Falcon Points

It's time for the Texans to push all their chips in the middle for 2019

The Texans finished 11-5 last season and won the AFC South before getting bounced by Indy in the first round of the playoffs. There were a lot of close wins and a soft schedule that certainly contributed to their success.

So the question is how close are they really? They are set at quarterback for the foreseeable future. They have a legitimate No. 1 receiver. They have talent on defense, but at times they did not play to their abilities.

Realistically, as of today, they are behind at least Kansas City, New England and Indianapolis in the AFC pecking order. Depending on what happens in Pittsburgh, they might be behind the Steelers and Ravens, too. If Jacksonville adds a Nick Foles and a couple offensive playmakers, the Jags could be back in the mix as well.

That is if the Texans trot out the same group we saw last season. They might even be a better team and have a worse record, because the schedule on paper looks much tougher.

But they should also take their shot now. How many years does J.J. Watt have in him to play at an elite level? Two years ago, the Jaguars won free agency, then made it to the AFC Championship. The Astros were close in 2017, went all in on Justin Verlander and won a World Series. The Rams did it last year and made it to a Super Bowl.

It's time for the Texans to follow suit. They can't fill all their holes in the draft, and free agency is always a crap shoot; you are paying players more for what they have done than what they will do in most cases. But if they want to take the next step, free agency is a must.

The obvious needs

The offensive line was a complete joke last season. Anyone can see there needs to be upgrades at tackle and guard. The problem is most teams don't let go of quality tackles. Trent Brown will be the best name likely available. They will have to overpay, and Brown would be going from a legendary line coach and superior coaching staff to...well, the Texans. It's rare when a player leaves the Patriots and performs at the same level. But he would be an upgrade. Guard Roger Saffold or center Matt Paradis would instantly upgrade the interior. Ja'Waun James or Daryl Williams would instantly upgrade the right side. The Texans will have plenty of cap room to add at least two and maybe three players here and still fix some other issues. There is no guarantee they will all be available, but the Texans should be pursuing every one that is on the market.

Cornerback also needs an upgrade. Aaron Colvin was a free agent failure last season, but maybe if healthy he can contribute. But there is no shortage of decent CBs that would not break the bank. This needs to be addressed with at least one signing, possibly two.

The players to bring back

Jadeveon Clowney will be franchised tagged. You can do worse than to let him play it out and make your run in 2019. But if there is a big time package on the table, exploring a trade is not the worst idea, either. Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson are free agents. One needs to be brought back to play alongside Justin Reid. Mathieu will cost more but is younger and has more upside.

The other needs

The Texans have been linked to Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, which would be a massive upgrade. But he will command a massive deal. The Texans have the cap room to do it, but it might limit what they do elsewhere. Lamar Miller is functional and might be better with an improved line. The Texans could also use another wide receiver. If everyone is healthy, they are fine, but Will Fuller has never been healthy. Keke Coutee missed much of last season. A reliable fill-in is a must. They also could use an upgrade at backup quarterback. If they were to trade Clowney, pass rusher would be a need as well. But if the team spends some money in free agency at these positions, they could draft the best available players and not have to force a need.

The cap impact

According to overthecap.com, the Texans have over $77 million available in cap space. They could add another $15 million by cutting Kevin Johnson and Whitney Merclius. If they did make a splash with Bell, cutting Miller would add another $6 million.

So the money is there. The players are there. The needs are there. The Texans could stay the course and try to upgrade a little at a time. But will that close the gap on the Chiefs, Patriots, Colts and Chargers?

No. It's time to push all the chips in the middle. It might not work, but if it does, the team might finally take a big step. Could it set them back a couple years? Absolutely. But that's why they call it gambling.

And it is time for the Texans to ante up in a big way.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

The clock is ticking. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

If he is indeed to become an ex-Astro George Springer can officially sign with his new team starting at four PM Houston time this Sunday. Michael Brantley the same. All free agents can sign contracts starting Sunday afternoon. If the die isn't cast that Springer is leaving, it certainly feels like his renewing vows with the Astros would be an upset.

The Astros will make Springer a 18.9 million dollar qualifying offer for 2021. He will of course reject that because contract offers of at least five years and over 100 million dollars likely await. Should Springer move on the Astros would then get a compensatory draft pick. Brantley won't get anything in close range of Springer's haul-to-be but still should at least get multiyear offers. The Astros should make the qualifying offer to Brantley (if they don't they forfeit any compensation for his departure). If they don't out of fear that he'd accept the one-year deal, the Astros would look lame. I don't think it comes to that. Losing Springer would be a huge blow on multiple levels, but if somehow they were to keep Brantley while getting back Yordan Alvarez at even 80 percent of his rookie performance level the Astros' lineup would look to be in decent shape.

With MLB's economic outlook shaky for 2021, it's unreasonable to say Jim Crane and his partners should give Springer whatever he wants. A six or seven year megadollar contract for a 31-year-old player with some durability questions on his resume is an iffy proposition. At the same time, the Astros have been quite profitable in recent years (before 2020), and Crane said over the summer the Astros were positioned to be "aggressive, whatever the market looks like." 13 million Josh Reddick dollars are off the books for 2021, 10 mil of Roberto Osuna is gone. After next year more than 57 mil of Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke clear.

MLB's postseason awards will be doled out over the next couple weeks but for the first time in years the Astros don't have a credible candidate for any of the big ones (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year). The Astros do have three American League Gold Glove finalists. I think Carlos Correa wins the shortstop honor. Correa had a weak regular season at the plate but his defense was stellar, plus the two guys who divvied up the last four AL SS Gold Gloves (Francisco Lindor and Andrelton Simmons) had down seasons and aren't finalists. Quick: name the teams of fellow finalists J.P. Crawford and Niko Goodrum. Hard to see either winning over Correa. Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker were also named top three at their positions. For the first time the finalist selections were driven entirely by stats and analytics.

Big week for the Rockets

With the Rockets settling on Stephen Silas as their new Head Coach, that hire coupled with the in house promotion of Rafael Stone to General Manager makes it appear as though owner Tilman Fertitta is doing more things on the cheap. The NBA economic environment is challenging and huge portions of the rest of Fertitta's portfolio are submerged in a COVID-driven bloodbath. Silas has paid his dues for a good while and most recently worked under the outstanding Rick Carlisle in Dallas. He has earned a lead chair opportunity. But with no prior head coaching experience and no bidding war for his services, Silas signs on at a much lower rate than, say, Jeff Van Gundy would have commanded. Former head coaches (and former Rockets' player rivals of the 90s) Jeff Hornacek and Nate McMillan would make for two strong Silas assistants. From their playing days if you combined Hornacek's offense and McMillan's defense into one player you'd have one of the top 20 or so greatest guards in NBA history.

Silas and Stone take the reins at a challenging time for the Rockets with their messy salary cap sheet, reduced draft capital, and one of the oldest core player groups in the league. Polite public statements aside, it's part of why Daryl Morey left. Maybe Mike D'Antoni too though that seemed more about feeling disrespected by the lack of a contract extension before this past season. D'Antoni may have overplayed his hand since he did not get fill any of the coaching vacancies elsewhere in the NBA. Only Oklahoma City remains open, and D'Antoni has gotten no run there.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. It seems sadly appropriate that the first meaningful positive in the Texans' 2020 season came in form of a COVID test result.

2. If we all commit to getting through it together, I think we can get by without a Texans' game this weekend. Remember, it's their open week, not a bye!

3. One hit wonder goodbye songs: Bronze-Terry Jacks "Seasons in the Sun" Silver-Norman Greenbaum "Spirit In The Sky" Gold-Steam "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye"

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome