The Texans made sure to keep Jeff Tarpinian in the fold with an eye toward special teams. Tarpinian recorded a team-high 12 special-teams tackles in 2014 while also forcing a fumble on punt coverage against Dallas in Week 5. The veteran linebacker has also contributed when called upon on defense. He’s seen action in 22 games for Houston since joining the team in October of 2013. Not a flashy signing, but Tarpinian provides the kind of depth all teams need.
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Kareem Jackson - Grade: B+
The Texans wanted to keep Jackson from hitting the open market and locked him up with a four-year, $34 million contract. Jackson, 27, has been a starter in Houston since being selected 20th overall in 2010 out of Alabama. He struggled during his early career but has morphed into a dependable corner. Over his career, he has 10 interceptions, 50 pass breakups and 279 tackles. He would have been one of the top corners in free agency and a highly sought-after player, so the Texans did well to retain him. With this deal, Jackson is being paid like a top corner. Now, it’s up to him to validate Houston’s faith.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY SportsKevin Jairaj
Derek Newton — Grade: B+
Newton was another player the Texans wanted to keep from testing free agency, and they did so by signing him to a five-year deal worth more than $26 million. Not too shabby for a guy picked in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Newton overcame long odds to become Houston’s starting right tackle. The 27-year-old has started 46 games over the past three seasons for the Texans. His received the highest run-blocking grade among right tackles last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsKyle Terada
Rahim Moore — Grade: B+
The Texans wanted to upgrade the free safety position, and they did so by bringing in Rahim Moore from Denver on a three-year, $12 million deal. Moore was rated the second-best safety available behind Devin McCourty by Pro Football Focus. With McCourty re-signing in the New England before the start of free agency, Houston grabbed the best player on the market. A second-round pick in 2011, Moore intercepted a career-high four passes in 2014. He and D.J. Swearinger should combine to form an intimidating duo in the secondary.
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY SportsChris Humphreys
Ryan Mallett — Grade: B+
The Texans wanted Mallett back and Mallett wanted to come back, so the two sides agreed on a two-year deal worth a reported $7 million. Mallett, who was acquired in a preseason trade from the Patriots last year, will compete with Brian Hoyer for the starting job at quarterback. The former third-round pick replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick after the bye week last season and led Houston to 23-7 win on the road Cleveland. Mallett was lost for the season soon afterward with a torn pectoral muscle, but the Texans saw enough that they think he may be their quarterback of the future. He’ll have to earn it by beating out Hoyer, but he’ll be given every chance to do so.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY SportsKen Blaze
Brian Hoyer — Grade: B
After bringing back Ryan Mallett, GM Rick Smith made sure to bring in some competition for him. Enter Brian Hoyer. The former Cleveland Browns quarterback signed a a two-year deal worth $10.5 million. Hoyer and Mallett were teammates in New England during Bill O’Brien’s tenure as an assistant. Now, they’ll compete to be O’Brien’s starter in Houston. In a weak quarterback market, Hoyer was about as good an option as there was, so Houston did well to bring in some legitimate competition for Mallett.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY SportsJeremy Brevard
Cecil Shorts III — Grade: B-
The Texans have a void at receiver with the release of Andre Johnson, and while Shorts isn’t Andre Johnson by any stretch, he can help Houston’s offense. A fourth-round pick in 2011, Shorts caught 176 passes for 2,343 yards and 12 touchdowns in four seasons with the Jaguars. Shorts has been dogged by durability issues; he finished the 2012 and 2013 seasons on injured reserve and has missed a total of 14 games over the course of his career. In Houston, he’ll be the second or third option behind DeAndre Hopkins. At two years, $6 million, the Texans are taking a low-risk gamble Shorts will be able to stay healthy and thrive in their offense.
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY SportsMelina Vastola
Vince Wilfork — Grade: A
Yet another ex-Patriot makes his way to Houston. New England cut longtime NT Vince Wilfork just before the start of free agency, and with so many former teammates and coaches in Houston, it’s easy to see why he choose the Texans. Wilfork’s credentials are unquestionably impressive — he’s a five-time Pro Bowler and winner of two Super Bowls during his 11 seasons in New England. His presence in the middle of the defensive line will help take some of the pressure off J.J. Watt and he’ll also be able to serve as a veteran mentor for 2104 third-round pick Louis Nix. A great move for the Texans and one that should make Andrew Luck and the other quarterbacks in the division nervous.