Houston Texans 2022 Offseason Preview

Houston Texans 2022 Offseason Preview

by February 22, 2022 0 comments

After plenty of offseason turmoil, the 2021 Houston Texans came out and won the same number of games as the season prior: four. Yet, they accomplished this without the aid of star quarterback Deshaun Watson, whose trade demands and sexual assault allegations kept him sidelined. Houston, which recently hired Lovie Smith, its fourth head coach in three years, has plenty of important decisions to make this offseason.

Make sure to check out all of our other NFL Offseason Previews.

Pending Free Agents

After a poor 2021 season, the Texans head into the spring months with a large group of departing free agents. The full list features players on both sides of the ball, including occasional offensive starters Tyrod Taylor and David Johnson, but the bulk of the impending free agents are defensive contributors. Houston would love to bring some of its guys back, but they’ll be competing against other teams with money and a more direct route to winning.   

Desmond King

The 27-year-old King is a talented defensive back who registered 12 starts and appeared in 16 total games this past season. In his first year with Houston, he registered three interceptions, six passes defended, one forced fumble, and 93 total tackles. King, who has experience at cornerback and safety, looked very impressive on a one-year contract and should generate interest from numerous teams this offseason. However, he has familiarity and a guaranteed role in the Texans’ system, meaning there could be some motivation for the two sides to strike a new deal. 

Justin Reid

Reid, 25, has spent all four of his pro seasons with the Texans. In 2021, the former third-round pick started 13 games at the free safety position. When all was said and done, he finished the year with two picks, four passes defended, one fumble forced, and 66 total tackles. He filled a key role in the Texans’ defensive secondary alongside Eric Murray. Although he was a worthwhile member of the Houston defense, all signs indicate a divorce between Reid and the Texans this offseason. He’ll likely wind up with a new team. 

Kamu Grugier-Hill

After starting just one game for the Dolphins in 2020, Grugier-Hill bounced back with 14 starts as a member of the Texans. In total, he racked up one interception, three passes defended, two fumbles forced, three sacks, and 108 tackles. He played a key role in all facets of the defensive game plan from his weakside linebacker position. Grugier-Hill will have several suitors once he hits free agency, but at just 27, he represents a priority target for Houston. Expect the two sides to have mutual interest in hammering out a new deal. 

Potential Cap Casualties

Although the Texans aren’t pressed for cap space, they have several players on both sides of the football who are expendable and could be cut in order to provide the team with further financial relief. This list doesn’t even include Watson. Although his contract certainly doesn’t make him a cap casualty, the talented quarterback is still a near-lock to be traded for a big haul in the coming months. 

Marcus Cannon ($5.2 Million Saved)

The writing is on the wall for a divorce between Cannon and the Texans. Although he has a strong relationship with the Texans’ brass and is a reliable veteran, there are several reasons for Houston to cut ties with him. For starters, he’s 34 years old. Although offensive linemen can play into their mid-to-late thirties, he doesn’t bring youth to the ongoing rebuild effort. Similarly, cutting Cannon would create more than $5.2 million in cap space while also paving the way for a younger, more controllable option to see more reps at tackle. It’s hard to envision a scenario in which Cannon sticks with the Texans for 2022. 

Kevin Pierre-Louis ($3.5 Million Saved)

As was the case with Cannon, sometimes you just know when a player is going to be released. Pierre-Louis represents such a scenario. The now-30-year-old appeared in nine games last season but made just one start. In total, he finished the year with a mere 10 tackles. He played just 2.4 percent of defensive snaps and was primarily relegated to a special teams role. By cutting Pierre-Louis, the Texans can open up a developmental special teams role for a younger player, all while creating $3.5 million in cap space. He’s as good as gone. 

Jimmy Moreland ($2.5 Million Saved)

The decision to cut Moreland should be an easy one for the Texans. The 27-year-old cornerback appeared in just seven games last season and was on the field for 0.7 percent of Houston’s defensive snaps. He made just two tackles and didn’t pick off or defend a pass. Not only did Moreland miss 10 games, but he was a healthy scratch for seven of them. The 2019 seventh-round pick will be in the market for a new job soon. 

Open Market Free Agent Targets

The Texans have a slew of needs all over the football field. Heading into the upcoming free agency period, they need to focus on finding a variety of players: young or experienced, cheap or slightly overpaid. Houston isn’t going to be a very preferred landing spot for free agents, but they do have the potential to be a respectable team next season. Orchestrating a successful free agency will accomplish one step in that direction.  

Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers

A combination of injuries and age have dampened Mostert’s value heading into free agency, meaning he’s an attractive fit for the Texans. With Johnson headed for the open market, Houston’s lead back is slated to be Rex Burkhead. He had a fine 2021 season, but he’s not the answer. Mostert might not be the answer, either, but at least he possesses more life and speed. This feels like a good fit, bridging the gap in the Texans’ confusing rebuild.

J.C. Jackson, New England Patriots

Admittedly, this fit feels a bit unnatural considering Jackson is a premier free agent and the Texans are still reeling from back-to-back four-win seasons. With that said, the versatile corner has familiarity with the Houston front office, headlined by ex-Patriots executive Nick Caserio. Furthermore, the Texans could vault themselves into contention if they fetch a large haul by trading Watson and also succeed throughout the draft in which they hold the No. 3 overall pick. Plus, Houston has a clear need for help in the secondary after an abysmal 2021. 

Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals

Kirk is going to have an interesting market this offseason, and his scope of suitors isn’t limited to top-tier contenders. The Texans could certainly lure him in with a big paycheck and the promise of the No. 2 wide receiver role in Houston. This is a team that needs all the help it can get on offense. It looks like Davis Mills is in line to start at quarterback in 2022, and adding Kirk to a unit that already features Brandin Cooks could give the Stanford product some reliable weapons heading into his second pro season. 

Previewing the 2022 NFL Draft

Finally armed with its own first-round pick now that the Bill O’Brien era has come and gone, Houston finds itself in a position to land some of the top prospects coming out of college. In fact, not only do the Texans pick at No. 3, but they could also land some other high-end selections once Watson is dealt. Let’s not count our eggs before they hatch, though. For the time being, here’s a three-round mock using the picks that the Texans currently possess.

Round 1, Pick 3: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

Quite frankly, the Texans have needs all over the field. Regardless of which positions they address in free agency, they should be focused on the best player available at No. 3. Hutchinson was still on the board in this simulation, so he’s their guy. The versatile edge rusher is quick, powerful, athletic, and dominant in both run and pass scenarios. Considered by some to be the top prospect in the draft, Hutchinson should immediately make his presence felt as the best player in the Texans’ defensive unit.

Round 2, Pick 35: Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State

Brisker is a talented free safety with fantastic length and athleticism. He’s also very well-rounded and will need very little time to develop or acclimate before becoming an impact starter in the NFL. The JUCO transfer allowed just one touchdown and two first downs in all of 2021 while playing for Penn State. This would be a huge addition for the defense-needy Texans early in the second round.

Round 3, Pick 67: Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M

Spiller is one of the top running back prospects in the upcoming draft. He is a powerful north-south runner who projects as an every-down weapon. Plowing through defenders and breaking tackles make up the guts of Spiller’s prospect profile, but he does have some shiftiness and pass-catching ability. There’s also a hometown factor here: Spiller grew up and went to high school outside of Houston before, of course, playing college football at Texas A&M.

Round 3, Pick 82: Dohnovan West, Arizona State

The Texans need to roll out three interior offensive linemen next season. Heading into free agency, they only have two players on their roster who started at an interior position in 2021. West might not be an immediate starter, but he’ll give Houston a versatile and strong option down the road. Checking in at 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, West aligned at center and both guard positions for the Sun Devils. He is a strong and talented athlete who projects nicely as an eventual impact player in the trenches. Heading into the draft, technique is West’s biggest flaw.

Early 2022 Expectations

Winning eight games feels like a reasonable goal for the Texans, as long as they show that they are committed to getting better with key signings, trades, and draft picks this offseason. It feels like the perfect time for them to ramp up and emerge from their rebuild considering they are armed with the No. 3 pick, significant cap space, and potential haul when they trade Watson. Plus, Mills’ development came along very nicely towards the end of 2022. Change won’t happen overnight, but things are certainly looking up for the Texans.

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Andersen is a teenage sportswriter and reporter whose articles have appeared across the Prime Time Sports Talk, Sports Illustrated Kids, FantasyPros, and SB Nation platforms. He has also received credit from RotoWorld, CBS Sports, ESPN, Bleacher Report, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, The Athletic, SB Nation, NBC Sports, NY Post, and dozens of other sports sites for his reporting work.

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