Houston Texans: 2014 Free Agency Dashboard

As the Texans make moves amidst a coaching regime change, I think it makes sense to look back at what has necessitated all of the movement that's gone on in the organization in the last few months.

Certainly, indecisiveness and questionable decisions by the previous coaching staff contributed greatly to last season's 2-14 record. At the same time, though, it's only fair to also point to a slew of recent drafts that have yielded bust after bust in the middle and late rounds ("cheap labor" rounds), some cap choking contracts that have been hit or miss (including $29 million guaranteed to Matt Schaub, who earned about $4 million of it), and decisions like $5 million guaranteed to Ed Reed (around $700,000 per game played) as reasons for the Texans' plummet in 2013.

In short, personnel decisions matter.

The whole thing had been a teardown process that began in 2006, progressed through division titles in 2011 and 2012, and then crapped out badly in 2013. The Texans started the process as the worst team in the league eight years ago, won a couple divisions, then finished 2013 as the worst team in the league.

By every measure that matters, the teardown and rebuild was a failure. So with the release Tuesday of tight end Owen Daniels, it's appropriate (and chilling) to point out that the only remaining football employee still here from 2006 (other than Andre Johnson, who was here before everyone else got here) is Rick Smith, the very architect behind the roster that's being torn down yet again as we speak.

Someday, this will all make sense. I hope. For now, let's see what's happening with the Texans after the first several hours of free agency.

GOOD BYE OWEN, GOOD BYE BRICE, HOPE YOU FIND YOUR PARADISE With the Texans under the cap by around the amount that the league bumped up the ceiling a couple weeks ago, we knew there would be some cap casualties on the current roster. First, Tuesday morning, came the release of Brice McCain, who parlayed one outlier year of solid performance in 2011 into a three year contract heading into 2013. He made it through one year of that deal. McCain's release saves the Texans $850,000 in cap space this season.

(NOTE: It also means that Bob McNair cut checks totaling $7.25 million in real money to Brice McCain and Ed Reed in 2013, and that $3.57 million in dead money from both deals will linger on the 2014 cap like a stale fart.)

Then, Tuesday afternoon, came the release of tight end Owen Daniels, which cleans out one big piece (and contract) of the Kubiak regime, and sent the clear message that there are no scraps in Bill O'Brien's scrapbook. We all knew this could be a possibility, as releasing Daniels saves $4.5 million against the 2014 cap, however we assumed that letting Daniels go would mean Garrett Graham would be locked up with a new deal. Well, that didn't happen. As we type this, Graham is a free agent and the Texans are flying with Ryan Griffin (6th round rookie last season) as the starting tight end.


EARL TAKING HIS TALENTS TO SOUTH BEACH At some positions, it's all about the fit, and to fit into Romeo Crennel's defense as a nose tackle requires a love of fried foods, the willingness to drink from a chocolate river, and a gut that cascades over one's belt line. Crennel likes fat guys! And while Earl Mitchell is chunky, on the spectrum of defensive lineman, he is thought to be nimble, quick, and cagey. All of this means that Mitchell is leaving home to go sign a four year, $16 million deal with the Miami Dolphins. We wish him luck!

THE NINJA LIKELY TO DISAPPEAR How much of J.J. Watt's other worldly success the last two seasons can be attributed to the steady production from Antonio Smith. We will never be able to fully quantify the answer, but we may get a gauge on the Ninja's importance when the team moves forward without him in 2014, because it appears that's what's happening. Tuesday came and went with no offer from the Texans for Smith, and multiple flights booked for him to Washington, Nashville, and Oakland. Antonio's playful antics, occasional sacks, and random ill-timed fifteen yard penalties will be missed.

McCOWN TOWN The Texans have made it clear that, regardless of what they do with the first overall pick in the draft, they intend to sign a veteran quarterback either to back up their shiny new rookie or start while the young fella learns the O'Brien offense. (All of this, even though they haven't unloaded the most notorious veteran quarterback on the roster. What up, Schaubby.) Tuesday came news that the Texans are in line for a visit from Bears quarterback Josh McCown, who is coming off easily the best season of his very nondescript career. Here's hoping that McCown runs into Schaub in the hallways at Reliant on his visit and the two have an awkward moment along the lines of Harry running into his ex-wife and her new husband in a Brookstone in When Harry Met Sally.

ODDS AND ENDS Easiest just to let Twitter do the heavy lifting on these.... WADE SMITH



Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.

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