The Z Report

Lance Zierlein: Texans effective use of free agency means patching up wounded roster

The Texans get some much-needed help in the secondary. Jaguars.com

Most every NFL team would agree that the construction of winning team must begin from the ground up. That obviously means that drafting and developing your own talents is essential, not just for longer-term windows of success, but for financial feasibility. Teams need to hit on their early round draft picks since those players typically are the most high impact players, but success in the middle and late round picks is essential because they are less expensive and create needed financial freedom for tweaking the team through free agency.

Band-Aids and peroxide

To be clear, free agency absolutely has value, but it should never be used to build the core of a team. Organizations who try to buy their way into blue chip talents ultimately pay a premium price for a player who can have a long-term, negative financial impact on a roster if he busts. If you bust on a first round pick, it doesn’t prevent the team from continuing to make necessary moves to the roster. Bust on a tier one free agent and you pay the iron price (well maybe not the “iron price” if you’ve seen Game of Thrones).

The Houston Texans roster is like a wound that is bleeding all over the kitchen. They haven’t hit an artery, but their offensive line and secondary is definitely getting figurative blood all over the kitchen floor. Texans general manager Brian Gaine is going to utilize free agency for what it should be used for… band-aids and peroxide. Band-aids will stop the bleeding, but the peroxide can help get you better.

Aaron Colvin, CB, Jacksonville (Peroxide): Colvin is solid but hardly spectacular at cornerback. He’s got good size and might be able to play outside in taking over Johnathan Joseph’s spot. There is also a chance that he could play in the slot which would hasten Kareem Jackson’s move to safety (or departure from roster). Colvin will get a four year deal and will be a starter, but the Texans will still need to target a cornerback in the draft.

Seantrel Henderson, OT, Buffalo (Band-Aid): Henderson is a big, powerful tackle with long arms and a lack of starts over the last couple of years. Henderson has missed time due to Crohn’s disease and a 10-game game suspension for a second violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Henderson is no lock to become a starter this year, but he has a decent shot at it. With a one-year deal, Henderson is definitely a stop-gap.

Zach Fulton, OG/OC, Kansas City (Peroxide): Fulton has experience as a guard and center but might be coming to the Texans as a starting center which would likely mean Nick Martin would be forced to move to the guard spot. While Fulton and Martin both have experience at guard and center (Martin played some guard at Notre Dame), the Texans may find that the optimal combination is with Fulton at guard and Martin at center. Fulton isn’t going to set the world on fire but he should become a core member of a re-tooled offensive line.

 

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How much will DeMeco Ryans' background impact the draft? Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Houston Texans have their guy in head coach DeMeco Ryans.

The leader of one of the top defenses in the NFL in 2022, Ryans returning to the Texans becomes somewhat of a homecoming for the former linebacker. Drafted by the team in the second round in 2006 out of Alabama, he played with Houston until the end of the 2011 season.

Since retiring as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015, Ryans became a defensive quality control coach with the San Francisco 49ers in 2017. He was promoted to inside linebackers coach in 2018, and then, in 2021 became the defensive coordinator.

Now, when it comes to the Texans, with Ryans at the helm, how could that affect how the team approaches the draft this year?

Bryce Young more likely?

As mentioned before, Ryans was a member of the Crimson Tide before turning pro. While he never played under Nick Saban, he certainly has plenty of ties in the area that make it much more likely he can learn everything he needs to know about quarterback Bryce Young.

Young put on flashy performances on the field against Alabama’s opponents during his time in Tuscaloosa. But what coaches want to know is what is the young quarterback like off the field. Is he a playbook junky, does he spend extra hours in the training facility, how does he treat employees and staff on the team?

While all this information isn’t necessarily top secret for coaches, Ryans’ Tuscaloosa ties could give the Texans an edge in getting an extra leg up on Young. That could be enough to sway Houston one way or another with its No. 2 overall pick.

In Lance we trust?

The San Francisco 49ers started the season handing the keys of the offense to quarterback Trey Lance. With Ryans being the architect behind the team’s defense, he got a front row seat to all of Lance’s tricks and approach.

Ryans knows what makes Lance tick, what he struggles with, and in what areas he can excel in. If the Texans don’t feel like any of this year’s quarterbacks are the long-term answer, Ryans is the perfect guy to know what they could get out of Lance.

With the 49ers seeming to have found something with quarterback Brock Purdy, it will be interesting to see what the team residing in Santa Clara, California, does at that position as well. However, Purdy's elbow injury will be something to watch. If San Francisco chooses to move on from their first round pick in the 2021 draft, who better to decide whether it is worth scooping up Lance than Ryans.

Defense, defense, and defense!

Going back to the Alabama connection, the same can be said about Will Anderson Jr. The star linebacker, who shined with the Crimson Tide, accumulated 34.5 sacks and 204 tackles in three seasons with Alabama.

Anderson is expected to be a top five draft pick. Similar to Young, Ryans likely has a strong in to learn everything he wants to know about the 6-foot-4-inch edge rusher and more. If Houston does not see a must-have prospect at quarterback, Ryans would love to get a leader on the defense instead.

Ryans played linebacker for all 10 seasons in the NFL. He knows what it takes to be elite at that position group at the next level. If Anderson has the skill set to fit that description, Ryans is the guy to know it heading into the draft.

One thing is for sure, Ryans as the new head coach opens up a plethora of possibilities for the Texans.

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