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Monday, July 11, 2011
Free-agency outlook: Texans

By Matt Williamson

The Texans have been very aggressive in rebuilding their defense and transforming it into a 3-4 scheme. That aggression could continue during free agency. If that is to happen, though, some salary-cap manipulation will have to occur, as Houston looks to be pretty tight up against the expected cap.

The Texans are now loaded with young talent in the secondary, but the back end of their defense was historically poor last year. A stabilizing veteran presence whom everyone can truly count on would do wonders for this defense. Also, even though Houston seems high on Earl Mitchell, I have my doubts about the Texans’ nose tackle position.

Johnathan Joseph
Johnathan Joseph would be a huge upgrade to the Houston secondary.
Nnamdi Asomugha: Everyone knows what a great player Asomugha is. Everyone knows how awful the Texans were against the pass last year. Imagine how much better Houston would match up against the Colts if everyone in the stadium knew that Reggie Wayne would not be a factor in that particular game.

Johnathan Joseph/Ike Taylor: If the Texans miss out on the crown jewel of free agency, adding another established corner should quickly be their next move. Both Joseph and Taylor can play bump-and-run, off man-to-man coverage or be effective in zone. Either would be an immediate upgrade.

Quintin Mikell: Unlike most teams with a need at safety, strong safety is a bigger need for Houston than free, where Glover Quin will take over after moving from corner. Mikell is clearly the best of the crop. And if Houston can’t land a whale like Asomugha at corner, maybe it can get the top strong safety available in Mikell. If the Texans choose to address their strong safety need with a lower-priced guy, Gerald Sensabaugh would be a logical choice. Sensabaugh played for Wade Phillips in Dallas and is very familiar with the system that is being installed.

Vonta Leach: Finding pure blocking fullbacks is not a difficult thing to do. But finding ones as effective as Leach, who is the best at it in the NFL, is a whole different story. Leach is the perfect guy to lead Arian Foster through the hole and to pick up blitzing linebackers. Houston should lock him up pronto.

Darren Sharper: Sharper isn’t nearly the player he once was. But his leadership could be invaluable in such a young secondary. In fact, this team lacks elder statesmen in its locker room who possess the “been there, done that” factor that Sharper obviously has in spades. Even if he just contributed with the Texans’ sub packages, Sharper -- or someone else of a similar ilk -- would be a wise addition to such a young team.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL.