Sean Pendergast

Best and Worst Offseason Moves of Houston Texans GM Nick Caserio

Nick Caserio shared his thoughts on the offseason on Monday at the Texans' charity golf tournament.
Nick Caserio shared his thoughts on the offseason on Monday at the Texans' charity golf tournament. Screen grab from Twitter (Mark Berman, FOX 26)
The Houston Texans' brass finally had an opportunity to meet collectively with the media earlier this week, out at River Oaks Country Club, for the team's charity golf tournament. Despite the dim prognostications for the squad this season — the Texans are the longest Super Bowl shot on the board in Vegas, at 150 to 1 — the mood was pretty upbeat, understandable given everyone was about to play a round of golf on a beautiful course.

Here was owner Cal McNair's assessment of the offseason, in which GM Nick Caserio has turned over about half of the 90-man roster:

"It’s an exciting time. It’s exciting to see Nick (Caserio) work the roster. You saw it early and we saw it just the other day with another acquisition – a linebacker from the (New York) Jets who’s a tackling machine. You’ll see him do that through the whole process. I don’t think he’ll ever quit."
And here was Caserio's assessment of his handiwork:

"There’s a lot of newness. We’ve turned over probably half the team, give or take whatever it’s been. A lot of the players have had the opportunity to at least spend some time, even though it’s virtual, to get to know one another in the meetings, communication, learn the system, those types of things. I’d say from a working standpoint, my relationship with Cal (McNair), with Greg (Grissom) has been pretty seamless quite frankly." 
Roster turnover is undoubtedly the theme of this offseason, so when we choose the best and worst of what Caserio has done in his short time as the team's roster architect, there is plenty to choose from. So with that said, here are the three best and three worst decisions made by Caserio to this point in his tenure. we start with the best moves:

3. Trading for Shaq Lawson
Lawson signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Dolphins prior to the 2020 season, and was never really a fit in their system. So the Texans traded inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney for Lawson, who should be a much better fit in Love Smith's 4-3 defense as a defensive end. This trade was solid on two fronts. First, Lawson should at least provide some level of competent pass rushing, a necessary commodity after J.J. Watt's departure. Second, Caserio was able to get an asset in return for McKinney, who many assumed would be cut as a cap casualty.

2. Drafting Brevin Jordan
Quarterback Davis Mills was the highest profile draft pick of the five Caserio made couple weeks ago. Wide receiver Nico Collins was probably the most expensive, considering they traded a 2021 5th round pick and a 2022 4th and pick to move up 20 spots to draft him. However, the pick I like the most, especially considering where it was made, was Jordan, the athletic tight end out of Miami, who was the 147th overall selection. John Harris, Texans draft expert, had Jordan rated as the 37th best player in this draft. I would expect him to crack the rotation at tight end this season.

1. Taking the long play by going with a bunch of short timers
The three for Caserio this offseason was always going to be "clean up," as in cleaning up from a nuclear football catastrophe. That's how dilapidated Bill O'Brien left this franchise, decimating the top of the draft with the Laremy Tunsil trade, and murdering their salary cap with several head scratching contracts. So Caserio signing literally dozens of veteran free agents to (mostly) one year contracts is absolutely the right move, while the team resets in 2021 and gets its house in order to function somewhat normally in 2022.

And now, the three worst moves:

3. Draft day maneuvering
Nick Caserio entered draft weekend a couple weeks ago with eight selections, one on Day 2 and seven on Day 3. After executing a handful of trades, he wound up with five picks in 2021 and one fewer pick in 2022 than he had at the outset of the weekend. The five picks he used to maneuver the draft board allowed him to draft Collins in the third round and LB Garret Wallow in the fifth round. None of the picks traded are premium picks, but still, it begs some scrutiny as to why Caserio's value metric on these picks led to them being so disposable.

2. Retaining Tim Kelly as offensive coordinator
If we are to believe that Kelly was kept around to try to appease Deshaun Watson, who is evidently a big fan of Kelly, then that's fine, I suppose. The problem is that it appears the sales pitch, with or without Kelly, did not work, and Watson would still like to be traded. If all the Texans plan to do is run Bill O'Brien's system, then I am not a fan of that. If they're going to run a different system, why keep Kelly around to be the play caller?

1. Restructuring David Johnson's contract
The Texans would have had to pay Johnson $2.1 million if they cut him. After a largely disappointing 2020, with some flashes of life at the end of the season, Caserio decided to guarantee Johnson a total of $4 million to stick around in 2021, hoping that he might finally recapture his form from five years ago. Yes, FIVE YEARS AGO. Look, Johnson at a few million bucks isn't the worst lotto ticket in the world, but at the end of the day, I think I'm just tired of being reminded of the DeAndre Hopkins trade, the deal which made Johnson a Texan. Sadly.

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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