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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Houston's offense had another strong day at the plate in Seattle against the Mariners on Wednesday. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

After striking a deal with the Mariners before Tuesday's game, along with a reported deal with the Marlins on Wednesday before the finale, the Astros continued to try and bolster their bullpen with fresh arms while also focusing on this series against Seattle. Having won the night prior to even it up, it came down to the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon to decide the series.

Final Score: Astros 11, Mariners 4

Astros' Record: 63-40, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-5)

Losing Pitcher: Yusei Kikuchi (6-6)

Astros continue to score runs in Seattle

Just like in the earlier games in this series, the Astros had no problems offensively. They strung together four consecutive one-run innings, starting in the top of the second when they loaded the bases, then got an RBI groundout by Myles Straw to go up 1-0. In the top of the third, Yuli Gurriel drove one in on a two-out RBI double, bringing in Jose Altuve, who led the inning off with a double of his own. Chas McCormick led off with a single in the fourth, then later scored on an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz.

The fourth run in as many innings came in the top of the fifth, as Gurriel would notch his second RBI with a solo homer to start that inning, pushing the lead to 4-0. They didn't stop there, and neither did Gurriel, as he would get RBI number three on the day as part of a four-run top of the sixth, with RBI hits him, Altuve, Diaz, and Carlos Correa, doubling the lead to 8-0.

Odorizzi gets to the sixth before allowing two homers

The run support gave Jake Odorizzi plenty of leeway, which he didn't need until the bottom of the sixth. He held Seattle scoreless over the first five frames, allowing just four baserunners on a hit by pitch, a walk, and two singles, all peppered over that span and erased in each inning. Kyle Seager would get the Mariners on the board in the bottom of the sixth, blasting a one-out solo homer to cut the lead to seven runs at 8-1. After a single in the next at-bat, recently traded Abraham Toro made it four games in a row with a homer, this one a two-run shot to cut the lead to 8-3 and end Odorizzi's day. His final line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 95 P.

Houston wins the series

Houston brought in Brooks Raley to finish the sixth, issuing two walks but stranding them to keep it a five-run lead. Myles Straw helped push that back to six in the top of the seventh, reaching on a single to start the innings, then stealing both second and third to get in position for Diaz's third RBI of the day, a groundout to make it 9-3. Cristian Javier was the next reliever out for the Astros, but he would not make it through the bottom of the seventh, allowing a single and three walks, the third with the bases loaded to bring in a run.

Bryan Abreu was brought in to get out of the jam, getting a strikeout to end the seventh. Then, in the top of the eighth, Kyle Tucker would put two more runs on the board with a two-run homer making the lead seven runs at 11-4. Abreu remained in for the bottom of the eighth, erasing two one-out singles to get through the frame. Brandon Bielak took over in the bottom of the ninth to close things out, posting a 1-2-3 inning to wrap up the win and give Houston the series victory.

Up Next: Houston will travel down the coast to San Fransisco before getting a day off on Thursday. They'll pick up an exciting three-game series with the Giants on Friday, with the opener slated to start at 8:45 PM Central. Framber Valdez (6-2, 2.97 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, while San Fransisco's starter is TBD.

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