With free agency and the NFL Draft in the near future teams will be looking to fill voids in their current roster. With the Houston Texans it seems there may be a growing interest for them to fill positions of need, especially during the 2011 offseason. Precision moves made the Texans a contender, and by adding a free safety and shut down corner the Texans defense made a complete 180 degree turn from previous season. Also, throw in some nice picks in the draft, the Texans had some nice additions.
The question this season is where will the Texans turn to for help and what will they be looking to fix. No team is complete and as an organization it is their sole responsibility to make the team better. As we look on the defensive side there are still a few pieces that really could use an upgrade. One of those positions for the Texans has to be the nose tackle, and getting a player who can “eat up” defenders. It is not a play making position, but inside linebackers in the 3-4 scheme love a guy who can control the line of scrimmage.
Shaun Cody was a surprise to many fans that watch the Texans, and he will be the starting nose tackle going into the 2012 season. He played the run well, but at times, like all players do, he got moved off his spot into linebackers behind him. The bigger reason the Texans need to look at nose tackle is the backup Earl Mitchell. We are not saying cut Mitchell at all, we are saying move Mitchell to a 5 technique which looks like his more natural position. Mitchell checks in at about 290 lbs. and for a nose tackle that is light, and Mitchell has some nice footwork and can get after it when called upon to. He is a better pass rush option from the nose, but he had issues holding the point of attack in the running game.
Cody and Mitchell are important pieces to the defensive line and with defensive end Tim Bluman as a potential free agent, Mitchell could easily transition to Bulman’s spot as a 5 technique. With that move it would free up for the Texans to find Cody some help and leave the backup nose tackle position as a priority to fill this offseason. This player could be a rookie or free agent, but there are plenty of options out there in this upcoming offseason. In the draft, there is Dontari Poe (Memphis) and Almeda Ta’Amu (Washington) who look like the only true options for a 3-4 nose tackle and both could be hot commodities by draft day. Plus there are some interesting free agents on the market, see below:
Aubrayo Franklin (NO) – NT 6’1″ 317 lbs. 31 years old
Franklin has always been in a 3-4 system during his 9 year football career. Franklin made a name for himself by being the anchor of the 49ers defense. Signed to a one year deal in New Orleans he started 9 games and only registered 17 tackles.
Kelly Gregg (KC) – NT 6’0″ 320 lbs. 35 years old
After being a cap casualty in 2011, Gregg was a household name to Ravens fans. He played in over 124 games in 10 seasons with the Ravens and was a big piece of Ray Lewis’ success, by taking up blockers. Even though his age may be a factor, for the Chiefs in 2011 he started 14 games and accounted for 39 tackles and one sack. He might be available at a discounted rate.
Paul Soliai (MIA) – NT 6’4″ 355 lbs. 28 years old
The Pro Bowl nose tackle, looks like he may be the odd man out in Miami with the Dolphins looking to change their defense to the 3-4 scheme. Soliai was put with the franchise tag in 2010 where he made $12 million dollars, but it looks like the Dolphins are not going to do the same this season. Soliai’s price tag will not be cheap, and with a mammoth like him he will find a pay day somewhere in the NFL.
Antonio Garay (SD) – NT 6’4″ 320 lbs. 32 years old
Garay has bounced around and in his first 5 seasons as a professional Garay on appeared in 16 games with zero starts. When he finally caught on in San Diego, Garay started 28 of the total 32 games he could have appeared in. He has a little more versatility for a nose tackle, in his two seasons as the starting nose tackle for the Chargers, he has 105 total tackles and 8 sacks. Those are some impressive stats for a nose tackle. He will be looking to stay in San Diego, but his price tag could get expensive.
Shaun Rogers (NO) – DT 6’4″ 350 lbs. 32 years old
He turned down a $6 million dollar offer from the Texans this past offseason to jump to the New Orleans Saints in 2010. The Houston native has shown in the past he can take over games, he has been labeled lazy at times, but with him turning down the Texans once before, it might be unlikely the Texans offer him another contract. He only started 4 games for the Saints and only had 22 tackles in 16 appearances, his past two seasons have been disppointments.
Howard Green (GB) – DT 6’2″ 340 lbs 33 years old
Yes the former Houston Texans player was drafted by them in 2002 but never appeared in a game. Green has played for 6 different NFL teams, but has filled in nicely for his current team the Packers. Green won a Super Bowl with the Packers in 2010 and made himself a viable option on the free agent market with his past two season in Green Bay. He seems like he would fill the spot player role, but his choice maybe to stay in Green Bay.
Brandon McKinney (BAL) – DT 6’2″ 345 lbs. 28 years old
One of the younger nose tackle options on the free agency market, McKinney has been a rotational player for the Ravens. Being undrafted, McKinney has battled to stay in the league and with Haloti Ngata and Terrance Cody covering the middle for the Ravens, playing time is scarce for McKinney. He could test the market and find a new home.
Colin Cole (SEA) – DT 6’2″ 328 lbs. 31 years old
Cole has bounced around from the 3-4 and 4-3 system, in Seattle he was in the 4-3. He has had experience as the nose tackle in Green Bay, but he is another option that could make the switch back to that position.
There are plenty of options for the Texans out there, either in the draft or free agency. Our gut is thinking this is the year the Texans get that all “elusive” nose tackle that Texans fans have been waiting for. Our preference is to get the younger and cheaper option in the draft, but if they choose to bring one-off of free agency wire that would be a nice consolation prize.