Sean Pendergast

Houston Texans: GM Nick Caserio's Roster Purge Begins

Peter Kalambayi (58) was among those caught up in the Texans' mini purge this week.
Peter Kalambayi (58) was among those caught up in the Texans' mini purge this week. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Amidst the departure of J.J. Watt, the apparent dissatisfaction of Deshaun Watson, and the dysfunction which swirls around Jack Easterby, many of us have been waiting for a bit of normal football news out of the Texans. Kind of like the relaxing cup of coffee after a wild five course, red wine dinner, we got just that on Tuesday.

New contracts for a few players, a couple rotational players released, and a miniature personnel department purge were on the docket earlier this week, and with those moves, we finally get the first glimpses of Nick Caserio's reshaping of the Texans, both front facing changes with the roster and behind the scenes in the front  office. Let's summarize:

Texans cut G Senio Kelemete, ILB Peter Kalambayi
Thus far, the marquee release, from both a name and a salary slot standpoint, has clearly been J.J. Watt, whose release singlehandedly got the Texans under the projected salary cap. Now begins the more minor tweaking, and a clear trend toward younger, cheaper players. Guard Senio Kelemete, who started for most of the 2020 season at left guard, was let go in a move that is expected to save the Texans around $1.525 million in cap space. Also, fourth year linebacker and special teams regular Peter Kalambayi was released with a year left on his rookie deal, in a move that will net the Texans just under $900,000 in cap savings. Kalambayi is believed to be a poor scheme fit for new DC Love Smith's 4-3 defense.

Texans re-sign RB Buddy Howell, CB Cornell Armstrong
Meanwhile, there were Texans players asked to stick around for 2021, both of whom were more rotational special teams players than expected regulars on offense or defense (but honestly, with the lack of depth, and more expected cuts coming in the near future, who the hell knows). RB Buddy Howell and CB Cornell Armstrong each signed very cheap, one-year deals on Tuesday. Both are likely to contribute on special teams in 2021, but with the Texans expected to move on from RB David Johnson and possibly RB Duke Johnson, Howell may find himself in line for some touches at running back. He has run hard in the few opportunities he's received.

Texans purge three faces from personnel department
In behind the scenes news, Caserio has begun reshaping the scouting and personnel departments, a normal phase of any new general manager regime. Per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle:

The Texans have dismissed assistant pro personnel director C.J. Leak along with area scout Ryan Cavanaugh and pro scout Steven Price, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly.
These are moves that the average fan will feel very little impact from, but are newsworthy because it continues the trend of recent, massive facelifts for parts of the organization, which go all the way up to the level of team president. where Jamey Rootes walked away just two weeks ago, after two decades with the organization.

Franchise tag period begins, Fuller waits
The biggest non-Watt, non-Watson move for this offseason probably centers around WR Will Fuller, whose rookie contract ended with a six-game PED suspension to close out 2020. It was the first season that Fuller had been fully healthy until the suspension ended a very productive campaign, with Fuller on pace for around 1,300 yards and double digit touchdown receptions. On Tuesday, the two-week window for teams to apply the franchise tag on free agents began, and if the Texans so choose, they can apply the tag and retain Fuller on a one-year deal for what will likely be around $15 million. From there, they can either negotiate a long term deal before July 15 or trade him, possibly as a sweetener in a Deshaun Watson trade. This will be worth keeping an eye on.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast