Three years ago, on the heels of a 2010 season where their defense was historically awful, especially against the pass, the Texans set out to give that side of the ball a complete facelift in the draft and free agency.
The signature of the 2011 draft was a haul that was virtually all defensive players, including a future Defensive Player of the Year in J.J. Watt. The signature of the 2011 free agency season was the signing of cornerback Johnathan Joseph and safety Danieal Manning to revamp the secondary.
By and large, the moves worked, especially early on when the Texans, for all of 2011 and most of 2012, were one of the top defenses in the league. However, in 2013, well, we all know....just, 2013.
And now three seasons later, the next facelift of the franchise continues as Manning was released on Monday by the Texans.
At the core of the divorce between the safety and the team was, not surprisingly, money. Manning was set to make over $4 million on the final year of his four year deal he inked back in 2011, and was set to count around $6 million against the salary cap. Considering that Manning had missed the final 10 games of 2013 with a broken leg, the team didn't see this as good value and approached him about a pay cut.
The two sides could not arrive at a number that suited both sides.
Manning joined my radio show on SportsRadio 610 on Monday to discuss the last few days and the last few seasons and said as much: "I wanted to stay here as well. They wanted me to stay here but we couldn't come to a common agreement so we just agreed to disagree."
Certainly, Manning's leverage took a hit with the Texans' signing of free agent safety Chris Clemons late last week to a two year, $2.7 million contract, which was rumored to be about what the Texans were offering Manning in a pay cut.
And while the numbers were not to Manning's liking, there was also the growing sense that a culture change was underway in the building that entailed a drastic change in the core leadership of the team, a core which Manning had been vital to for three seasons. "I didn't see at that particular point where I would fit in," said Manning.
With the release of Manning, the 2014 offseason continues to look more like a teardown than it does a tweak. Unlike previous offseasons, when the majority of the players leaving were second and third tier free agents, the last two months have seen central characters to the Kubiak Era either asked to leave (Owen Daniels, Manning), traded (Matt Schaub, miraculously), or being essentially ignored or slow played as free agents (Antonio Smith, Earl Mitchell, Ben Tate, Wade Smith).
Clearly, there has been a thorough reevaluation done on the team that Bob McNair classified as "not a long-term rebuild" back in December 2013.
Continue to find out where Manning could end up playing next.
As for Manning, the process of finding a new home begins. Speculation has tied him to Tampa Bay because of new head coach Lovie Smith's presence there. Smith was Manning's first head coach in the league in Chicago. Manning is actually taking a visit to Cincinnati today and tomorrow.
His health is not optimal, but should be by the time it matters. "I'm still doing rehab.... If the season was to start I wouldn't be able to perform the first week. I may be six, eight weeks out," said Manning.
And Manning leaves with no ill will. On his way out the door, he exuded class, saying the following: "The organization will do the best, and I think they have done the best for the City of Houston and they continue to do the best for the team....You have to trust the organization."
Texodus 2014 continues....
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