Found March 13, 2012 on
Fox Sports Houston:
HOUSTON For a season, the screeching ceased.
Free agent defensive backs Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning helped set the foundation for a resounding defensive turnaround, and so, too, did rookie end J.J. Watt and rookie linebacker Brooks Reed. After enduring years of skepticism over his personnel evaluation acumen, Texans general manager Rick Smith ably silenced his staunchest critics.
But the mob is fickle, and with the onset of NFL free agency on Tuesday came this harsh reality: Smith will have to prove himself all over again. The Texans claimed their first AFC South title, enjoyed their maiden voyage into the postseason, and earned their initial playoff victory in 2011. They accomplished those milestones while significantly over the salary cap. Chickens inevitably come home to roost.
So when the Texans stared lopping veterans' salaries off their books on Monday, no one should have been surprised. According to NFL.com, the Texans entered free agency roughly 615,000 under the cap. For a franchise with 16 free agents (15 unrestricted), that's a paltry figure.
The cap carnage engulfed quarterback Matt Leinart, fullback Lawrence Vickers and cornerstone right tackle Eric Winston, he of the 87 consecutive starts. Texans receiver Andre Johnson restructured his contract so that his entire salary of 7.5 million in 2012 is guaranteed, saving the Texans 5.2 million in cap space. In total, the moves should bolster the Texans' cap between 11-13 million. That's a modest start.
The Texans will need to shake those couch cushions with greater vigor. Outside linebacker Mario Williams hit the market on Tuesday as the most coveted defensive player available. The Texans featured the second-ranked defense in the NFL with Williams providing only five games of productivity before being sidelined by a torn pectoral muscle. They would love to see what sort of defensive behemoth they could become with Williams as a rotation fixture alongside Reed and Connor Barwin.
Williams has been injury prone of late, missing 14 games over the past two seasons after opening his career with 77 consecutive starts. But at 27 years old, Williams is entering his athletic prime. He is a two-time Pro Bowler playing a position at which immense talent is at a premium. He will command a king's ransom that the Texans appear incapable of paying unless they make additional roster decisions deemed difficult.
Texans owner Bob McNair reaffirmed the franchise's commitment to retaining Williams and the bulk of their free agents. His team, as presently constructed, is on the cusp of Super Bowl contention. If the Texans can maintain their core and draft shrewdly come April, they will remain a viable threat in the AFC. Keeping the band together is the chore.
According to published reports, Williams will visit the Bills Tuesday night.
"We want Mario," McNair said on Tuesday. "We'd like to have him. Unfortunately, other people would like to have him, too, and it depends on how much they're willing to pay. We have limitations that constrain us, and we're going to do everything we possibly can to keep him here."
Now that they have committed five years and 43.5 million to tailback Arian Foster, center Chris Myers is elevated to the slot behind Williams as the free agent the Texans most desperately need to re-sign. Myers was exceptional last season, the anchor of a unit that has performed superbly for two seasons consecutively. He is widely regarded as the top center in the league, and he should be compensated accordingly.
If the Texans released Winston to enhance their odds of re-signing Myers and guard Mike Brisiel, that move becomes retrospectively justifiable. However, Myers publicly described the negotiations between his camp and the Texans as "conversations" and, given what's at stake for the Texans, losing 40 percent of their line might prove catastrophic.
As with their cap casualties, the Texans will suffer losses via free agency. Cornerback Jason Allen appears to be a luxury the franchise can't afford, particularly given the selections of defensive backs Brandon Harris and Roc Carmichael last April. Tight end Joel Dreessen produced beyond expectations in 2011, but the Texans have ample depth at that position.
Nothing will detract from the euphoria that accompanied that AFC Wild Card victory over the Bengals, but some of that enthusiasm was based on potential. It was easy to envision where the Texans would be with the key components from their roster moving forward, but now that free agency is here and changes are afoot, that joy has been tempered.
The Texans have already suffered losses. If they aim to keep their postseason train rolling, Smith can't afford to lose many more.
Follow me on Twitter at moisekapenda
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
Matt Leinart's NFL free fall continues.
The Houston Texans will officially part ways with the former USC quarterback on Tuesday, ending a disappointing two-year career that saw him play in only two games there.
The 2004 Heisman Trophy winner, who was released by the Arizona Cardinals at the end of the 2010 preseason, made his first appearance for Houston in Week 10 last season...
There is an asterisk attached to the surprising release of long-time Houston Texans right tackle Eric Winston.
A source told FOXSports.com that Winston was listed under the "waived/failed physical" designation by the Texans when cut. Winston, though, told FOXSports.com that the billing stems from his having undergone arthroscopic ankle surgery in February.
In a text message...
A person familiar with discussions has confirmed that star pass-rushing defensive end Mario Williams will visit with the Bills in Buffalo on the first day of NFL free agency.
ESPN first reported Williams' scheduled visit with Buffalo earlier on Tuesday.
The Associated Press learned of the visit from a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity because talks are ongoing...
Home to one of the top-tier offensive lines in the league, the cap-strapped Houston Texans made an alarming decision to release right tackle Eric Winston on Monday evening.
ProFootballTalk.com noted a week ago that his $5.5 million base salary made him a candidate to be asked to take a pay cut or restructure his contract, but the team’s verdict to cut him just before the start...
Maybe you missed the news this week that Matt Leinart was released from the Houston Texans, making him a free agent with a career 8-10 record. If this really is the end of the road he walks away with $23,260,000 in career earnings. Makes us wonder why he’d waste time in March throwing with Carson Palmer and Matt Barkley while there are cold beverages waiting at the bar. Why bother...
The Houston Texans released backup quarterback Matt Leinart on Monday."I appreciate and thank (Texans owner) Mr (Bob) McNair and the Texans organization for giving me the opportunity to play," the former Heisman Trophy winner wrote on his Twitter account. "I will miss the Texans fans and most Importantly my teammates. I have no time to get down, focus is on getting...
In the wake of rusher Arian Foster signing a new deal, there's been some speculation that the Texans might consider dealing running back Ben Tate. According to ESPNCleveland.com, the Browns have inquired. Tate missed his rookie year with a broken ankle but played well in 2011 behind Foster, totaling 942 rush yards, 98 receiving yards and four rushing touchdowns on 175 carries...
Business might have just picked up in Berea. After being relatively quiet all day, Twitter has burst with reports that the Browns are engaging the Texans to get Ben Tate. While there isn’t a lot of activity around this rumor just yet, it fits perfectly with Tom Heckert and the Browns’ M.O.
From Auburn, Ben Tate is 23. He is 5’11″ tall and 219 pounds. Most importantly he...
On the heels of releasing veteran right guard Cooper Carlisle on Wednesday, the Raiders lined up a visit with free agent Mike Brisiel. Brisiel, who turned 29 today, has spent all six of his NFL seasons with the Texans. He started 47 games the past five seasons, including 13 last season. Its possible that the Raiders will bring back Carlisle at some point, just at a cheaper salary...
Former Texans RT Eric Winston is in demand, and has free-agent visits set up with the Chiefs, Dolphins and Rams, according to league sources. Winston, 28, is a former third-round pick of the Texans who has spent all six seasons in Houston. Hes been a stalwart in the starting lineup for the Texans, starting all 16 games each of the last five seasons. Source: NFL.com Attached Thumbnails
Hot News for DE Mario Williams
Mario Williams is undoubtedly one of the NFL's premier pass rushers, which would make him an intriguing option for the Patriots, who would love to add some help in that department. However, Williams is reportedly visiting an AFC East rival just hours after hitting the open market. The two-time Pro Bowl defensive end will meet with the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday night, according...
The New Orleans Saints will bring in free agent tight end Joel Dreessen for a visit this week, a league source confirmed. The Houston Texans veteran is solid as both a blocker and a pass catcher. Dreessen, who will turn 30 this summer, has 110 career receptions for 1,364 yards and 13 touchdowns in his six-year career with the Texans and New York Jets. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder has...
Well its almost here folks. NFL Free Agency.
The names are starting to trickle in aren't they?
We've just learned Houston Texans offensive tackle Eric Winston is a casualty.
He just announced on Twitter that the team has released him.
Winston had two years and $11 million remaining on his contract, which included base salaries of $5.5 million in each of the next...
Hot News for OT Eric Winston