As the realisations of last season set in, the soundings from the team started to shift away from their flouted delusions to the refreshing but harsh reality. Nick Caserio’s task is finally re-setting this roster, as Texans circumstances are veering towards normal & it may have just levelled out enough where material progress is an option. After forming an iteration of last years coaching staff, the hurdles of free agency, the draft & the protracted Watson trade are coming quickly around the corner.
New Head Coach
The hiring process that was ultimately abandoned in favour of promoting defensive co-ordinator Lovie Smith, was similarly perplexing to both the sacking and hiring of David Culley. Quite what adverted the near hire of Josh McCowan or Jonathan Gannon is yet to become gospel. However, it’s undoubted that the right choice was made, considering the franchises continued state of flux that last season only perpetuated but never stemmed. The question of why Lovie wasn’t hired last year, will linger but his undoubted professionalism and much needed leadership, at the very least, gives a sense of momentum for the 2022 season.
Last season’s free agency period, was marked by in-house restructures, high volume but low value deals on a vast array of veteran players. Did any of these pay-off? Not in a way that would assist in narrowing down the teams need areas a year on. Even if Grugier-Hill, King III or Collins were to re-sign, none are medium term answers at their positions.
Yet more turnover will be in part due the mismanaged & self-created $36m in dead cap by Caserio. A raft of cuts are required across the disparity contracts of Murray, Cannon, Pierre-Louis et al. to freely operate. On the cusp of free agency, the Texans have 49 contracts, so it’s likely they sign in the region of 25 free-agents. Constant change for a consecutive year, but if this class is younger & contains higher potential, across mid & lower factions of the market, that will be progress.
Last year’s covid-disrupted draft, meant Caserio’s first run was limited to a 5-man class. For the most part, all could have varying future roles. From the number of starting snaps by 6th-rounder Roy Lopez had at defensive tackle, to the progression of third-round quarterback Davis Mills. But just is the case for a General Manager, draft classes can’t be judged after a single season but the draft process offers the primary route of laying necessary foundation in bettering the Texans roster. A city & team so bereft of stars is badly in need of one, Caserio has little room for error, with his earlier round picks.
This collegiate class, even within the landscape of huge error probability, isn’t boding as memorable one, particularly in terms of day-1, blue-chip level talent. Coupled with an absence of quarterbacks enamouring team evaluators, both will likely impact Houston’s ability to trade down the board. There are a multitude of ways in which Caserio may lean come April 28th but whether it’s Kayvion Thibodeaux, Travon Walker, Kyle Hamilton or Ikem Ekwonu, Caserio’s got no other option than a home run.
The darkening cloud that Caserio unknowingly inherited may finally pose an emerging escape route. Following the widely felt reverberation of the Russell Wilson trade for two firsts, two second round picks and players, gauges the market. Anything less than three first round picks will bring an inevitable sense of being a shortchanged. Whether, Caserio is afforded the “runway” via a resolution to Watsons legal troubles, will be the dominant determinant. But Watson now represents the last standing, proven, franchise-passer available for another year & that’s the factor the Texans have to leverage, until the last possible moment.
Ideally the trade is made before the draft but similarly, if picks are gathered for the ’23 draft & beyond then that might be a prudent step. Particularly, considering the landscape of potential quarterbacks declaring compared to this ’22 class. As everyone knows, without thee guy under-centre, the rest pales into insignificance. And Caserio may have additional cards to play, depending on what he decides to do with the contractual cross-roads of Laremy Tunsil & Brandin Cooks, as both will require extension or could garner more value to re-invent this team.
Regardless for the first time in three years, a sense of progress appears tangible, as this off-season is positioned to add those necessary complimentary pieces. That is the essential first step to redemption in the eyes of fans, subsequently the objective then becomez re-entering the realms of relevancy after such an extended absence.