NFL teams have doled out their franchise tags, so we now know which players are being kept off the market, or perhaps more accurately, being put on the market with SERIOUS compensation ramifications, if you choose to sign them — two first round picks to the free agent's previous team, to be exact.
Now that the franchise tag list is in our rear view mirror, however, we can begin to focus on free agency in full force, as the legal tampering period where teams can talk to other teams' free agents begins Monday, and signings can take place beginning Wednesday. So which players make sense for the Houston Texans to approach with varying chunks of the $74 million in cap space that they have to spend?
Here are 12 names that I would like to see some battle red smoke around over the next few days:
ADRIAN AMOS, S
I may be in the minority, but I think there's a better chance than most think that both Kareem Jackson and Tyrann Mathieu could be gone this offseason. Jackson has all but said so on social media, and I don't think that we can just assume Mathieu is fully invested into being a Houston Texan after just one season. So if both leave, they will need a safety to keep that position group solid. Amos is a former fifth round pick who played for Bill O'Brien at Penn State, and started 15 games in 2018, garnering an 82.7 grade on Pro Football Focus, eighth best among safeties.
JOHN BROWN, WR
The Texans need some veteran help at wide receiver, as their next two after DeAndre Hopkins — Will Fuller and Keke Coutee — are both young and injury prone, albeit very talented. Brown is a deep threat, who would be great insurance for Fuller's inevitable injuries. He might aspire to being a No. 2 wide receiver somewhere, a role which he'd have to compete for here.
TRENT BROWN, OT
DARYL WILLIAMS, OT
My guess is that the Texans will fill their tackle needs in what is being touted as a deep tackle draft, but if you're looking for some names on the free agent market, these are probably the top two. Keep in mind, both come with warning labels — Williams is coming off a season-ending knee injury, and Brown is coming off his first great season, and would be a Belichick discard, which is basically like attaching a siren to his head.
TEVIN COLEMAN, RB
The Texans will need some running back depth, and the versatile Coleman — 800 yards rushing, 276 yards receiving, nine touchdowns — might be pricy. However, a backfield of Coleman, Lamar Miller, and a healthy D'Onta Foreman is flush with different skillsets and experience.
RONALD DARBY, CB
JASON VERRETT, CB
Both of these cornerbacks have played at a very high level, when healthy, and THAT is the key. Health. Both are coming off ACL tears. If they can get one of these two guys on a reasonable, Mathieu-like one year deal, I'd jump at that as a way to fill at least one of the CB depth chart spots.
TYLER EIFERT, TE
Ok, I know Eifert has only played in 14 games the last three seasons, but again, if you can get him on a cheap, incentive-laden deal, why not give Deshaun Watson a weapon that, when healthy, is an elite red zone target? Put simply, would you rather have Year 7 of Ryan Griffin, or a 20 percent chance at a healthy Tyler Eifert? With Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas in the fold, you can take risk like this now at the tight end position.
RYAN FITZPATRICK, QB
TYROD TAYLOR, QB
I went into more depth on the backup QB situation in a previous post, but these are my top two REASONABLE options to back up Deshaun Watson.
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MITCH MORSE, C
MATT PARADIS, C
Brian Gaine made an interesting, off handed comment when talking about second year offensive lineman Martinas Rankin last week:
“Long-term upside with Rankin. He’s an offensive lineman. I wouldn’t even be surprised if you gave him the ball and he could snap it and be a center. We love the value of versatility. He was a starting left tackle in the SEC. He played both left tackle for us this year and guard. I think he could be a two-hole guy. It could be either or. The top five guys will start. He’s going to get a great opportunity this year to compete for a starting position and we’ll just kind of see and let the chips fall where they may.”
The two sentences in bold give clues as to where the Texans could look for upgrades. First, these quotes tell me the center position is open to competition. Second, the top five will play, so signing a center and moving Nick Martin to guard would appear to be an option. Paradis and Morse are the top two centers on the market.