Tate and Crabtree headline the list of free agent wide outs the team could target

Texans have options if they want to add a WR this off season

Antonio Brown, Golden Tate and Michael Crabtree.

The Texans head into the offseason with plenty of holes to fill. General Manager Brian Gaine has a full complement of draft picks and a good chunk of money to spend but his biggest challenge will be deciding how much money he can allocate to each position of need. If he overspends on one player or group, will he have to under deliver on other areas of need?

If he goes after some big names in free agency will he be able to find college athletes capable of starting in the NFL to fill positions that under delivered or fell short last season? The challenge of balancing draft picks and cap space is extremely daunting and if Gaine doesn't get it right it could set the franchise back for years to come.

For example, a year ago Nate Solder was the top offensive lineman available in free agency and everyone wanted the Texans to be first in line to swoop in and sign the super bowl champion that protected Tom Brady for years. Houston kicked the tires on the veteran tackle but felt his price tag was too high for their liking as the Giants signed him to a huge four-year, $62-million dollar contract with $35 million in guaranteed money. His first year in New York was less than impressive as the line struggled as much as the team did. Solder did start and play in all 16 games but it's safe to say Houston dodged a bullet by avoiding that big contract for a lineman over 30 years old. This year the team will have the fifth most cap space in the league at their disposal, but they need to spend wisely with several key positions to fill.

It's universally known that Houston needs to upgrade their offensive line this offseason but the Solder situation of a year ago hopefully has taught the team a valuable lesson about quality lineman. The best blockers in the NFL are developed through the draft and if a team finds a quality player in the trenches they will more than likely make sure to hang on to him and keep him in the fold for the majority of his career. Guards and tackles that hit free agency are looking for a big payday and rarely live up to their cap hit when playing for their new squad. Therefore, it is probably a safe bet that the Texans will address their deficiencies up front by drafting a few linemen on the first few rounds of the draft. If that indeed turns out to be the case, what else do the Texans need and where will they turn to get better?

One seemingly sure bet is that the team will look to upgrade and improve the second wide receiver spot next to all-pro DeAndre Hopkins. Last year was another frustrating and injury-plagued year for the players trying to take heat off of Hopkins. Will Fuller was hurt again, this time suffering a torn ACL that ended his season before it ever really got started and rookie KeKe Coutee also struggled with leg injuries throughout the campaign.

Desperate for quality and depth late in the regular season and in preparation for the playoffs saw the team trade for veteran Demaryius Thomas. The former pro-bowl wideout struggled to learn the playbook and eventually was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.

With all the uncertainty surrounding these players and their health heading into next year, it would behoove Gaine and his staff to address the position group with free agency offering up several interesting names to consider. If they really wanted to make a splash they could call the Steelers and inquire about Antonio Brown but that would cost the team at least one high draft pick in the first 3 rounds as well as forcing them to eat up valuable cap space by absorbing his 17 million dollars a year salary for the next 3 years. If those numbers prove to be too rich for the team's blood, there are a few other names out there that will be less expensive and still would provide the team with a quality veteran option opposite Hopkins.

Golden Tate is a free agent receiver that would provide Houston with a durable and tough wideout that can still pop the top on defenses with his deep speed, as well as using his reliable hands to secure the tough catches over the middle and in the slot. He split time between the Lions and Eagles in 2018 and caught 74 passes for 795 yards and four touchdowns. He has only missed seven games in his nine year career and last year was the first time in the last five years he didn't catch at least 90 balls in a season. Tate made an average of $6.2 million dollars per year on his 5-year deal that just expired. Even if you had to pay him a little more than that on a short term contract of 2 or 3 years, he would be a nice upgrade over any receiver on the roster not named Hopkins.

Another option that the Texans could consider is Michael Crabtree who was released yesterday by the Ravens. He had signed a $3 year, 21 million dollar deal with Baltimore last season and struggled to find chemistry and productivity with the unstable QB situation of Joe Flacco and then rookie Lamar Jackson under center.

He had 54 receptions for 607 yards and three touchdowns while playing in all 16 games last season. He has only missed two games in the last five years and last year was the first time in four years he didn't tally at least eight TDs in a campaign. He has struggled recently with drops but some of that can be attributed to the uncertainty at QB in Baltimore.

Crabtree probably can be had for a contract in the $5 million dollar range for next season and might welcome a chance to play for a winner with an up and coming quarterback like the situation in Houston. Crabtree, like Tate, would be a substantial upgrade for the Texans and give the team a much needed additional weapon in the passing game. If Brian Gaine is able to add one of these two veteran wide receivers it would go along way towards upgrading the passing game as well as the overall productivity of Watson and the offense.

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Houston loses to end the road trip

Dodgers get best of Odorizzi to split series with Astros

Jake Odorizzi allowed four home runs over three innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After spoiling the night of many Dodgers fans in the opener of this two-game series in Los Angeles the night prior, the Astros returned to the stadium to a fresh set of hostile fans, looking to get the mini-sweep. This one went much more in favor of the home team, though, as the Dodgers would ride three big innings to start the game to the win for the series split.

Final Score: Dodgers 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 65-43, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer (9-4)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-6)

Odorizzi gets shelled

After a Michael Brantley solo home in the top of the first run against Max Scherzer, making his Dodger debut, it looked like the Astros may continue their momentum from the night before to grab hold of this game as well. However, that all changed in the bottom of the inning, as the Dodgers would tee off against Jake Odorizzi.

In that inning, he allowed four runs, a leadoff solo shot by Mookie Betts, then later a three-run blast by Will Smith. Betts made it 2-for-2 with solo homers in the bottom of the second, extending the lead to 5-1. Things went from bad to worse in the third, with Los Angeles getting their fourth home run, this one for two runs to make it a 7-1 game. Odorizzi would finish the third but go no further.

Scherzer K's 10 over seven innings in his Dodger debut

Houston tried to start clawing back into it in the top of the fourth, getting a second run against Scherzer with a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, trimming the lead to five runs at 5-2. First out of Houston's bullpen was Yimi Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, and he tossed the first 1-2-3 inning for Houston. Rafael Montero was next in the bottom of the fifth, working around a leadoff double followed by a walk for a scoreless inning.

Montero remained in the game in the bottom of the sixth, still 7-2, and would get another scoreless inning, this time sitting down the Dodgers in order. Scherzer finished his quality debut for his new team in the top of the seventh, erasing a leadoff walk to complete seven innings while allowing two runs.

Astros lose to split the series with Dodgers

Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he, too, would get through a scoreless inning by erasing a two-out single. In the game-within-the-game, the Dodgers brought in Joe Kelly for the top of the eighth, who notched two strikeouts to bring none other than Carlos Correa to the plate, setting up a rematch of the well-known incident that led to the "pouty face" clip from 2020. Carlos Correa won this round, launching a 405-foot homer off of Kelly to make it a four-run game at 7-3.

Phil Maton kept the score there, stranding two runners in the bottom of the eighth to send the 7-3 game to the top of the ninth, where the Dodgers would bring in Kenley Jansen. After a leadoff single, Kyle Tucker would get the Astros within two runs on a two-run homer, making it 7-5. That's as close as they would get, as Jansen would regroup to get the next three batters out to wrap up the loss for Houston.

Up Next: With this road trip completed, the Astros will have a quick turnaround as they catch a late flight back to Houston then turn around with a game Thursday at 7:10 PM Central to open a four-game series with the Twins. Framber Valdez (7-2, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound for Houston in the opener, while Minnesota will counter with Griffin Jax (1-1, 6.41 ERA).

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