NFL News & Analysis

2017 free agency preview: Houston Texans

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 11: A.J. Bouye #21 of the Houston Texans celebrates after the Texans stopped the Indianapolis Colts on fourth down in the final two minutes of the game at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

[Editor’s note: This preview was originally published on Feb. 26, 2017, and updated on March 6 to reflect changes in the market do to franchise tags, re-signings, cuts, etc.]

What you need to know

After swinging for the fences with last offseason’s signing of quarterback Brock Osweiler, the Texans find themselves in a familiar situation, once again searching for a long-term answer under center. The need at quarterback grabs the headlines, but a combination of injuries and likely departures at key positions leave several other vacancies the Texans must attempt to fill during free agency.

Salary cap room

$23,517,929 (22nd in NFL; as of 3/6/17)

Biggest needs

  • Quarterback
  • Right tackle
  • Guard
  • Interior defender

Notable free agents

  • A.J. Bouye, CB, 90.9 overall grade in 2016
  • Quintin Demps, S, 85.2
  • John Simon, Edge, 78.3
  • Ryan Griffin, TE, 47.9
  • Vince Wilfork, NT, 45.1

Must re-sign

A.J. Bouye, CB, 90.9 overall grade in 2016

One of the biggest breakout players of the 2016 season, Bouye finished the year ranked among the top 10 cornerbacks in catch percentage allowed (50.5 percent), pass breakups (13) and passer rating into his coverage (58.5). With an ever-increasing premium placed on quality cornerbacks, re-signing one of the league’s rising young stars at the position should be a priority for the Texans.

Dream splash

Kevin Zeitler, G, Cincinnati Bengals, 87.1

In Xavier Su’a-Filo (57.0) and Jeff Allen (48.5), the Texans offensive line featured two of the league’s worst guards last season. While signing a free agent guard likely won’t excite much of the fanbase, landing Kevin Zeitler (87.1) would provide a much-needed upgrade at the position as the former Bengal was PFF’s seventh highest-graded guard in 2016. Zeitler is equally adept in both run-blocking and pass protection, and at just 26 years old would provide stability to Houston’s interior offensive line for the foreseeable future.

Top 2017 free agency prospects

Ricky Wagner, RT, Baltimore Ravens, 84.5

Between Derek Newton’s injury and replacement Chris Clark’s league-leading 73 total pressures allowed last season, signing a quality right tackle will be a priority for the Texans. Possibly the top player on the market at that position this year is Baltimore’s Wagner, PFF’s 18th-highest-graded tackle in 2016. Wagner has flashed top-level ability but has also seen wild swings in his grading over the last three years, with a dreadful 2015 campaign sandwiched between two above average seasons. Signing Wagner would solidify the right tackle spot for Houston, and the questions surrounding his inconsistency may just help them land him at a reasonable price tag.

Ronald Leary, LG, Dallas Cowboys, 80.4

Leary filled in admirably for the injured La’el Collins last season, earning the 24th-highest grade among guards and not surrendering a single sack all year. Beyond his abilities in pass protection, Leary has proven to be one of the better run-blocking guards in the league, ranking eighth and 12th in run-blocking grade over his last two full seasons as a starter. If the Texans are unable to land a big name like Zeitler at guard, Leary would be a nice consolation prize.

Johnathan Hankins, DI, New York Giants, 47.1

Vince Wilfork’s likely retirement leaves the Texans in need of help along their interior defensive line. Signing Hankins could be a nice veteran pickup and would provide some quality depth while second-year player D.J. Reader continues to develop. Hankins did see quite a dropoff in his performance last season, but the majority of that can likely be attributed to his playing out of position due to the Giants’ signing of Damon Harrison. Hankins has never been an impact pass-rusher, but when playing at his more familiar position of nose tackle has consistently ranked among the league’s best run stuffers.

2017 Free Agency Rankings
Top 50 free agents
Every 2017 free agent ranked by 2016 overall grade
10 free agents who can make an immediate impact
10 veteran free agents worth a one-year contract
10 sleeper free agents who could bring surprise upside
10 splash free-agent signings we’d like to see
Quarterback rankings
Running back rankings
Wide receiver rankings
Tight end rankings
Offensive linemen rankings
Edge defender rankings
Interior defender rankings
Cornerback rankings
Safety rankings
Linebacker rankings

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