guard available in free agency, and the Texans would be wise to keep him around.
OLB John Simon
Simon (75.1) is a restricted free agent, so the odds on him returning are high, but it’s worth pointing out that he has grown into a solid No. 3 outside linebacker since arriving in Houston. With six sacks, seven hits, and 14 hurries, he was solid as a pass-rusher in 2015, and has stood out against the run in each of the past two seasons.
QB Brandon Weeden
Re-signing Brandon Weeden (70.9) probably wasn’t what anyone expected the Texans to be even considering when they brought him in mid-season, but he makes sense as a low-cost option at the position. He is not, and in all likelihood never will be, the player some hoped for when the Cleveland Browns drafted him in the first round back in 2012, but he did run the Texans’ offense solidly in limited work, and could step in if Brian Hoyer struggles again.
P Shane Lechler
With a lack of key free agents, the decision of what to do on special teams is one of the biggest that the Texans face. Gone are the days where Lechler was one of the best punters in the league. In 2015, he was our fifth-lowest graded player at the position, with the highest percentage of punts returned, at 63.2 percent. It’s time for a change from the multi-time Pro Bowler, and thankfully this year sees a nice group of free agent punters from which to find a replacement.
TE Zach Miller
An upgrade at tight end makes a lot of sense, and Miller (81.0) is a cost-effective option who had a really productive season after not seeing a regular season snap since 2011. A solid blocker and receiver, he showed an impressive pair of hands with no drops from the 34 catchable passes thrown his way, racking up 439 yards, scoring five touchdowns, and forcing 11 missed tackles.
P Marquette King
If picking up a player after leaving Oakland worked well before, going back to the well again wouldn’t be a bad idea. King was our 10th highest graded punter in 2015, and has steadily improved in the past three seasons. King saw 20 of his punts land inside the 20-yard line, the second-most in the league behind only Rams P Johnny Hekker. King is a player on the rise, and signing him has the potential to have the Texans set at the position for the next five years.
WR Rishard Matthews
With DeAndre Hopkins as their No. 1 receiver, and Jaelen Strong as someone who can develop and make a big impact, finding a receiver to be a solid No. 2 option would help out the Texans’ offense. Rishard Matthews (79.4) can be that guy, and probably doesn’t come at a high cost. Matthews has been a solid receiver throughout his four-year career in Miami, occasionally flashing a little more than that, but never struggling to the point that it causes concern. He dropped six passes from 49 catchable targets in 2015, but just three from 64 in the previous three seasons.