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.”