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 th...