Assessing the Texans' free-agent losses

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
2:04
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Gary Kubiak conceded the early stages of free agency were rough on the Houston Texans.

They re-signed running back Arian Foster before he got to restricted free agency, and managed to keep center Chris Myers after he saw some interest from outside.

But gone through free-agent losses, cuts or trades are eight players of note.

Let’s take a look at each departure:

OLB Mario Williams (free agent, signed with Buffalo)

The team knew it was highly unlikely it would be able to keep him, and he got a giant contract from the Bills.

The glass-half-full side points out how well the Texans rushed the passer without Williams in the final 11 games and the playoffs last year and points out that he was always banged-up.

On the other side, Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed need to be part of a three-man gang at the position, and the odds of the pass rush just picking up where it left off aren’t high. Bryan Braman is an interesting player and could be a factor in his second year. Look for another outside backer in the draft.

RT Eric Winston (cut, signed with Kansas City)

A strong and technically sound right tackle who was a big piece of a line that may have been the team’s best unit and ranked among the league’s best last season.

This move was the biggest surprise of all that’s unfolded, and Winston was courted heavily before landing in Kansas City.

The team could go with backup swing tackle Rashad Butler, who missed much of last season with an arm injury. But he didn’t fare great when subbing for left tackle Duane Brown on the left side for four games a year earlier.

ILB DeMeco Ryans (traded to Philadelphia)

A beloved member of the team, Ryans hasn’t returned all the way to form after a serious Achilles injury. Plus, in the 3-4, he was barely a two-down player until Darryl Sharpton got hurt.

The Texans may not have gotten quite enough in the deal and they may have to smooth things out in the locker room, but a healthy Sharpton is a capable second inside guy to go with Brian Cushing.

RT Mike Brisiel (free agent, signed with Oakland)

The team played better with him in the lineup than when he was out and Antoine Caldwell filled in. Brisiel did tend to miss a couple games a year. The spot should be Caldwell’s to lose now and he should still be getting better.

TE Joel Dreessen (free agent, signed with Denver)

He seriously considered Houston’s offer before leaving to play with Peyton Manning. He was a valuable player for the Texans, the kind of smaller piece that glues together a team while being overlooked by many.

James Casey is the lone fullback now, but he’s technically more of an H-back and can do tight end things. Depending on how he’s deployed along with Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham, Houston could be OK.

FB Lawrence Vickers (cut, signed with Dallas)

He only played 31.06 percent of the Texans’ plays. Are they dead set on being a fullback team? Call Casey a fullback if you want, but you can run out of anything with Foster and shouldn’t feel desperate to restock.

CB Jason Allen (free agent, signed with Cincinnati)

An unsung player who the team counted as a co-starter with Kareem Jackson, a first-round draft pick who has not lived up to his draft status. They lost a security blanket with Allen, and need to ensure they have a fallback for Jackson on the team, whether it’s a veteran later, second-year man Brandon Harris or a draft pick.

QB Matt Leinart (cut)

T.J. Yates flew by him on the depth chart with his performance down the stretch, and the Texans couldn’t afford Leinart as a third.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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