Fred Faour: A look at free agency so far and what still needs to be done for the Texans
Until Friday night, the Texans had been relatively quiet in free agency, making solid, under the radar signings to bolster a squad that had a lot of holes. Then they made the big splash, signing safety Tyrann Mathieu.
While this is the kind of high-profile, big-name move that gets fans excited, the team has quietly plugged some major holes in addition to adding the playmaking safety. Entering free agency, the Texans had two major needs: Offensive line help and secondary. They filled most of those, but there is still work to be done. A look at what they have done at each position group so far and what still needs to be done:
Additions: Senio Kelemete, G; Seantrel Henderson, T; Zach Fulton, G. The Texans essentially added three new starters to their line, which needed four. Henderson should compete for the starting right tackle position. Fulton and Kelemete should join Nick Martin or Greg Mancz on the interior of the line. Veteran Jeff Allen, a free-agent failure, is still on the roster for now, but he might not survive. The same goes for Derek Newton, who has not played in two years. Neither should be counted on for depth, but Kyle Fuller and Chris Slade showed some promise in late-season appearances and a draft pick should be added as well. The gaping hole remains at left tackle, where the Texans -- who struck out on Nate Solder -- have no one. It will be hard to get a starter in the draft without a first or second round pick, so the Texans made need to go the trade route or hope for a veteran cut after the draft.
They have improved the line significantly this offseason, which was a major goal. Kelemete and Fulton are serious upgrades over Allen and Xavier S’ua-Filo. If they can find a left tackle between now and the start of the season, this could be the most improved unit on the team.
Additions: None. C.J. Fiedorowicz retired due to multiple concussions, leaving the Texans with just Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson at the position. Neither is a longterm answer, but then this has not been a position of strength in a while. The Texans will need to draft or sign another TE to give Deshaun Watson another weapon.
Additions: Sammie Coates. The team also brought back Bruce Ellington, so there is some OK depth here. DeAndre Hopkins is a clear No. 1, but it is time for Will Fuller or Braxton Miller to emerge. Coates still has some upside and Ellington was solid for the Texans last year. Another draft pick would not hurt, but not an area of need.
Additions: None. With D’Onta Foreman a question mark after blowing his Achilles and Alfred Blue a free agent, the Texans need help behind Lamar Miller. Tyler Ervin has yet to develop and is also coming off an injury. Expect the Texans to invest at least one draft pick at this position.
Additions: None. Deshaun Watson is the man now, but we saw what the Texans were without him last season. Taylor Heinicke is the only other QB on the roster. The good news is whoever they bring in as a backup will be an upgrade over Tom Savage, but they still need a No. 2 QB, either through free agency or the draft. They might wait until after the draft, when other teams might dump veteran QBs.
Additions: None. The Texans were pretty solid here, but another big nose tackle would not hurt. The Texans should get J.J. Watt back healthy next season and if so will be strong again on the D line.
Additions: None. Another area where the Texans really do not need help. Whitney Mercilus should return healthy, and Zach Cunningham and Bernardrick McKinney are solid if used correctly, which they should be with Romeo Crennel returning as DC. Depth players like Brennan Scarlet and Dylan Cole should contribute as well.
Additions: Tyrann Mathieu, S, Aaron Colvin, CB, Johnson Bademosi, CB. Like the OL, this was the biggest area that needed to be addressed. Mathieu is a legitimate star and a playmaker at three levels and will make a huge impact if healthy. Colvin will be a strong slot cover corner. Bademosi adds depth and is a special teams star. The team also brought back Jonathan Joseph, who has slowed with age but is still solid. They still lack a true No. 1 corner, and must get much better play out of former first-round pick Kevin Johnson, but overall this group should be much improved.
This has been a mess for years. They re-signed veteran punter Shane Lechler and special teams contributor Brian Peters. Johnson can play some corner, but his primary value is on special teams coverage. They still need a decent return man and more help in this area.
The bottom line
The Texans improved their two weakest position groups with the offensive line and secondary. They were not going to be able to fix everything at once, but they did about as well as expected. Now they need to find a starting left tackle, a backup QB, another tight end and a running back. The good news is other than the tackle, they can address those needs in the draft, even without a first or second round pick.
It has been a productive free agency period for the Texans, who now are at least close to having a complete roster.