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Jermaine Every: A look at some potential bargain free agents for the Texans

Texans GM Brian Gaine has an important off-season ahead. Houstontexans.com

Last week, I told you guys the moves I felt the Texans need to make this offseason. This week, I want to follow up on that same thought with a more detailed look into some free agent signings I feel they should make.

In an ideal world, they would sign the best guys at every position of need and voila! No more holes! In the real world, that’s not exactly how it works. Free agents would have to want to come play for your team, sign for the money you’re offering, and be happy with the role he’s being given. The money paid has to be the going rate for a top five guy at his position whether he deserves it or not (see Jimmy Garoppolo).

Going into free agency, the Texans have approximately $52 million dollars in cap space. More space should be coming as guys are either cut, traded, or retire. With that being said, here are some free agents that can not only fill some holes, but fit as bargains in positions of need:

Guard Senio Kelemete (27 years old)

Kelemete filled in admirably in spot duty for one of the league’s most prolific offenses last year in New Orleans. He’s never been a full-time starter, but has improved year after year and really showed what he can do last year playing in all 16 games, starting 7 of them, for a total of 639 total plays last year. He’s coming off a two-year/$2.7 million dollar deal with $300,000 dollars guaranteed. I suspect he won’t be commanding much more than a slight bump on his next deal. Four years, averaging $2.5-3.5 million per and around half of the deal guaranteed should do.

Wide Receiver Bruce Ellington (26 years old)

Bringing back Ellington would be a wise decision. He’s not in a position to command top dollar, and played very well in this system last year. Listed at 5’9, 200 pounds, Ellington’s size won’t strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses. However, his speed is underestimated, as well as his toughness. Look for a deal averaging around $1.5 million dollars to lure him back considering that’ll be double what he made last year.

Quarterback Chase Daniel (31 years old)

Being a backup quarterback takes a special guy. He has to know his role involves staying ready in case the starter can’t go, which could be at any given moment. Daniel has played that role since he came into the league. He’s backed up Drew Brees and Alex Smith in his career. He’s a veteran who still has some athleticism, so running a similar offense to Deshaun Watson shouldn’t be that difficult. Besides, he ran a spread style offense in high school and at University of Missouri. Knowing Taysom Hill is Sean Payton’s new favorite backup for Brees may make Daniel look elsewhere for clipboard duty. A deal averaging $1-3 million dollars per should be enough to lure him away from New Orleans.

Cornerback E.J. Gaines (25 years old)

Gaines’ one interception last year isn’t the sexy stat most want to see when looking into free agent corners. However, the fact that he’s 25 years old, would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $20-30 million dollars less overall than Malcolm Butler will (or what A.J. Buoye would have last year), certainly makes him more attractive. Gaines is a solid starter who performed admirably on a Bills defense that traded away Ronald Darby (arguably their best corner) to the Philadelphia Eagles and brought Gaines in when they traded Sammy Watkins to the Rams. Total contract value in the neighborhood of $30-40 million dollars over about four years would do just fine here.

Safety Tre Boston (25 years old)

Sure, Boston is coming off a career year in a contract year with five interceptions. But the woes at safety have been well-documented for the Texans and it’s time to put an end to it. Boston made plays last year on a team that had a great pass rush. If guys like Whitney Mercilus and J.J. Watt come back somewhat healthy, the Texans will have a good pass rush as well. Boston will cost in the neighborhood of $7-9 million per year on average, but should pay off nicely given what could potentially be playing in front of him.

Offensive Tackle Cameron Fleming (25 years old)

Here’s another ex-New England Patriot to bring to town to help make the Texans “Patriots South.” Fleming played in 12 games last year, starting 6 of them for a team that could’ve won the Super Bowl. He won’t command top tackle dollar, so a middling deal averaging around $5-7 million per year should be enough to get him to sign. The Texans have done things in the past to make them “Patriots South,” why not bring in a decent young offensive tackle from the team they so desperately want to emulate?

Notice a trend much? All these guys, with the exception of Chase Daniel, are under 30 years old. All of them would be relative bargains compared to what top guys at their position would command. Boston may be the one guy here who might command near top dollar for his position, but reference back to the Seattle Seahawks or Patriots games last year if you need convincing. Just because the team has an estimated $52 million dollars to spend doesn’t mean they should blow it all in one offseason. Structuring contracts will be one of general manager’s Brian Gaines’ toughest jobs. Maintaining a competitive roster while keeping a decent amount of cap space is more of a magic trick than a balancing act, but it can be done. Offseasons like the one facing the Texans now are why drafting is so important. It creates depth and can help your cap space for three to four years if you get a starter in the middle to late rounds on a cheap rookie deal. Let’s see what the Gaine/Bill O’Brien partnership can bring this team now that the general manager and coach are “philosophically aligned.”

J.J. Watt is headed for illustrious but strange company

Maximize opportunity before Watt gets wasted

Houstontexans.com

Thursday the reality of what J.J. Watt is facing really hit me. The Houston Chronicle reported Watt had a minor offseason knee surgery. The last three years prove he's far from immortal, though the once incredible career is back on track. For how long, no one knows. Then I finally realized it.

J.J. Watt is on pace to be the greatest defensive player to never play for a conference championship or a Super Bowl.

I started digging into the lists of the all-time great defenders and the best pass rushers in the game's history. Most of the players who would easily be considered a great on defense have at the very least won a Lombardi. If they haven't won the big trophy they've either played or been one game away.

Two names stick out on the all-time greats list. Deacon Jones played three postseason games all in the divisional round. Dick Butkus never played in the postseason. You have to go to 24th all-time in sacks, Pat Swilling with 107.5, to find a sack leader who hasn't at least played in a conference championship or better.

It's a line on almost every great's resume and Watt's missing it.

Watt's only 30 sacks away from the top 20 in career sacks. His three defensive player of the year awards in four years cemented an era of dominance rarely matched in NFL history. He will put on the gold jacket one day. It would be bittersweet to find himself among those greats having never played in a game with that level of importance.

Unless he plays in one.

Brian Gaine and Bill O'Brien can't mess this up or they will be accessories to a sports crime: cementing Watt's place as the all-time great without a huge game to his name. The Texans enter one of the most important offseasons in franchise history. They have to find a way to protect Deshaun Watson as he's the key to making sure Watt's schedule pushes beyond 16 games each year. It's no easy task, but go do it. Make the defense's job just a little easier with some powerful offense.

Give Watt and company just a second more too with better secondary play. Help him out with a better pass rush next to him and not just opposite him. There's so many things the Texans have to get right with their massive cap space and three picks in the top two rounds.

It won't all be Gaine and O'Brien's fault if they don't do it, however they have a chance, with Watson and the rest of this team, to make sure a truly significant game appears on the schedule for Watt. Just one conference championship appearance, then, who knows. Maybe the big one and the Lombardi trophy.

Now here's a thought that will shake all Texans fans.

If the Texans don't nail it this offseason and show the next few seasons they're not legit threats, maybe Watt fills the hole in his distinguished career elsewhere. Reggie White left in his 30's. DeMarcus Ware found glory with the Broncos after a long Cowboys career. It isn't unheard of to see one franchise's legend don another team's colors.

I'm not sure what would hurt Texans fans more. Knowing Watt never played in the biggest games with the Texans or seeing him get to one of those games with another team. It's the hope neither of those things happen. There are almost never happy endings in football, but Watt's story deserves one or more of those chapters.

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