It appears that the free agency portion of the offseason is winding down. Houston Texan fans would say that it's been largely winding down from about the time that it started, but their lack of activity in free agency is neither here nor there, for the purposes of this post. Barring a few random signings to come and perhaps a trade or two, the league is now focused on the draft.
The Texans have made small incremental improvements with their roster, but nothing that should move Vegas off their 8.5 win forecast. Slight improvement at blocking tight end, a debate as to whether the secondary is better, A.J. McCarron as the new backup QB — this is the offseason here, so far. But what do we make of the moves the Texans' 2019 opponents have made? Some of them have upgraded areas of their teams significantly in the early part of the offseason calendar.
So let's take a look at the most significant moves that each of the Texans' thirteen 2019 opponents have made, some of which are among the most significant moves league wide.
AFC SOUTH OPPONENTS
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Signed EDGE Justin Houston (2 years, $24 million)
Colts' GM Chris Ballard had been sitting on nearly $100 million in cap space, using bits and pieces to retain small pieces of the Colts' 2018 roster, until he finally made a headline-worthy signing with Houston. The Colts needed a pass rusher, and Houston isn't the 20-plus sack guy he was in 2014, but when healthy, he's still slightly under a sack per game. A real boom or bust signing.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Signed QB Nick Foles (4 years, $88 million)
I am not a true believer in Foles, but there's no doubt that he's better than Blake Bortles, who'd been the starter for most of the last five years. Honestly, a cardboard cutout of Nick Foles is better than Blake Bortles. The Texans' advantage over the Jags has been deplorable QB play for Jacksonville. It won't be THAT bad anymore.
TENNESSEE TITANS: Signed OL Roger Saffold (4 years, $44 million)
The Titans strengthened a strength by bringing in Saffold to fortify the interior of their offensive line. They also reportedly beat out the Texans head to head for his services.
AFC WEST OPPONENTS
DENVER BRONCOS: Traded a 4th round pick for QB Joe Flacco
By nearly every quarterback metric, Joe Flacco has been a bottom five QB since winning MVP of the Super Bowl in February 2013. Now, John Elway is counting on THAT version of Flacco walking through the door. NOT BLOODY LIKELY.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Signed S Tyrann Mathieu (3 years, $42 million)
Sort of like the Broncos trading for a version of Flacco that no longer exists, apparently the Chiefs were watching 2015 game film of Mathieu when they made this decision. The Honey Badger is now the highest paid safety in football (along with Landon Collins) on an annual salary basis, and he's barely a Pro Bowl alternate. As much as I enjoyed Mathieu's presence on the Texans, I'm anxious to see this signing not work out so well.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: Signed ILB Thomas Davis (2 years, $10.5 million)
The Chargers have been quiet this offseason, but Davis will be a nice leadership pickup for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations.
OAKLAND RAIDERS: Traded a 3rd and 5th round pick for WR Antonio Brown
We could write a thousand words on the Antonio Brown trade (and, in fact, I already have). Of all the acquisitions that Texans opponents have made this offseason, this one frightens me the most. I smell a ten-catch, 185-yard game with a couple of touchdowns.
NFC SOUTH OPPONENTS
ATLANTA FALCONS: Gave the franchise tag to DT Grady Jarrett
You don't often see interior defensive linemen get the tag, but Jarrett is crucial to what the Falcons want to do defensively, and he's a bit of a unicorn — a beefy, 300-plus pounder who can get a push on the pocket from up the middle.
CAROLINA PANTHERS: Signed C Matt Paradis (3 years, $27 million)
Paradis is actually a player that I was hoping the Texans would target, and at least SOLIDIFY one spot along the line, and build from there. (Yes, I'd move Nick Martin to guard.) This will be a good pickup for the Panthers, whose line is in a weird state of flux the last couple years, with the Matt Kalil and Daryl Williams injuries.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Signed RB Latavius Murray (4 years, $14.4 million)
Alvin Kamara is the weapon of mass destruction in the Saints backfield, but it's undeniable that the one-two punch he formed with Mark Ingram was a big part of the Saints' success the last two seasons. Now, Ingram is a Baltimore Raven, but Murray should be a suitable Robin to Murray's Batman.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Jameis Winston acquired 20 extra pounds of bulk
The Bucs don't really have a signing or trade that moves me to concern or ridicule, so I'll point out that it was news this week that Winston is now playing at 250 pounds. I'm no athletic trainer, but Winston doesn't seem to have the body type where that extra weight is a GOOD thing.
VARIABLE AFC OPPONENTS
BALTIMORE RAVENS: Signed S Earl Thomas (4 years, $55 million)
The fate of the Ravens' 2019 season will likely rest on Lamar Jackson's improvement throwing the football, but they kept their culture of defense alive with this big spend on Thomas, the top safety on the market, who will be motivated to show the Seahawks that they should have given him the extension he wanted last season.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Announced retirement of TE Rob Gronkowski
The Patriots lost a few guys in free agency, but that's nothing new. Watching the greatest tight end of this generation retire, a tight end who destroyed the Texans routinely, will be rough for Pats fans. (That said, they'll still win the AFC East and be a 2-seed, because Brady and Belichick.)
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