With the NFL Combine underway and free agency looming in a couple of weeks, the NFL's 2018 calendar is indeed in full swing, and here in Houston, that means the Brian Gaine Era has begun. I can't begin to express how strange it feels to begin an offseason that does not involve Rick Smith pushing the buttons for the Houston Texans, like a character getting all of a sudden being written off one of your favorite television shows.
Hopefully, we will find out, in the next several months, that Smith was an imminently replaceable character, as Gaine enters his first free agency season and draft as an NFL GM. If his combine interview is any sort of gauge, Gaine was very adept on Wednesday at deflecting, ducking, and giving as generic an answer as possible. Perhaps the best example was his answer about a question involving free agent CB Johnathan Joseph's possible return to the Texans in 2018:
"We’re evaluating all of our free agents. Naturally, your reaction is you’d love to have them all back, we just know that’s not fiscally possible to bring everybody back. But that’s certainly an option for us that we’re considering.”
Ok, there's a reason I put that sentence in bold, and it's because, if Brian Gaine is being honest (and I don't think he is), then this means he actually LIKES the players listed as the Texans' own free agents, and if you watched most of the guys on this list play last season, it is impossible to want to sign practically any of them, let alone ALL of them.
I'll give you a pass on that one, Gaine, and chalk it up to combine-mumbo-jumbo. That said, what are the chances of the Texans retaining their unrestricted free agents? Let's take a quick look at the list:
Johnathan Joseph, CB
2017 PFF: 75.7
Comment: Was solid enough last season, even great at times (AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 6), but by the end of the season, he was having trouble keeping up. Even at age 33, Joseph probably still has value in several places around the league.
Prediction: Texans bring him back on a reasonable two year deal.
Chris Clark, LT
2017 PFF: 37.7
Comment: Swing tackle who's had to start way too many games the last couple of seasons.
Prediction: He's gone.
Marcus Gilchrist, SS
2017 PFF: 77.2
Comment: Street free agent pickup last offseason, whose peak was "I guess he is ok."
Prediction: Brought back on a reasonable deal as a body at the safety position.
Breno Giacomini, RT
2017 PFF: 32.7
Comment: Street free agent picked up in the preseason, who played every offensive snap of the Houston Texans' 2017 regular season — and if you're looking to sum up 2017 in one sentence, that's it. Somehow, he was a captain, too.
Prediction: No chance he is back. If he's back, Gaine begins with a skepticism score of about 95 on a scale of 1 to 100.
Marcus Williams, CB
2017 PFF: 63.6
Comment: In-season pickup who was a backup most of the season. His INT in Seattle would have been one of the biggest plays of the season, if the Texans had gone on to win that game.
Prediction: Back as a camp body
Shane Lechler, P
2017 PFF: N/A
Comment: Future Hall of Famer who can still do magical things with his foot and a football, even at age 41.
Prediction: If he wants to keep playing, he will be a Texan in 2018.
Xavier Su'a-Filo, G
2017 PFF: 35.8
Comment: Quite possibly the most disastrous draft pick of the O'Brien Era, considering needs at the time (QB!), players on the board (Jimmy G, Derek Carr), and the fact that a guard drafted at 33rd overall by a 2-14 team needs to become a Pro Bowler to be worth the selection. Su'a-Filo was, most certainly, not a Pro Bowler Not even close.
Prediction: The Su'a-Filo Era in Houston is over.
Eddie Pleasant, FS
2017 PFF: 77.3
Comment: Contributor on special teams (with a horrible habit of getting one penalty seemingly each game) with a few decent moments at safety in the 2017 season.
Prediction: If he's back with the Texans, it's at around the minimum.
Andre Ellington, RB
2017 PFF: 56.6
Comment: Picked up late in the season when injuries began decimating the offensive backfield.
Prediction: Probably not back with the Texans.
Josh Johnson, QB
2017 PFF: N/A
Comment: Brought in twice after the Deshaun Watson and Tom Savage injuries.
Jordan Todman, RB
2017 PFF: N/A
Comment:Maybe the most unlikely player to hang on the 53 man roster all season, played exclusively on special teams.
T.J. Yates, QB
2017 PFF: 47.3
Comment: Texans legend, but not that good at football anymore. Still, we all love T.J. Yates!
Prediction: The Texans will call him in 2019, pull him off the couch, and have him start four or five games. For now, though, he's gone.
Jelani Jenkins, OLB
2017 PFF: 43.7
Comment: Forgot he was even on the team.
Prediction: Yeah, bye.
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Tom Savage, QB
2017 PFF: 71.1
Comment: The Texans invested four seasons in Savage, insomuch as they paid him for four seasons. No player in NFL history has ever gotten more love for merely showing up to film study and "knowing the system" for three seasons than Savage heading into the 2017 season. He lost his job in 30 minutes of football.
Prediction: Savage finds a spot more conducive to his strengths and weaknesses, and Savage;s agent complains that he is a backup.
Bruce Ellington, WR
2017 PFF: 46.7
Comment: Nice pickup in the preseason, who found a home at slot receiver (29 catches) before suffering a season-ending injury in early December.
Prediction: Re-signs with the Texans for a very reasonable one-year deal.
Alfred Blue, RB
2017 PFF: 73.4
Comment: The best running back in the league if you need exactly 3.6 yards on a carry — no more, no less. (Not a compliment.) Also, I'm told he is very good on special teams. Whatever.
Prediction: If the Texans' answer at running back after Lamar Miller and D'Onta Foreman is Blue, I give up. I think if they wanted to keep Blue, he'd be signed already, a la draft classmates C.J. Fiedorowicz, Jay Prosch, and Andre Hal.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.