FREE AGENCY FRENZY
Let's discuss 3 targets in free agency the Texans must consider
With a new coach and general manager, the Houston Texans will try to bounce-back from arguably their worst season in franchise history. Rebuilding a team after a 4-12 season is always a daunting task, but it becomes a more difficult job with little to no draft capital. The Texans' first opportunity to improve a team that significantly failed to meet their expectations will come with the start of free agency, set to begin on Wednesday, March 17.
The Texans are not in a position to obtain a game-changing talent. But one who could be an adequate addition to their roster. With a little over $16.7 million in cap space, here are three potential targets the Texans should consider signing this offseason.
Alex Smith, QB
Whether Deshaun Watson rescinds his trade request or not, the Texans will be looking for someone to fill their backup quarterback role. The team departed from both A.J. McCarron and Josh McCown a few weeks ago — leaving Watson as Houston's only active quarterback. Normally, the pursuit of a backup QB would not be a major priority. But given the ongoing drama and threats of sitting out from Watson, the Texans must find a suitable quarterback if they have any hopes of competing in 2021.
Of all the available quarterbacks hitting the open market, Alex Smith would make the most sense for the Texans. He would be a valuable insurance policy playing behind an All-Pro quarterback — should Watson decide to play this coming season. Or someone who could step in as the Texans starter under center should Watson choose the latter. But most importantly, Smith is a player who would not demand too much money in free agency.
The soon-to-be 37-year-old quarterback took home Comeback Player of the Year honors after his return from a broken leg last season. Smith took the helm as the Washington Football Team's starting QB midway through the season and finished the year with a 5-1 record — which included leading Washington on a five-game win streak to close out the regular season. In eight games played, Smith threw for 1,582 yards and six touchdowns with a PFF grade of 66.0. Joining the Texans would reunite the three-time Pro-Bowler with current head coach David Culley, who served as the assistant head coach during Smith's time with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Other potential targets: Tyrod Taylor, Cam Newton and Andy Dalton
Chidobe Awuzie, CB
The Texans had an all-time atrocious defense in 2020, and it's safe to assume the majority of their signings will take place on the defensive side of the ball. The entire secondary could use a complete retooling, but none more so than at cornerback. Bradley Roby was the Texans' only quality corner last season. He posted the team's highest overall PFF grade (71.6) among all defensive backs and sealed one of the Texans' three interceptions on the season.
The one player who could improve Houston's subpar talent at cornerback would be Chidobe Awuzie. Sticking with the theme of 2020, last year was a nightmare for Awuzie. Injuries limited the California native to eight games during his contract season, which may result in Awuzie signing a one-year deal in hopes of cashing in on his talents next offseason.
Awuzie, a four-year corner out of Colorado in 2017, was establishing himself as one of the league's best young defensive backs prior to his injury-prone season. In 2019, Awuzie registered a career-best 79 tackles (48 solo hits) and allowed 56 receptions in pass coverage for the Dallas Cowboys. While appearing in all 16 games, Awuzie posted an overall PFF grade of 72.2 and 70.5 in pass coverage.
Awuzie's expected market value is $8.5 million heading into free agency. Signing Awuzie would take a significant amount of the Texans' cap space. But acquiring the 25-year-old defensive back could be Houston's most notable signing this offseason.
Other potential targets: Mike Hinton, Xavier Woods and Kevin King
Davon Godchaux, DT
The Texans' defensive line was just as appalling as their secondary in 2020. They gave up a league-worst 160.3 rushing yards per game with 12.0 sacks on the season. And that was a defensive line that featured a healthy J.J. Watt. With Watt no longer at the helm in Houston, upgrading the defensive line might've turned into the Texans' most vital offseason objective. It's going to take more than just signing one player but acquiring Davon Godchaux would be a step in the right direction.
Similar to Awuzie, Godchaux could be a one-year rental for the Texans after battling injuries throughout the 2020 season. He has never been a huge sack guy with 3.0 through his first four years in the league. But his ability to defend the run cannot be disputed. Since coming out of LSU in 2017, Godchaux has notched an average PFF grade of 69.0 in run defense. His best came during the 2018 season when he recorded a career-best 83.3 PFF grade in stopping the run.
Godchaux's arrival in Houston would fill a year-long void left by the departure of D.J. Reader — who was arguably the Texans' best defender at stopping the run outside of Watt.
Other potential targets: Sheldon Rankins, D.J. Jones and P.J. Williams