The Texans are putting a smiley face on this offseason. Running back Arian Foster and linebacker Connor Barwin, who attended an event at the House of Blues Tuesday in downtown Houston, said the raid on Houston's players this offseason was a good sign. It meant the team had been good.
"There's not a lot of playoff teams making big moves in free agency," Barwin said. "Teams are trying to take your players away because you've got good players."
And take, they have. First was offensive tackle Eric Winston, who was released. Then outside linebacker Mario Williams, who was lost as a free agent to Buffalo. Then Ryans, a middle linebacker who the Texans traded for draft pick. Three big names. Three big losses. And that's not all.
Foster and Barwin both admitted they have been surprised by general manager Rick Smith's moves.
"I think Mario, he wanted to come back but there's things you can't say no to," Barwin said. "DeMeco surprised me, Winston was a little bit of a surprise, but when you look at the situation and look at some of the numbers and all those different things you can understand why Rick made those moves."
Though surprised, Foster stopped short of analyzing Houston's offseason.
"Yeah, absolutely I was a little surprised by some of the moves," Foster said. "It's a business, and I don't get paid to make those kind of moves. I get paid to run the football."
He gets paid a lot more to run it, now. He signed an extension with the Texans that will pay him 43.5 million over the next five years after making the league minimum the last two. Foster led the NFL in rushing in 2010.
Foster's contract has been the only major positive move for the Texans. Foster is still just 25 years old and he's proven to be among the NFL's best running backs. His retention was certainly important, but Houston has lost two of the men who opened holes for him the last two years.
Winston, who signed with Kansas City, was the bigger name, but Foster noted the importance of guard Mike Brisiel, who recently signed with the Oakland Raiders.
"I'm really happy for Mike Brisiel," Foster said. "He's been a big part of my success. I'm happy for him and his family. But people forget Antoine Caldwell started the entire 2010 season, which was my best year as a pro."
The Texans did keep center Chris Myers, one of the team's unsung offensive leaders. But most Texans described Ryans as the leader not just of the defense, but the entire team. Though his play was overshadowed by several of his defensive teammates in 2011, some of those same teammates, including Barwin, said Ryans' emotional energy will be missed.
"Some guys are going to have to step up with the loss of DeMeco," he said.
Foster said Ryans' leadership would be missed, but replacing it would have to be done organically.
"Nobody needs to be a rah-rah guy, even though that was DeMeco and he was our leader, offensively and defensively," Foster said. "Nobody needs to do anything different. Just continue to play your game and that cohesiveness will come organically. Nobody has to step up and fill up a role. It doesn't work like that."