- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Houston Texans don't have much salary cap room and aren't expected to be very active in free agency, but a move the team should at least consider is adding recently-released receiver Sidney Rice. It won't cost much and it would be a steal if Rice manages to put his recent rash of injuries behind him.
The Texans took Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins with the 27th pick of the first round last season. It turned out to be one of the best in the last half of the draft's first round. Despite the Texans' jumbled mess at quarterback, Hopkins caught 52 passes for 802 yards, numbers that ranked second among all rookie receivers last season.
Hopkins should only be better in 2014, and with the seemingly ageless Johnson continuing to produce -- 109 catches for 1,407 yards -- the Texans should have a pretty good one-two punch on the outside in 2014.
Adding Rice would make them even better, and it shouldn't be a move that will hurt the Texans financially. They are estimated to only have about $11 million in cap room, which certainly isn't much, but Rice won't command a big contract because teams are leery of his injury history. He has missed 15 games in the three seasons in which played in Seattle, including the final eight of the 2013 season because of a knee injury.
When healthy, the 6-foot-4, 202-pound Rice can be one of the league's most productive receivers. He caught 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns in 2009 but has played in more than nine games in a season just once since then. That was 2012, when he caught 50 passes for 748 yards. His size makes him a factor in the red zone, and pairing him with the 6-3, 230-pound Johnson would make the Texans a dangerous team near the goal line.
Despite being in the league for seven years already, Rice is only 27 years old. That's young enough to have four or five more productive seasons, provided he can stay healthy. Since that has been an issue, he's going to be able to be had for a minimum contract with playing-time incentives. It's a low-risk move for the Texans, or any team that signs Rice.
The Texans are expected to draft a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick and they best way to ensure that a young quarterback thrives is by surrounding him with weapons. Adding Rice to a group that includes Hopkins, the team's star of the future, and Johnson, who continues to produce even though he's turning 34 in July, would be the biggest help the Texans could give the new quarterback.