The Houston Texans went all in last offseason, signing Brock Osweiler, Lamar Miller and drafting Will Fuller. They did everything possible to surround Osweiler with talent, but that plan fell flat on its face, just as Brock metaphorically did.
Now, the No. 1 need is obvious: quarterback. Unfortunately, there aren’t any to be had in free agency who are clear upgrades over Osweiler, so that’ll likely happen if Tony Romo or Jimmy Garoppolo become available. As far as realistic free agents go, the Texans have several players they can target to fill their other needs.
Here are five names to watch for this offseason.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY SportsMatthew Emmons
WR Adam Thielen (Vikings)
This is more of a luxury than a necessity, but still a good target nonetheless. Thielen is a good slot receiver who broke out last season with a huge campaign. The Texans already have DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, but they’re more of boundary receivers. Thielen would open up opportunities for them by drawing coverage in the middle of the field and forcing safeties to account for his route versatility in the slot. The only issue is that he’s a restricted free agent, and Minnesota might not let him get away.
NT Brandon Williams (Ravens)
Vince Wilfork is unlikely to return as he’s not just a free agent, but is leaning towards retirement. That leaves a hole on the interior of the defensive line, which could be filled by a player like Johnathan Hankins or Williams. The latter is a better option because of his experience playing nose tackle, and his success at the positon. At 28 years old, Williams is still relatively young and has plenty of good years ahead of him. He’d be a nice addition to the defensive line, which is already loaded with talent on the edges.
RT Ricky Wagner (Ravens)
This is probably a dream scenario for the Texans. Wagner is set to cash in as one of the highest-paid right tackles in the NFL, and if the Texans can muster enough money to make that happen, they should. It would give them bookend tackles, which would improve their offense greatly. They didn’t get good play from right tackle Derek Newton last season, so an upgrade should be in the cards. Wagner is as good as they come and is just 27 years old.
Kim KlementKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
LG Ronald Leary (Cowboys)
Houston had some of the worst guards in the league last year, and it’s absolutely necessary for the front office to improve both spots this offseason. Leary stepped in as a starter last season and played very well, especially in the run game. He would give Lamar Miller a reliable interior lineman to run behind, especially with Duane Brown anchoring the left side at tackle. He also holds up well in pass protection, which would of course help Brock Osweiler, or whoever starts at quarterback next season.
Tim HeitmanTim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
CB A.J. Bouye (Texans)
Outside of the likely franchise tagees – Eric Berry, Le’Veon Bell, Kirk Cousins – the Texans might have the most sought after free agent on the market. Bouye is going to get calls from just about every team with enough cap space to sign him, which makes it paramount that they at least retain him with the franchise tag. He was the best player on the league’s deepest cornerback unit, which is telling of just how well he played in 2016. And at the age of 25, he’s just entering his prime. The Texans have to bring him back for at least another season.
Isaiah J. DowningIsaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports