The wait is over and the Astros now know who they will be facing in the ALDS.
The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Oakland A's 5-1 on Wednesday night, so the Rays will head to Houston for Game 1 of the ALDS on Friday at 1pm.
SportsMap's Charlie Pallilo, Jake Asman, and Raheel Ramzanali share their thoughts on how the Astros stack up to the Rays, and predict how the series will play out. Astros Roundtable is presented by Texas Star Grill Shop.
Jan 26, 2024, 5:16 pm
The Texans are headed into the 2024 offseason in the best shape they've probably ever been in. I say that with my whole chest and all ten toes on the ground. This franchise has never been able to go into an offseason with this much cap space, decent draft capital, and several key franchise cornerstones in place for years to come. They're ahead of schedule to some, but right on time to their loyal fanbase.
The first place you look at in the offseason is inside your own house. The Texans have many key free agents I feel they need to bring back. It may shock you, but I feel kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn and punter Cameron Johnston are the two guys that need to be looked at first. Fairbairn has been one of the league's better kickers, especially recently. Johnston has been an underrated weapon all season long helping flip field position. Say what you want, but kickers and punters can help you win or lose games depending on how good they are at their jobs.
Most people will tell you Jonathan Greenard is the most important Texan to bring back. They wouldn't be wrong because everyone is entitled to their opinion. 12.5 sacks this past season at 27 years old heading into next season equals at least $20 million a year or more. That lines up with the franchise tag at his position. Derek Barnett, Sheldon Rankins, and Steven Nelson are other defenders I'd look to bring back, but not if they're looking for a huge raise.
On offense, Dalton Schultz and Devin Singletary are the guys I'd for sure look to re-sign. Schultz proved to be C.J. Stroud's security blanket. He was the second leading pass catcher. Tank Dell's injury had something to do with that, but Schultz often came up big when Stroud needed him most. Singletary took over the bulk of the carries at RB. He's a better fit than Dameon Pierce in this offense. Both are worth bringing back, but it depends on the type of contract they'd want.
When looking at outside free agents, I'm not looking at specific guys this early on in the process. I like to look at the guys the team can keep that worked in their system first. This early on in the process with outside guys, I prefer to keep it to position groups. So many people have said WR is one of the areas this team needs to look. Maybe, but not the tier of guys they've been talking about. Nico Collins has made a major move and is considered this team's WR1. Him paired with a healthy Dell gives the Texans a formidable 1-2 punch. Bringing in a solid vet to be their third wheel is more likely than spending big on a top tier guy.
RB is a position I might look at spending some money on. If so, it has to be a guy who can fit this system. Spending money wisely on this group this offseason is key because you can always draft a guy in the mid-rounds and save money. OL is another area I'd like to see some money spent on this offseason. Stroud was sacked way too much and missed two games due to concussions. Sure, they re-signed three of their starters last offseason, but it needs to be improved. Pass rush may be an area to look into as well. If Greenard and/or Barnett and/or Rankins aren't brought back, they should look to sign another vet or two on the cheap to help fill in along the defensive line.
Linebacker, corner, and safety are the other areas I'd look to improve as well. The more guys that can cover, run, and tackle on all levels is always a plus. This offense can put up points as it improves, but if this defense gets more fierce, it'll take pressure off the offense. Given the fact that DeMeco Ryans is a defensive-minded coach, and he's known for developing guys, making sure the defense has pieces he can cook with is important. Throw in some more parts for Stroud and the offense, and this team becomes pretty scary.