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 losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.



That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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