Sean Pendergast

Grading the Houston Texans Moves in 2022 Free Agency

Texans head coach Lovie Smith will have lots of familiar faces on the roster in 2022.
Texans head coach Lovie Smith will have lots of familiar faces on the roster in 2022. Photo by Eric Sauseda
For the second consecutive offseason, amidst the shadows of effort to trade quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Houston Texans have been one fo the most active teams in free agency. The heavy activity, though, is not because the Texans are putting the finishing touches on anything special. It's out of necessity. In plain English, they need guys!

However, unlike 2021, the Texans probably won't need to do a massive overhaul to the printed roster they hand out at practice in training camp. Last season, training camp, felt like a fever dream, with about a dozen recognizable Texan players, and several dozen guys that could have been total imposters, and we'd have never known. Instead, this offseason GM Nick Caserio has chosen to bring back many of the same guys they signed last season.

So, you may be asking "Why on earth would they bring back a bunch of players who went 4-13 last season?", and I would tell you that that is a totally fair question. The honest answer, and unfortunate answer if you're lacking in patience, is that Caserio inherited such a dumpster fire from Bill O'Brien's horrific era as GM, that last year was clean up, and this year is really the first year of the rebuild.

The Texans have their high draft picks this offseason (unlike the last TWO years), they're going to get a ton of draft capital in the inevitable trade of Watson, and by next offseason their salary cap will be squeaky clean from dead money once again  (well, squeaky clean enough, I suppose). So bringing back some of the veterans from last season, assuming they're a good culture fits, is fine, I suppose, so long as the dollar amounts are in line with the market.

Most of the signings have made sense, a couple of them were actually very good, and a few were head scratchers. So let's summarize the group here into three buckets:

* "OH, WHAT?!?!": This bucket are deals that I really like. Good value, very solid players, guys that I had been hoping against hope that Caserio would bring back.

* "MEH, WHATEVER": These are guys who I'm fine with the team bringing back at the dollar amounts and terms for which they signed. Half of these guys won't be on the team when Week 1 rolls around anyway.

* "WHAT THE HELL??": These are deals that make little to no sense to me, and make me wonder if Nick Caserio is letting Jack Easterby make a few signings just to placate him.

OH, WHAT?!?!

DT Maliek Collins: Re-signing on a two-year, $17 million deal with $8.5 million guaranteed.
DB Desmond King: Signing a two-year, $7 million deal.

COMMENT: Heading into free agency, there were three players that I was hoping the Texans would bring back on reasonable deals — Collins, King, and Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill. Two of those three are back, and Grugier-Hill is still out there and available. Collins was arguably the Texans' best defensive player last season, finishing sixth in pass rush win rate among all defensive tackles in the NFL. King overcame a benching midseason for conduct behind the scenes to play very solid outside corner for Lovie Smith's defense over the second half of the season. His ability to play in the slot and outside is quite valuable. These are very solid signings.


LB Christian Kirksey: Re-signing on a two-year, $10 million contract that includes $4 million guaranteed.
OT Cedric Ogbuehi: Signing a one-year, $1.4 million deal.
WR Chris Conley: Re-signing on a one-year, $2 million contract that includes $750,000 guaranteed.
OL Justin Britt: Agreed to terms on a twoi year, $9 million contract.
OL A.J. Cann: Agreed to a two-year, $10.5 million deal with $4.5 million guaranteed.
LB Ogbo Okoronkwo: Agreed to terms on a contract.
S Terrance Brooks: Re-signing on a one-year, $2 million deal.
S M.J. Stewart: Signing a one-year, $3 million contract.
RB Dare Ogunbowale: Signing a two-year, $3.3 million deal.
QB Kyle Allen: Signing a 1 year, $2.5 million deal.
C Scott Quessenberry: Signing a 1 year, $1.187 million deal.

COMMENT: This sea of non needle movers feels like a twelve-headed microcosm of the entire Houston Texans' football product right now. If I had to bet, when the Texans are back competing for a playoff spot in, say, 2024 or 2025, none of these guys will be with the team, but they will be retroactively credited by Caserio for having set the culture in place for the young core they will begin building in this April's draft. If there is a headliner in this bucket of players, it's probably Kirksey, who, when healthy, is a solid inside linebacker. Locally, the best known player in the group might be backup QB Kyle Allen, who was a five star recruit to Texas A&M several years ago before transferring to the University of Houston in 2016.


TE Pharaoh Brown: Agreed to a one-year contract worth up to $4 million.
QB Jeff Driskel: Re-signing on a one-year contract.
S Eric Murray - Signed a two-year, $10 million contract extension.

COMMENT: All three of these guys fall into the category of players that, by Week 16, in the press box, I would turn to my colleagues and say "Thank God we only have to watch THIS GUY for three more games." Alas, it would appear we may have to watch each of them for 17 more games. The most entrenched of the three appears to be Murray, who follows up one of the worst contracts in Bill O'Brien's history as a GM by getting a $5 million per year payday from Caserio. Pharaoh Brown led the team with ten penalties. He's back. Yay. Jeff Driskel is perhaps the worst thrower of the football I've ever seen. He is back to play quarterback after a season of being a horrible, amateur backup tight end.

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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 the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast