Sometimes, the unexpected can happen in an NFL offseason. With safety Andre Hal, it's happened now this offseason AND last offseason. Last year, in June, Andre Hal was announcing to the world that he had Hodgkin's lymphoma. His career was put on hold, and he was left to fight for his life. Thankfully, Hal not only beat cancer, but managed to make it back onto the field in 2018 as a productive member of the Texans' secondary.
So now the Andre Hal-related surprise in 2019, while problematic on the field for the Texans, is the polar opposite in terms of Andre Hal's quality of life. On Tuesday afternoon, Hal announced his retirement from the NFL, fully healthy, with a degree from Vanderbilt in hand, at the age of 26 years old.
Here a few of my thoughts in the wake of Hal's announcement:
Andre Hal is a success story in every sense of the word
Much like my contention about Alfred Blue earlier this week, where five years in the NFL as a sixth round pick should be considered a success, so too was Hal a success. Hal was actually drafted one round after Blue in 2014, a seventh round pick who went on to start 40 games, intercept 12 passes, and AGAIN, beat cancer. The respect level is quite evident in the comments from general manager Brian Gaine and Bill O'Brien:
“When constructing a team, Andre Hal is the type of player you look for,” said Texans General Manager Brian Gaine. “His personal and football character as well as his team-first attitude were evident from the first day he stepped foot in our facility and was exemplified by his willingness to change positions and do what’s best for the team. We appreciate everything Andre has given to this organization over the last five years and we wish him all the best.”
"Andre Hal is the epitome of what it means to be a Houston Texans player. What he overcame last season is nothing short of incredible and is an inspiration to every single person in this building,” said Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien. “Over the last five years, Andre’s leadership, infectious personality in the locker room and play-making skills on the field were instrumental to our success. He’s what this place is all about. Although Andre will be missed, I have no doubt that he will be extremely successful in the next chapter of his life.”
Hal is universally respected by everyone in the building at NRG Stadium, and the future is most assuredly bright for him.
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The Texans safety depth chart took a hit
As we all know, the Texans allowed safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson to walk in free agency. Both were given offers that were just richer than the Texans were looking to pay. In response to those departures, the Texans brought in former Jaguar Tashaun Gipson on a three-year, $22.5 million deal. With Gipson and Justin Reid as the starters, the safety position is probably fine at the top of the depth chart, but Hal's retirement does leave a significant gap between the two starters and the next guys down on the depth chart. More than that, in dime packages, where Hal saw most of his action, the team is just lacking capable bodies at safety and cornerback at this point. Hal's departure doesn't swing the story of the Texans' secondary significantly, but it eats away at the depth, and reduces the margin for error and injury this offseason.
The 2014 and 2015 Texans draft classes are disasters
Avert your eyes here, loyal Texans fan. With the departure of Blue and the retirement of Hal, the only player left from the Texans' 2014 draft class is Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, who is currently sitting at home with an unsigned franchise tender. Even worse, the entire 2015 draft class, other than linebacker Bernardrick McKinney, are now all gone, as well. Make no mistake — this is terrifying. This is how you wind up with a roster whose holes can only be masked by the greatness of Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, and J.J. Watt.
What's next for Andre Hal?
I would imagine with a Vanderbilt degree and a great personality, the world will be Hal's oyster. If you're looking for a window into what may be next, there's a great piece by Texans beat writer Aaron Reiss on The Athletic that gives a window into an internship that Hal completed this offseason. It was with a company called Headspace which created an app that helps folks with meditation. Hal was motivated by his recovery from cancer, which involved holistic methods, including meditation.