Sunday the end for these veteran Texans?

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
5:36
PM ET
Although last weekend marked the end of this Texans team's home schedule, this weekend will mark the actual end for several players.

In talking to players around the locker room, there's definitely a sense of the unknown. While general manager Rick Smith is in charge of personnel decisions, it's possible the team's needs and wants will change a little bit with a new coaching staff. The Texans will have their head coach in place long before they make any decisions on players.

The idea that this might be their last season in Houston might have crossed the minds of some Texans veterans. The Texans usually re-sign players the offseason before their contract year. Players who get to the ends of their contracts often wind up leaving Houston or returning for something close to a minimum deal.

And while this ending isn't abrupt -- they've been eliminated from the playoffs for weeks -- it isn't the one any of them pictured.

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Smith
DE Antonio Smith

Notable: 2012 Pro Bowl selection

How he got here: Free-agent pickup in 2009

2013 Stats: 14 games played, 49 tackles, five sacks, one pass defensed

One of the most colorful personalities in the locker room, Antonio Smith started the season on a one-game suspension because the NFL frowned upon his tearing off Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito's helmet and swinging it during a game. Smith said he was not trying to strike Incognito with the helmet, but his appeal failed. Smith is a powerful presence at defensive end for the Texans, opposite J.J. Watt, and a very capable pass-rusher. He was 31 at the start of this season, though, and is likely to get better compensated somewhere else. I could see the Texans going young here.

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Mitchell
NT Earl Mitchell

Notable: Has played in 61 of 62 games with the Texans

How he got here: Third-round draft pick in 2010

2013 Stats: 15 games played, 84 tackles and 1.5 sacks

Mitchell is quick and has great footwork. This was his first season as the Texans' starting nose tackle. His snaps are limited in Wade Phillips' defense as he comes off the field on many passing downs. I asked Mitchell if there's a particular defensive system he'd be more comfortable with and he smartly said he can play in any. I think a 4-3 might be better suited to his abilities and allow the defense to use him better/more.

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Smith
LG Wade Smith

Notable: 2013 Pro Bowl, 2010 USA Today All-Joe Team

How he got here: Free-agent pickup 2010

2013 Stats: 15 starts

I've often written about Smith's toughness. He played with broken ribs for several games at the end of last season. He's played through a knee injury, the extent of which we probably won't know until much later, this season. Smith initially came into the league as a Dolphins' third-round pick in 2003. He was 32 when the 2013 season began and it's possible the Texans go younger at the position.

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Schaub
Schaub
QB Matt Schaub

Notable: 2010, 2013 Pro Bowl. 2010 Pro Bowl MVP. 2012 Ed Block Courage Award

How he got here: Trade with Atlanta, 2007

2013 Stats: 9 games played, 60.8 percent completions, 2,081 yards, 10 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions

What more is there to say? It's possible Schaub gets one last start this weekend with teammates who have seen him play well enough that they're totally shocked by his struggles this season. Schaub set a record for pick-sixes, throwing one in each of four consecutive games. Even though he played better in Week 6, the Texans felt the young Case Keenum gave them a better chance to finish the season. Schaub might land somewhere else next year, but it would be very difficult for the Texans to continue with him at their offense's helm.

Tania Ganguli

ESPN Houston Texans reporter

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