Texans Must Take Long-Term Approach to Free Agency

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Williams and Foster aren't the only guys coming up for free agency in the next couple years.
A great irony of sports in 2012, particularly sports that are fiscally governed by some sort of salary cap, is that we as sports fans have all become so emotionally invested in the performance of our teams that we've become more astute in "advising" management of our teams on how to spend and allocate their money than we are in managing our own money. (And if it sounds like I'm projecting my financial stupidity on all of you, then yes, that's what I'm doing. Thanks for indulging me.)

Yet still the need for immediate gratification and our propensity to view the future in a very short-term chunk both pervade at times. The debate on how the Texans should spend their money this offseason on players embodies this point of view.

When evaluating the Texans' current personnel and, more importantly, the free agent landscape (both their own and league-wide), Texans fans will acknowledge the need to find a second deep threat, keep their offensive line intact (i.e., re-signing center Chris Myers and guard Mike Brisiel), and perhaps load up on a couple more defensive backs. (OLD ADAGE ALERT: "You can never have too many defensive backs.")

But ultimately, the barroom discussion on how the Texans spend big money this offseason boils down to this: Do they take care of running back Arian Foster and sign him to a long-term deal or do they re-sign defensive end Mario Williams? And certainly within the context of the 2012 offseason, that is a relevant question in that it would appear that they can't do both.

(As to which one makes the most sense to re-sign, you can check out Jeff Balke's "Tale of the Tape" on the debate, which does a nice job of laying out the various categories in this two-man beauty contest. Or you can ask Texans fans, who, according to a Houston Chronicle poll, think that Foster needs to be the guy to the tune of a 96 percent approval rating.)

To me, the element that is being underplayed in this debate is the future of various Texan free agents that, unless they are extended in the next year or so, will hit the unrestricted free agency market in 2013 or 2014. It's most of the core group of this team:

2013 TEXAN UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

"Priority" Players

CONNOR BARWIN, Linebacker -- 7/31/2009: Signed a four-year, $4.010 million contract. The deal contains $2.12 million guaranteed. 2012: $565,000, 2013: Free Agent

DUANE BROWN, Tackle -- 7/25/2008: Signed a five-year, $9.1 million contract. The deal includes $6.2 million guaranteed. Another $2.4 million is available through incentives. 2011: $800,000, 2012: $781,500, 2013: Free Agent

MATT SCHAUB, Quarterback -- 3/21/2007: Signed a six-year, $48 million contract. The deal included a $7 million signing bonus and a $10 million option in the fourth season. 2011: $5.7 million, 2012: $7.15 million, 2013: Free Agent

Solid Starters
SHAUN CODY, Defensive Lineman -- 3/3/2011: Signed a two-year, $5.75 million contract. The deal contains $1.5 million guaranteed. 2011: $3.5 million, 2012: Under Contract, 2013: Free Agent

GLOVER QUIN, Defensive Back -- 7/16/2009: Signed a four-year, $2.240 million contract. The deal included a $490,000 signing bonus. 2011: $480,000, 2012: $565,000, 2013: Free Agent

Key Reserves

RASHAD BUTLER, Tackle -- 7/29/2011: Signed a two-year, $3.8 million contract. The deal included a $1.25 million signing bonus. 2012: $1.3 million, 2013: Free Agent

ANTOINE CALDWELL, Guard -- 7/23/2009: Signed a four-year, $2.554 million contract. The deal included an $804,250 signing bonus. 2011: $480,000, 2012: $565,000, 2013: Free Agent

JAMES CASEY, Fullback/Tight End -- 7/23/2009: Signed a four-year, $1.935 million contract. The deal included a $185,000 signing bonus. 2011: $480,000, 2012: $565,000, 2013: Free Agent

TIM JAMISON, Defensive Lineman -- 11/2/2010: Signed a three-year, $1.440 million contract. 2011: $480,000, 2012: $565,000, 2013: Free Agent

BRICE McCAIN, Defensive Back -- 6/8/2009: Signed a four-year, $1.852 million contract. The deal included a $101,750 signing bonus. 2011: $480,000, 2012: $565,000, 2013: Free Agent

TROY NOLAN, Defensive Back -- 6/11/2009: Signed a four-year, $1.808 million contract. The deal included a $58,260 signing bonus. 2011: $480,000, 2012: $565,000, 2013: Free Agent

2014 TEXAN UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

"Priority" Players

BRIAN CUSHING, Linebacker -- 8/1/2009: Signed a five-year, $14 million contract. The deal contains $10.435 million guaranteed, including a second-year "reporting" bonus of $2.9 million. Another $4 million is available through a final-year escalator. 2011: $774,000, 2012: $1.153 million, 2013: $1.593 million, 2014: Free Agent

ANTONIO SMITH, Defensive Lineman -- 2/28/2009: Signed a five-year, $35.5 million contract. The deal included a $12.5 million signing bonus. 2011: $4.6 million, 2012: $5.5 million, 2013: $6 million, 2014: Free Agent

WADE SMITH, Guard -- 3/10/2010: Signed a four-year, $12 million contract. The deal includes $6.25 million guaranteed. 2011: $1.75 million, 2012: $2 million, 2013: $3 million, 2014: Free Agent

ERIC WINSTON, Tackle -- 9/6/2008: Signed a five-year, $30 million contract. The deal includes $10 million guaranteed. 2011: $4.5 million, 2012-2013: $5.5 million, 2014: Free Agent

Key Reserves

EARL MITCHELL, Defensive Lineman -- 6/9/2010: Signed a four-year, $3,423,500 contract. The deal contains $1.6335 million guaranteed. 2011: $405,000, 2012: $490,000, 2013: $575,000, 2014: Free Agent

DARRYL SHARPTON, Linebacker -- 6/11/2010: Signed a four-year, $2.325 million contract. The deal included a $534,940 signing bonus. 2011: $405,000, 2012: $490,000, 2013: $575,000, 2014: Free Agent

BEN TATE, Running Back -- 7/29/2010: Signed a four-year, $3.337 million contract. The deal contains $1.58 million guaranteed. 2011: $405,000, 2012: $490,000, 2013: $575,000, 2014: Free Agent


Of course, a lot can change in 12 months, both good and bad. Who would have thought this time a year ago that Connor Barwin would be viewed as a "must keep" impact player for the future and one of the top pass rushers in football? Who would have thought that Duane Brown would be considered one of the top three left tackles in football?

Because of their age and/or position, the most problematic salary cases on this list are probably Barwin, Brown, Schaub and Cushing. Barring early extensions, three of those four could be going through this process a year from now, but regardless, these are all guys who presumably the team is as motivated (if not more so) to take care of as they are Foster and Williams.

My point is this -- the salary cap puzzle is not a 2012 conundrum. It's a multi-year conundrum. And if the Texans choose to let either Foster or Williams fly and be free, it's not merely as linear as the team doing so at the expense of the other guy. They did so because lots of guys need to get theirs the next year or two.

The bigger question is this -- if the team does find a way to keep Foster and Williams, then who becomes expendable in 2013?

You can't keep everyone happy.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.


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medical alarm
medical alarm

Your thoughts on this subject is very interesting…I never would have come to that conclusion!!

florist90
florist90

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AdamR_MobileAL
AdamR_MobileAL

Nice exposition of the situation, thanks.

Duane Brown is the ticking time bomb.  If he gets recognized as an elite left tackle around the league next year, it will be next to impossible for the Texans to keep him.

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