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A.J. Hoffman: The Texans top 5 needs heading into free agency and the draft

A.J. Hoffman: The Texans top 5 needs heading into free agency and the draft
The Texans need a much better backup QB than Tom Savage. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Texans have a lot of holes to fill this offseason. A LOT. Unfortunately, they don’t have unlimited draft picks, and it’s hard to get 40 new players in a single offseason. So I decided to try and prioritize the needs of the Texans and rank the Top 5 needs. 

5. Tight End

This may be the least likely group that the Texans will look to fix. They have made investments in the position, it just hasn’t worked out. They took C.J. Fiedorowicz in the third round in 2014. He finally started to look like a player, but now his career is in doubt due to multiple concussions. Ryan Griffin got a 3-year, $9M contract, but has not looked worth the money and the Texans could cut him this offseason with no salary cap repercussions. Stephen Anderson has shown flashes, but can’t be depended on as a key guy just yet. You will hear Texans fan clamoring for Jimmy Graham this offseason, but it seems unlikely they would want to pay the brand-name markup at a position where they have been swinging and missing so frequently. 

4. Backup quarterback

The Texans have one quarterback under contract, and he is coming off a torn ACL. Watson is obviously the man in Houston for the foreseeable future, but health concerns mean it is imperative that the Texans shore up the backup role. The smart move would be to find a veteran backup quarterback in free agency and pick up another late in the draft. There is no lack of quarterback play in the free agency market this season, as established vets like Josh McCown, Matt Moore, Teddy Bridgewater and A.J. McCarron are available. The question becomes if these guys will want to hold out for a starting job, or are willing to backup a rising star like Watson. 

3. Cornerback

Once considered a strength in Houston, the cornerback play has declined sharply in the last year. In hindsight, it was clearly a mistake to move on from A.J. Bouye and instead keep Jonathan Joseph, who is likely on his way out now. There was much belief that Kevin Johnson was ready to take a big step forward and become a No. 1 corner. If anything, he took a step back last season and injury concerns are mounting with him. Kareem Jackson no longer looks like a guy you can trust in coverage. Malcolm Butler is the top free agent cornerback in this class, but will likely come with a massive price tag. There are cheaper alternatives though, such as E.J. Gaines, Darqueze Dennard, Kyle Fuller and Trumaine Johnson. It would make sense for the Texans to bring in a free agent and invest a draft pick in cornerback. Another hole is strong safety, and they may look to shuffle around some bodies to fill that need as well.

2. Guard

Let’s just lay it out there. Xavier Sua-Filo was a complete bust as a second round draft pick. Jeff Allen has ben a complete bust as a free agent. The best offensive linemen that the Texans have right now are Nick Martin and Greg Mancz. Unfortunately they both play center. Martin has the versatility to fill one of the guard spots, but he has also missed more than half of the team’s games in his two years as a Texan. The best free agent guard available is Andrew Norwell, but like we discussed with Malcolm Butler earlier, that will come at a hefty price. Justin Pugh, who played last season at right tackle for the Giants, would benefit from a move back inside. Josh Sitton is 32 years old, but would be a massive upgrade and probably has 2-3 good years left in him. Guard, like corner, will need to be hit in free agency and the draft

1. Tackle

You probably guessed this when we were discussing the disastrous offensive line above. The Texans decision to move Duane Brown clearly wasn’t based solely on football, because they had no serviceable replacement in-house and the free agent market doesn’t have anyone better than him. Derek Newton is still recovering from his double patella tears, and it seems unlikely he will ever be the same. Unfortunately for the Texans, when teams have great tackles, they typically don’t let them get to free agency, so the cupboard is somewhat bare. Nate Solder is the biggest brand name, but he is 30 and not coming off his best year. Another free agent out of New England, Cameron Fleming, is appealing to me. He is only 26 and filled in nicely at right tackle for Marcus Cannon last season. Ja’Wuan James was the lone bright spot on a horrific line in Miami, and may be the best available tackle, but is better suited for the right side. Chris Hubbard has been the swing man in Pittsburgh and looks like he could handle a starter’s workload. There are also guys like Andre Smith and Greg Robinson, once highly thought of and now tossed aside, that could be looked at as reclamation projects. 

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Suns defeat Rockets, 110-105. Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images.

Phoenix All-Star Devin Booker and Houston rookie Cam Whitmore got into a minor scuffle midway through the fourth quarter Thursday night and both players were called for a technical foul.

With a couple big blocks on the ensuing possession, Suns center Jusuf Nurkic was there to back his star teammate.

Booker scored 35 points, Kevin Durant added 24 and the Suns held off the Rockets 110-105, with the teams set to meet again in Phoenix on Saturday night.

Nurkic had 16 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks before fouling out. His biggest moment came in the fourth, when he stuffed Whitmore twice on the possession following the scuffle, drawing huge roars from the Phoenix crowd.

“Very important — that's the team sticking together,” Booker said. “That goes a long way. That's what you need when things get tough, it gets to the thick of things and the energy is high. You want to know you have people on your team that are built like that.”

Booker scored 20 points in the first quarter to help give the Suns an 18-point lead they would never relinquish. He has scored at least 20 points in an NBA-high six quarters this season.

Three-time All-Star Bradley Beal missed his fifth straight game because of a hamstring injury.

The Suns took an 86-75 lead into the final quarter. Houston cut the advantage to six midway through the fourth, but Booker responded immediately with a 3-pointer to push the lead back to nine.

That led to the brief skirmish between Booker and Whitmore. Tempers stayed hot over the next few minutes — Houston's Alperen Sengun fouled out and then got two quick technicals, earning an ejection.

Booker hit both of the technical free throws, Nurkic followed with his two free throws from Sengun's foul, and that pushed the Suns' lead to 99-84. The Rockets would cut the lead to four with 16.9 seconds left, but Royce O'Neale hit two free throws to end the threat.

Jalen Green led Houston with 34 points. Fred VanVleet added 21. The Rockets connected on just 11 of 45 3-pointers and shot 33.3% from the field overall, which was their worst percentage of the season.

“It wasn't one of our better nights as far as guys getting open looks and making the extra pass,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “We had a few guys who had it going, but a few guys who were struggling.”

Phoenix has won seven of its past 10 — and nine in a row at home — as it tries to stay in the top six of the Western Conference playoff race and avoid the play-in tournament. The sliding Rockets have lost eight of 10.

“We're getting confident in this building,” Suns coach Frank Vogel said.

Booker's big first quarter pushed the Suns to a 33-17 lead. The four-time All-Star made 8 of 10 shots from the field, including a 33-foot 3-pointer in the final seconds.

Phoenix settled for a 64-53 halftime lead. Booker had 26 points before the break while Green led Houston with 21.

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