FREE AGENCY FRENZY

Let's discuss 3 targets in free agency the Texans must consider

NFL free agency is right around the corner. Photo by via: commons.wikimedia.org

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

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The Rockets selected Jalen Green with the No. 2 pick. Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images.

The city of Houston can finally rejoice as Jalen Green was selected as the number two pick by the Rockets at the 2021 NBA Draft. It was already suspected that the Rockets would draft Green from past reports. Shams Charania of The Athletic already reported that the Rockets narrowed their decision down to Green.

Green is an explosive shooting guard that can get in-and-out amongst the perimeter and paint. With the G-League Ignite, he averaged 17.9 points, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He is an excellent free throw shooter at 82.9 percent. Like James Harden, he is incredibly good at getting to the free throw line. Green has a good trigger from three by shooting 36.5 percent on 5.7 attempts a game. His mature status since high school has prepared him for the NBA.

"His down-hill playmaking is really hard to guard", as Joey Fucca, his ex-coach told TDS. "If he says he's going to get to the rim, good luck. He is very good at getting to the free throw line, he is also very explosive to finish above the rim. When his three ball is on, you're just going to have a long night. I wouldn't be excited to guard him."

Green has blistering speed with outstanding handles to blow by his defenders and score. Spectators have compared Green to a younger Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Bradley Beal, and Zach Lavine, which are superstar players. He is a particularly good midrange shooter underneath the perimeter, as he shot 35 percent on a small quantity of attempts in a shorter season.

"Jalen is a uniquely blessed guy. He's a transcendent athlete," as Rockets GM Rafael Stone said. "He can handle the ball, and he can shoot. Normally, people that athletic aren't as skilled. We think that combination of tools makes him an extraordinarily exciting prospect."

During his press conference on Thursday night, Green emphasized the achievements he wants to accomplish with the Rockets. Green even discussed his desire of being a better defender, as he wants to continue to get better. He has a great wingspan and lateral movement to stay with opposing players on defense and be disruptive in the passing lanes.

"They're going to say it's a great choice," Green said. "Rookie of the Year, All-Star, All-Defense, max contract. We're doing it big."

"Yeah, I think I can be that piece. I think I'm going to bring that dominant mentality, that defensive mindset…They already got a lot of star players"

As the draft continued, the Rockets sent future draft picks from the Wizards to land the 16th pick in the draft, which was 6'10 Alperen Sengun from Turkey. The 16th pick did belong to the Oklahoma City Thunder until Rafael Stone executed an interesting deal with Sam Presti.

"We did not think he would fall to us at 23, so we were really aggressive to try and move up all throughout the first round to acquire him," as Stone said.

Sengun's abilities on the court revolve around his post ups and skillful passing. He even maintains good feet along the baseline. In his press conference, he mentioned his passing skills can become better. There are clips of him looking impressive on shovel passes, passing the ball behind his back, and finding the cutting man towards the basket. Sengun looked good in double teams by showing he can still find the open man with his back turned.

While playing in the Turkish Super League, Sengun was an MVP at 18-years-old, averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assist, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game. He could be another huge figure next to Christian Wood on the court, and a safety blanket for the Rockets if they cannot bring back Kelly Olynyk.

Usman Garbua is similar to former Rocket Luc Mbah a Moute. He is 6'8 with a tremendous wingspan at 7'3 and can guard anyone on the court, which is 1-5. Garbua was seen guarding Kevin Durant in the Team USA vs. Spain matchup and had interesting battles. The Rockets will get a ton of energy out of the 19-year-old player. He knows how to run the floor in transition, so he can finish around the rim. As I see it, he could be on a defensive first team in the future as he matures more. Garbua will become a defensive nightmare against opposing players.

"I think he's the best defender in the world outside of the NBA, and he's just 19 years old," Stone said. "I think he potentially could be really, really impactful on that side of the ball."

As the Rockets made their last selection, they selected Green's AAU buddy, Josh Christopher from Arizona State. He impressed a ton of scouts during his draft workouts and scrimmage against other prospects. Christopher had a double-double during his third scrimmage, which was 16 points and 10 rebounds. He is a very shifty guard with a ferocious step back.

While playing with the Sun Devils, he averaged 14.3 points per game and shot 49 percent from the field. Just like Green, he loved the midrange opportunities, as he shot 49.6 percent underneath the perimeter. He is another shifty big body the Rockets will have in their back court at 6'5. Christopher is very good at rebounding and playing defense. Stone loves watching him in defensive one-on-one situations. Christopher has Sixth Man of the Year written all over him because of his stocky body type and upside.

Hopefully, the Rockets have an exciting summer league and training camp along with their season.

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