NFL Free Agency 2013: Assessing the Texans' Damage
"Wheels up! GM Rick Smith is on his way to pick up free agent S Ed Reed in #Texans chairman & CEO Bob McNair's private jet!" -- @HoustonTexans, Thursday morning
The Texans' Twitter proclamation about Rick Smith's early morning travel schedule on Thursday served a dual purpose, providing a symbolic ending to Glover Quin's tenure with the Texans while simultaneously opening a gateway to an intriguing (albeit likely much briefer) future with Hall of Famer Ed Reed taking over Quin's safety slot.
The first two full days of free agency came and went, and by Thursday night the Texans were left with a few more questions on their current roster than they had Tuesday morning.
So as we all await Ed Reed's expected signature Friday morning, let's briefly assess the damage left behind by the free agency shoppers, in chronological order of "former Texan pilfered," and list winners and losers as well:
JAMES CASEY, tight end Signed with Philadelphia, 3 years $14.5 million ($6 million guaranteed) WINNER: Savvy fantasy owners in points per receptions leagues LOSER: Rice University, who lost their biggest local celeb alum Casey was the first and least surprising Texan to find greener pastures elsewhere. With roughly 15 teams reportedly showing interest in the Texans' starting fullback/sometimes tight end, the odds were high that a team was going to want to pick up Casey to do the things he did so well in his brief college career at Rice, like catch a shit-ton of footballs and run people over like a Mack truck.
If you're a Texans fan that's fearful of being starkly reminded on a weekly basis just how woefully miscast and poorly used James Casey was as a Houston Texan, there may not be a madder scientist to rub salt in that wound than Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, who is expected to implement all sorts of up-tempo and innovation that might make James Casey look like one of the biggest bargains of this free agency shopping season. Seriously, we might look back at James Casey being used as a fullback with the Texans the same way that wrestling fans look back at the Undertaker being used as "Mean" Mark in WCW.
Did I just ask if Chip Kelly is the football version of Vince McMahon? I believe I did. THAT'S the million dollar question. (Honestly, how has the NFL Network not hired me yet, with analysis like that?)
GLOVER QUIN, safety Signed with Detroit, 5 years $23.5 million ($5.25 million signing bonus) WINNER: Ed Reed LOSER: Roc Carmichael, a lock to have to forfeit his #20 jersey to Reed Of the three free agents to leave the Texans, this one was the most surprising, only because the general consensus among everybody -- fans, media, perhaps even Quin's former teammates -- was that Quin was the Texans' highest priority in free agency, which actually might be true. If so, then we learned that priority and dollar value are two mutually exclusive characteristics, because Quin wound up with a seemingly reasonable deal with the Lions, a deal that a lot of educated fans and media would have had no problem with the Texans inking with him.
And still, when you peel back the onion of the Texans salary cap situation, and view it outside the window of just this week, with X amount of cap space and these specific free agents, it starts to make a little more sense. First, examine the Texans players with a cap figure of $5 million or more for the upcoming season (Quin's first year cap figure in Detroit is only $2 million, but it jumps to $5 million in Year 2, so I will evaluate him alongside that caliber of player):
Andre Johnson, $14,652,918 Johnathan Joseph, $11,250,000 Matt Schaub, $10,750,000 Antonio Smith, $9,500,000 Arian Foster $8,250,000 Owen Daniels $5,750,000 Chris Myers $5,500,000 Danieal Manning, $5,500,000 Duane Brown, $5,000,000
Nine players, including seven 2012 Pro Bowlers. It could be as simple as the Texans drawing a line on who is considered a core player and their not seeing Glover Quin as one of those guys.
Second, add in three names that are absent from this list: Brian Cushing ($4.64 million cap figure, contract ends after 2013) J.J. Watt ($3.06 million cap figure, 2014 ends) Kareem Jackson ($2.24 million cap figure, 2014 ends)
Pending a recovery from his knee injury, Cushing is a virtual lock to get extended this offseason or next spring. And the year after that, J.J. Watt might be in line to become the highest paid defensive player in league history. Add in Kareem Jackson who plays a premium position, and the Texans' seeming lukewarmness on Quin, examined holistically, makes more sense.
The Texans clearly see Quin as replaceable, in the near term by a veteran and down the road possibly by a draft choice.
CONNOR BARWIN, outside linebacker Signed with Philadelphia, 6 years $36 million ($8 million guaranteed) WINNER: Whitney Mercilus, anointed starter at Barwin's old spot LOSER: Every Houston hipster boutique, indy band, and Prius dealership According to Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle, Barwin's offer from the Texans during the 2012 preseason mirrored the total deal he wound up getting from the Eagles. (I have to imagine the guaranteed money offered by the Texans was more than $8 million, though.) If that's the case, then I guess Barwin didn't really hurt himself by rejecting the Texans' offer, but there's no doubt that with another 11.5 sack season like the one he had in 2011, Barwin would have been looking at one of the biggest deals on the market this offseason. Paul Kruger's deal with the Browns (5 years, $41 million, $19 million guaranteed) would have been the neighborhood. So Barwin didn't leave any money on the table by rejecting the Texans' summer 2012 offer, but he did cost himself big time with his disappearance for large chunks of the 2012 season.
The bottom line is that Barwin's deal with Philly is a classic case of looking a lot more expensive to the signing team than it really is. I mean, $8 million guaranteed over the first two seasons is nothing. If I were the Texans, I'd have done this deal in a second, which makes you wonder if a) the Texans did offer something comparable, but Barwin just wanted a change of scenery or if b) the Texans' offer was even lower than the $8 million guarantee, which would basically mean that Gary Kubiak telling the media every week last year how awesome Connor was really playing despite no sacks was actually complete bullshit.
For Texans fans crying about the sky falling, I would remind them that Ed Reed made more Pro Bowls last season than any of the three departing players made in their combined careers. The sun will come out again, and hopefully the now ultra hip Texans Twitter account will chase its "Wheels up!" tweet with a nice hashtag of #YOLO when they sign Ed Reed.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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