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.

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The Marlins are showing interest in Yuli Gurriel. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

As the reporting date for pitchers and catchers draws near, there are still some decisions hanging over the Astros. One of them is whether or not to bring back Yuli Gurriel. “La Piña,” as he's affectionately called, is 38 years old. He turns 39 in June. His leadership and instincts cannot be matched. The man has seen a ton of baseball and comes from a family of baseballers. So, what's the holdup?

Enter the Miami Marlins. The ownership group, led by Bruce Sherman, is undoubtedly trying to capitalize on the heavy Cuban population in the Miami area. Bringing in the Cuban Babe Ruth is a great way to attempt to get more fan engagement. The franchise has only been to the playoffs three times. First two times (1997 and 2003), they won it all. In 2020, they were swept in the NLDS. They're most likely offering him a ridiculous amount of money to come to a team with a losing history. Knowing the Marlins are willing to hand out stupid money, would you blame La Piña for taking one last ridiculous payday?

Think about it. He's got two rings and made a ton of money. He can safely retire very comfortably. The lure to come back for another year or two would definitely be about money. The Marlins aren't a real threat in the next couple of seasons to do anything, but are willing to pay me like I'm still a star? Plus, I'm closer to my home country with all my family and friends? Sign me up!

This is where the Astros have to make a decision. Bring Yuli back for another year or move on. If he follows through with his last four years, this should be a bounce back year. Since 2016, his first year in Houston and MLB, he's hit .262, .299, .291, .298, .232 (pandemic shortened season), .319, and .242 last season. The man is a professional hitter. He knows how to work an at-bat and can drive pitchers nuts. His defense isn't bad either. He's a more than capable first baseman.

This won't win me any favor, but I think it's time to move on. Yuli will always have a place in my heart because he was a major factor in the Astros' two World Series wins. Last season's title run was even more satisfying since it helped silence the haters. That was the mouthwash that got rid of the stench of the sign stealing scandal. Piña was there through it all.

Now, it's time to start transitioning towards the future. Piña, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander, and Lance McCullers Jr were the only holdovers from the 2017 team. Verlander was one of the guys the Mets backed the Brinks truck up for this offseason. Altuve (32), Bregman (28), and McCullers (29) should be all that's left of that group. While it would've been great to have Verlander (39) back, the emergence of the youth movement in the pitching staff made his loss somewhat expendable. At some point, the nostalgia wears off. Father Time and Mother Nature are both undefeated. If they were to bring Piña back, he should be a part timer transitioning into a hitting coach. Careers come to an end. It's time to start looking at his exit.

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