- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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They are two-time defending division champs and have been to the second round of the playoffs two consecutive seasons.
Teams like that are not typically prime players in free agency. They have players they have to spend to retain, limiting the cash on hand to go get a bunch of free agents.
This is the case with the Houston Texans, who’ve lost more than they’ve gained in free agency and anticipate addressing primary needs in the draft.
Wide receiver -- They cut Kevin Walter to gain some cap relief, but also because they need a more dynamic second receiver who might ultimately have a chance to replace Andre Johnson. With DeVier Posey recovering from surgery to repair his Achilles, a top receiver is this team’s No. 1 need.
Inside linebacker -- The Texans are confident Brian Cushing will be recovered from ACL repair and ready to go at the start of training camp. But there is still a hole beside him. Bradie James, Tim Dobbins and Barrett Ruud are free agents who aren’t returning. Darryl Sharpton is injury-prone. Safety Glover Quin often played as a virtual linebacker in a dime package. He’s gone, and Ed Reed isn’t going to do that. The second inside linebacker is not a simple two-down run-stopping job any longer. Big need.
Outside linebacker -- Whitney Mercilus may not be sturdy against the run yet (another ingredient making inside linebacker increasingly important). But he can rush the passer and will start. The Texans will find ways to maximize his strengths. Connor Barwin’s departure means they need a third outside guy. I wouldn’t count on Bryan Braman as depth or someone who could rotate in. It’s a need for sure.
Safety -- They basically swapped Quin for Reed. In a good draft for safeties, they should grab one. They need to grab someone who can develop behind veterans Reed and Danieal Manning, upgrade depth and provide a better dime option if Wade Phillips wants to utilize it as much as he has in the last couple years. Quintin Demps and Shiloh Keo shouldn’t be on the field with the defense.
Nose tackle -- Shaun Cody is a free agent and Earl Mitchell is in line to take over as the starter. I think they are content with that, though they need a backup. I’d love for them to draft a guy who could challenge Mitchell for the nose job in the base defense.
Running back -- Ben Tate is No. 2 with Justin Forsett gone, so they need a third. But whether they need to spend even a low pick on the spot is the question. If they like one, have at it. If not, no pressure.