Texans free agency preview: Can Mallett take Houston to next level?
A season after dramatic change at the top, the Houston Texans are on the ascent.
Despite getting mediocre play from the quarterback position, Houston was very competitive -- losing four of their seven defeats by a touchdown or less. Bill O'Brien will be tasked with finding a way to improve the passing game and replacing other key defensive pieces departing in free agency.
Ryan Mallett, who came into the league with O'Brien as his coordinator in New England, only has two career starts, but a market for the strong-armed passer could certainly develop.
Defensively, the hope is that last year's No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney can stay healthy and prove to be a fierce pass rushing threat opposite J.J. Watt.
How they finished:
2014: 9-7 -- No postseason
2013: 2-14 -- No postseason
Projected salary cap space as of Feb. 1 (per Spotrac.com): 22rd most with $7.5M
Potential free agency targets: It's no secret that priority No. 1 is locking up Mallett. The question is how much of a long-term commitment will they give him and if they look at any other quarterbacks on the market this offseason (Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Mike Vick may not be better options than Mallett). Beyond that, the Texans should look to retain cornerback Kareem Jackson or sign a lengthy, quick cornerback like Byron Maxwell (Seattle).
Potential cap casualties: Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a two-year deal a season ago. If the Texans sign Mallett in free agency, the 32-year-old quarterback could become expendable as he'd be looked upon as a high-price backup.
Offseason needs: CB, DT and WR
Notable free agents:
QB Ryan Mallett
CB Kareem Jackson
OLB Brooks Reed
ILB Akeem Dent
S Danieal Manning
S Kendrick Lewis
OT Derek Newton
NT Ryan Pickett
DE Tim Jamison
WR Damaris Johnson (restricted)
QB Case Keenum (restricted)