Sean Pendergast

Houston Texans Free Agents' Likelihood of Returning In 2020

Carlos Hyde is someone the Texans would like to bring back.
Carlos Hyde is someone the Texans would like to bring back. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Unfortunately, the Houston Texans' dream of a playoff run deeper than the divisional round died a gruesome death in the middle of the field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on Sunday afternoon. The Texans lost the game by a final score of 51-31, after taking a 24-0 lead in the first 20 minutes of game action, largely thanks to a series of unsustainable, unforced errors by the Chiefs.

Patrick Mahomes and company would eventually get things straightened out, outscoring the Texans 51-7 from the second quarter on, and doing everything but stealing their wives and girlfriends. Honestly, it would have been far less painful if the Chiefs had just beaten the Texans by a final score of 51-7, than it was being teased by that fast start.

So now, the offseason is here, and it will soon be time for the Texans to make decisions on pending free agents, and for the good players among those free agents to decide if they want to be Houston Texans going forward. Before we get to the list of Texan free agents, here is a snapshot of where the Texans stand fiscally heading into the 2020 offseason:
The list below doesn't include Watson or Tunsil, but make no mistake — THOSE two are the biggest names that the Texans need to figure out contractually going forward, as each is poised to become the highest paid player at his position.

And now, onto the free agency list!


DeAndre Carter, WR
Carter had a brutal fumble in the loss to the Chiefs on Sunday, that led to part of the 28-point avalanche the Chiefs used to bury the Texans. Carter is an adequate return guy, and a competent slot receiver, which will probably be enough to bring him back to camp, but the Texans need to upgrade their return game, if possible.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 75 percent


Dylan Cole, ILB
Cole tore his ACL in the first half of the 2019 season, continuing his unfortunate injury luck. When he's on the field, Cole is a special teams captain, and a capable backup at inside linebacker. His injury precludes any team putting a big bid in for his services.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 100 percent

Roderick Johnson, T
Johnson looked like he had a shot to start toward the end of training camp, but the trade for Tunsil and the move of Tytus Howard to right tackle scuttled that. As it was, Johnson finished the season as part of a right tackle platoon with Chris Clark.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 50 percent


Mike Adams, S
Adams was signed off the street early in the season, and was inactive most weeks, either as part of the actual "INACTIVE" list or as a backup in uniform. He is 38 years old, and it's probably a choice between retirement or pulling a check for another year.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 20 percent

Tyrell Adams, ILB
Adams actually filled in admirably when Bernardrick McKinney missed the Week 16 game against Tampa Bay with a concussion. He was the "green dot on helmet" inside linebacker for that game, calling all the defensive sets. He's also made some plays on special teams.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 40 percent

Jahleel Addae, S
Addae was a valuable backup, and an older player, and likely a guy the Texans can bring back at a reasonable price point.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 65 percent

Chris Clark, T
Clark was another veteran they pulled off the street in-season, after Seantrel Henderson was injured (and then cut). Clark was better this time around than he was a couple years ago, but with Howard returning, his only role would be a veteran swing tackle. I can see them bringing him back as a camp body, and him possibly making the team.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 60 percent

Brandon Dunn, DT
I think the team would like to keep Dunn, but the defensive line is going to start getting expensive if they retain D.J. Reader. Dunn won't break the bank, but money is going to start getting tighter. If they let Reader walk (he will likely make at least $12 million per year on the open market), then Dunn is probably the cheap alternative. Also, it should be pointed out that the Texans might fire Romeo Crennel, which could change the type of player the Texans look for along the defensive front.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 50 percent

Ka'imi Fairbairn, K
Fairbairn hit a rough patch in between Weeks 3 and 7 of the season, missing four PAT's and three field goals in that timeframe, but by the end of the year, he'd straightened things out, his 51-yard miss against the Chiefs notwithstanding. Fairbairn is a talented young kicker, and someone the Texans will do everything to retain.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 80 percent

Darren Fells, TE
Fells was one of the best bargains (1 year, $1.5 million) in the LEAGUE in the first half of the season, catching six touchdown passes in the first nine weeks of the season. However, he tailed off in the second half, and had a bunch of drops late in the season. The Texans will not overspend to keep him.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 33 percent

Phillips Gaines, CB
Gaines played a few games, including the win in Kansas City in Week 6, where he started, and then wound up on injured reserve a week later.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 10 percent

Carlos Hyde, RB
After coming over to the Texans in a trade on that Swap Meet Saturday in late August, Hyde had a career year, rushing for over 1,000 yards for the first time ever. He is on the wrong side of 30, so he won't break the bank, and the Texans do want him back. It's all about finding a number everyone can agree to.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 60 percent

Taiwan Jones, RB
Jones will always have the catch and run in the Buffalo game for fans to remember him by. Otherwise, he is an older, special teams specialist. If he comes back, it won't be for much.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 40 percent

Johnathan Joseph, CB
Joseph has had a great nine year run as one of the all time great Texans. He is my pick to be the next Texan in the Ring of Honor, and I think he will work for the team in some capacity next year, just not as a player.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 5 percent (as a player), 85 percent (doing SOMETHING in the building)

AJ McCarron, QB
McCarron saw action in one game, starting Week 17 against the Titans. That day, McCarron was playing with a bunch of backups. We know he isn't going to get an offer as a starter anywhere, but maybe a team sees him as a high level backup. I wonder if the Texans seek a backup that can run some more of the RPO stuff the team uses with Watson. (Marcus Mariota, anyone?)
Odds of Returning in 2020: 35 percent

Lamar Miller, RB
Miller tore his ACL in preseason Week 3. I think his time is up in Houston, where he was solid, but for the most part, somewhat misused as a "between the tackles" tailback, when his game was more about speed.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 15 percent

Barkevious Mingo, OLB
Mingo was a piece of the Jadeveon Clowney trade, another special teams stalwart who blocked a punt early in the loss to Kansas City. He's another one I could see coming back on a veteran minimum type deal.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 65 percent

DJ Reader, DT
This is where it starts to get tricky. Reader is likely the most high ticket player on this list. He's never made a Pro Bowl, but few players in his role — a heavy, explosive interior defensive lineman — have been more disruptive the last couple seasons. He is a perfect fit culturally, as he was the team's nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year. Reader is also a close friend of J.J. Watt, which can't hurt. Gun to my head, I'm guessing a franchise tag for Reader, and then they figure something out in 2021.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 65 percent

Bradley Roby, CB
Another player who, when healthy, performed at a high level in 2019. The problem was Roby's hamstring, which kept him out for about five games. A former first round pick, Roby played like it in several spots this season. He is easily the best size/speed prototype of any of the cornerbacks on the roster, the question is "How much does he fit O'Brien's smart/tough/dependable mantra?" Worth noting, Roby was a Brian Gaine signing, NOT a Bill O'Brien signing.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 30 percent

Joe Webb, QB/WR
Webb went on injured reserve in preseason. I could see his low priced versatility appealing to O'Brien for another season, provided he is fully healthy.
Odds of Returning in 2020: 50 percent

Jon Weeks, LS
Jon Weeks is the only Houston Texan to do his job perfectly every season. If it ain't broke, don't fix it! All hail, the patron saint of long snappers!
Odds of Returning in 2020: 95 percent

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at
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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