- Tania Ganguli, ESPN Staff Writer
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During the past week seven former Houston Texans -- six on defense -- became unrestricted free agents and signed with other teams. Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell signed with the Dolphins, defensive end Antonio Smith signed with the Raiders, inside linebackers Darryl Sharpton signed with Washington and Joe Mays signed with the Chiefs, outside linebacker Bryan Braman with the Eagles, and backup nose tackle Terrell McClain signed with the Cowboys. There was also Ben Tate's defection to the Cleveland Browns, a move rumored for several months.
But the Texans haven't been losing players so much as they've been letting them go.
The clearest example of this came with Smith, a starter for all five seasons he spent with Houston.
"The feel I got from the Texans was a feel of a third-down rusher coming off the bench," Smith told Mark Berman of Fox 26. Smith received an affordable two-year deal worth $9 million.
Tate wasn't a guy the Texans wanted to bring back, preferring to go with Arian Foster, a draft pick and a young player from the gaggle of them they have now. He only received $6.2 million over three years from the Browns to be their starter, according to reports of the NFLPA's records. By comparison, the Texans are paying their starting running back $6.25 million this year, including his roster bonus, on a contract that averages $8.7 million per year.
The high number of defensive departures might have a lot to do with a changing system, but it makes clear that there will be a degree of rebuilding for the Texans next season.
The Texans' plan is yet unfolding, and a lot of it will involve toughening up the current roster. But you can't let go of four starters (we'll count both Mays and Sharpton as starters since they did for most of the season) without admitting that. Add to it the Texans' likelihood to have a new starter at quarterback in September, and possibly a new right tackle and left guard, and you have quite a bit of change.