NFL Nation: Kevin Walter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If Kevin Walter is going to help the Tennessee Titans, it’s going to be near the very end of the season.

Walter’s been on the physically unable to perform list since before camp, following offseason back surgery.

I spoke to him Thursday and he said he’d recently had a setback featuring two weeks of back spasms. Now he’s back on the road to recovery, but has to strengthen a left leg that has suffered as a result of nerve issues.

The Titans signed Walter when they beefed up their receiving corps during the offseason. He can get open on short, underneath stuff and find space against zones.

But even with Kenny Britt producing nothing and playing little, the team isn’t currently in need at receiver.

PUP guys can be activated by their team for a three-week practice window starting after Week 6 up until right after Week 11. During that time they don’t count against the 53-man roster.

The end date for the Titans with Walter would be Nov. 18, the Monday following their game on Thursday night against Indianapolis.

He would then have three weeks to practice. During that time, or at the end of it, the team can activate him but would have to create a roster spot. Or he could stay on PUP or be put on IR.

If Walter is fit to practice on Nov. 18, he could conceivably be ready to be on the roster for the final three games of the regular season.

While the Titans have no need for him now, an injury could leave them in position where they need someone, and he’s better than what they’d find on the street.

On Titans' offense looking like Texans'

September, 11, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- One offseason theme that emerged as Dowell Loggains wrote up a new playbook for the Titans was that Tennessee’s offense would look similar to Houston’s.

The Texans cut wide receiver Kevin Walter after the season in a cost-cutting move, and he jumped to the Titans on April. 4.

He offered the first big indication that Loggains’ offense would look a lot like Houston’s.

“I know they’re installing the same offense that I’ve been in the past seven years,” Walter said shortly after his arrival. “It’s a fun offense to be in.”

Later in the offseason I wrote more about how both the Titans and Jaguars want to look somewhat like Houston on offense.

Part of the reason for the Titans-Texans similarities is simple.

Mike Heimerdinger, who served two terms as Titans offensive coordinator, was a mentor to Loggains. And Heimerdinger and Kubiak both worked under Mike Shanahan in Denver, where many of their offensive principles were formed.

In a conference call Wednesday with Nashville media, Kubiak said he sees similarities in a primary theme.

“I think they’ve done a lot of things to complement their run game, from a boot standpoint, and they’ve got a quarterback who can run around and hurt you,” he said. “So, yeah, you see some of those things in what they are doing. But I think the biggest thing I saw was just the total commitment to the run and staying patient with what they are doing.

“A lot of road games are won that way, close road games. You stay committed, you stay out of trouble, you don’t hurt yourself turnover-wise and play good defense, and that’s what they did the other day.”

The Titans will have a hard time running 66 percent of the time a second week in a row.

I expect more of the Houston-like elements in the passing game to be on display Sunday at Reliant Stadium: rollouts, bootlegs and plenty of play-action.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans are currently seven deep with NFL-caliber receivers.

If Kevin Walter's stint on the physically unable to perform list due to a back injury ends in time for the regular season, they’ll have to sort through eight.

They started 2012 with four on the roster and Kenny Britt serving a one-game suspension. They finished 2012 with six on the roster and one on IR. They haven't started a season with more than six receivers since 2007.

Tuesday, at their last full practice before their preseason opener Thursday night against Washington, I found myself wondering about how a receiver not working near the top best prepares himself to work with the starting quarterback.

Michael Preston, for example, is listed fourth at the X receiver spot, behind Britt, Damian Williams and Justin Hunter.

The bulk of Preston’s reps come with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing the passes, not Jake Locker.

“It’s having a better understanding of what Jake likes from the receivers that go before me or just talking through routes with him when we are doing one-on-ones or pat-and-go drills,” Preston said. “Ryan does good job directing me where I need to be as well, being a veteran.

“I watch how guys get open for Jake and how he puts the ball for them. I’m the same type of frame as Justin. If he throws a ball to Justin and that’s how he likes his routes run, I would like to imitate that same thing and get in that same area for him. That’s just how I look at the game, something that goes on behind the scenes for me.”

Locker needs to build chemistry with everyone he can. But it’s natural that the team’s top receivers like Britt and Nate Washington are going to get more reps with him in team situations and in the first-team offense’s limited work Thursday night against the Redskins.

“You obviously aren’t going to have the opportunity to built that chemistry with everybody, just because you don’t have enough reps,” Locker said. “But you do what you can to build some kind of rapport with every guy out there so that you have a situation where you can go out there with any guy at any position and feel comfortable.”

Barring injury, I don't see a scenario for Preston to advance past any of the five guys ahead of him -- Britt, Washington, Kendall Wright, Williams and Hunter.

He'll work on building the rapport and making decisions about how many receivers to keep as difficult as possible.

And if he winds up elsewhere, he'll do the same thing wherever that may be.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- On an OTA day when tight end Delanie Walker was sitting out with a troublesome knee, I chatted with a high-ranking Titans person.

The defense won the day, but it wasn’t representative of where the offense stood, he said. And the offense is a lot different with Walker on the field.

We won’t see that offense for some time, now.

Walker had a knee scope a few weeks ago, largely to avoid the potential for any lingering issues.

Now he is on the physically unable to perform list as the Titans prepare for their first practice Thursday and coach Mike Munchak said the new tight end is likely to miss a couple weeks.

"Delanie missed three or four practices in the middle [of the offseason] with his knee being a little sore," Munchak said. "He finished with practicing in minicamp, actually looked good. We left here, we knew he had some soreness. I thought the time off would help him. It did, but he still didn't feel quite good enough."

The hope is he'll add a nice boost when he does return, and Munchak said it's a certainty that Walker will appear in preseason action.

“He’s a game-changer,” quarterback Jake Locker said. “He creates matchups for you inside and outside. He allows you to do some different things. He’s got a place. He’s explosive and dynamic, that’s not going to go away.”

Receiver Kevin Walter, who had back surgery, is expected to miss more time than Walker, a development that will help Marc Mariani get a maximum chance to make his case for a roster spot.

Walker and Walter are joined by safety Robert Johnson (foot) on PUP.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The major question facing each team in the AFC South as summer break looms:

Houston Texans: Even if Derek Newton recovers well from his knee surgery, are they sure he can be good at right tackle? In Newton's first year as the starter there, veteran Ryan Harris still got a share of the snaps. Now the team has to see how Newton recovers, will consider rookies Brennan Williams and David Quessenberry and brought Harris back as veteran insurance. They’ve surely got comfort in numbers, but you’d much rather have a sure thing at the front of the line. If second-year man Brandon Brooks doesn’t play well from the start at right guard, right tackle could be an even bigger problem. And the Texans need to be able to send Arian Foster both left and right to be unpredictable in the run game. They also need to protect Matt Schaub from all angles.

Indianapolis Colts: The team’s biggest defensive moves have been keyed on stopping the run. Outside linebacker Erik Walden is an edge-setter, defensive linemen like Ricky Jean Francois and Aubrayo Franklin should help stop backs and safety LaRon Landry is a force in the box when he’s healthy. If cornerback Greg Toler pans out, he will help the pass rush, and rookie outside 'backer Bjoern Werner could be an impact rusher if he transitions quickly from college end. But can this team consistently rush the passer? The only truly proven rusher on the defense is Robert Mathis, and for the first time he’ll be playing without Dwight Freeney drawing some of the blocking attention. To me, the major question is: Can they rush the passer effectively?

Jacksonville Jaguars: Who is the quarterback? Blaine Gabbert had most-favored status from the last regime, because the general manager of the last regime traded up to draft him 10th overall. That doesn’t mean anything to new GM Dave Caldwell or new coach Gus Bradley. They are looking for a guy who will give them the best chance to improve. If it’s Gabbert, that’s fine. But Chad Henne has said he believes there isn’t a charade element to this competition, and the team is talking as if new addition Mike Kafka and even undrafted rookie Matt Scott have an equally good chance of winning the job. Odds are very high this team will be looking for its long term-quarterback in next year’s draft. In the meantime, opportunity abounds.

Tennessee Titans: All Titans questions start with the quarterback. Jake Locker is now protected by a great offensive line, which should also greatly improve the run game. The new offense will give him a lot of play-action as well as rollouts and bootlegs, which will be threatening because of his extraordinary speed. His short-yardage targets should be dangerous -- Kevin Walter is super reliable; Kendall Wright should blossom; Delanie Walker and Chris Johnson need to be consistently reliable. The deep guys are a solid bunch if healthy. Kenny Britt and Nate Washington are capable of making downfield plays, and the team is super high on rookie Justin Hunter. The defense will be better, which means the Titans will have the ball more. What can Locker do with it?
Jake Locker and Blaine GabbertGetty Images, USA TODAY SportsFans should see quarterbacks Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert roll out more in the 2013 season.
Jake Locker will roll out. Uche Nwaneri will zone block. And, of course, Arian Foster will run plenty of stretch plays.

Under Gary Kubiak, the Texans have long run an offense centered around zone blocking, play-action, rollouts and bootlegs. A disciple of Mike Shanahan from his time playing for and working under him in Denver, Kubiak is a firm believer in many of the tenets Shanahan used with the Broncos.

In 2013, we’ll see many of the same offensive principles in play for both the Titans and Jaguars as well.

Tennessee offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains worked extensively under the late Mike Heimerdinger, the former Titans coordinator who was one of Shanahan’s best friends. And Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch was the receivers coach in 2008 in the final year of Shanahan’s 14-year tenure in Denver.

No, the Titans and Jaguars won’t be carbon copies of Houston when they have the ball. There is different personnel and there will be different wrinkles.

But there will be plenty of recognizable similarities among the Texans, Titans and Jaguars when they have the ball.

Kevin Walter, the receiver cut by Houston who signed with Tennessee, said in early April the Titans' offense is basically the same.

Said Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell: “I think you’ll see a lot of common threads with all three of those offenses."

Perhaps that bodes well for the Colts’ defense, which will address a lot of comparable philosophies and strategies in all six of its division games.

“If that’s truly the direction that those teams are heading, it’s obviously a system that’s proven and has won and won a lot and won Super Bowls when you are talking about Shanahan in Denver,” Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said. “That stretch zone scheme, it’s worked, it’s tough.

“But then at the same time, if that’s the case, in the same division playing them twice a year, you can peel the decals off the helmets, put the new decal on and walk into your guys and say, ‘Hey, there is a ton of carryover from week-to-week in the division.’ You’re going to see the four or five same run plays. The bodies might be different, the personnel might be different, but from a scheme standpoint, it helps.”

To be effective and efficient on offense, there are big questions that need to be answered about the capabilities of the two teams from the AFC South that weren’t in the playoff field in 2012.

[+] EnlargeChuck Pagano
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsHead coach Chuck Pagano says thanks to similar offensive schemes of the Colts' divisional opponents, Indianapolis can gameplan on defense.
Putting Locker and Blaine Gabbert on the move more often should work in their favor.

“The appealing thing for us is it takes pressure off the quarterback,” Caldwell said. “It allows the quarterback to get out of the pocket, it allows us to utilize the athleticism of our offensive line and put them in position to succeed.”

But the scheme can also help a disciplined defense by pretty much cutting the field in half. Quarterbacks shouldn’t be throwing back across their bodies when they roll and boot. If a play-action fake doesn’t get defenders leaning the wrong way, they can find themselves with less room to patrol.

We have to see how Locker and Gabbert adjust to altered schemes. But given their struggles in their first two years, it’s hard to figure things could be worse in a scheme their coaches believe will suit them both better.

Titans RB Chris Johnson often seemed disinterested in catching passes last year, and that will have to change if he’s going to do work more similar to Foster's. Maurice Jones-Drew has run successfully on plays with zone blocking, but the Jaguars' identity has typically been that of a power-running team during his time as the lead back. That could be a big switch for him, and for a guard like Nwaneri, who’s known more for his strength than his agility.

The Colts aren’t the only defense that could benefit from the changes.

Houston, Jacksonville and Tennessee will all see more of the what they will be defending from each other in OTAs, minicamp and training camp while working against their own offenses.

“A lot of people have played that offense, we’ve played against it before,” Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “When I was in San Diego we played against Denver all the time. They were leading the league in rushing every year. So you’ve got to be aware that they are going to try to run it well.

“It probably helps a little bit that you work against it, but all of them have different running backs and different offensive lines. Scheme-wise, at least you know something about it, which helps a little.”

One downside for Houston has been that it’s not a very good come-from-behind offense.

Houston is keyed around Foster and the play-action possibilities he creates. Fall behind by two scores and it’s difficult to continue to run and to convince defenses you’ll be handing the ball off.

Last season, the Texans faced first half-deficits of 14 against the Packers, 21 against the Patriots and 10 against the Vikings. The average margin of those three Houston losses wound up being three touchdowns. In the Texans' playoff ouster at New England, they were down 14 early and lost by 13.

Matt Schaub, Locker and Gabbert all need to be able to take over a game when necessary, knowing there are times when their run-based offense will not be able to run -- either because it’s getting stopped or because their team needs to gain more yards faster than their running back can likely get them.

Tracking just how similar the three teams are in their offensive approach will be an interesting storyline for us to track this season.

Titans coach Mike Munchak said he believes while it will be easy to see commonalities, there will be plenty of differences, too. The Titans will deploy Delanie Walker as an H-back, for example, while Houston is much more of a fullback team, now with Greg Jones.

“Our quarterback is a lot different than Schaub, they’re different guys with different strengths,” Munchak said. “On the offensive line, Houston is always looking for more athletic guys. We obviously went for some size and are a little bit of both athleticism and power. We run a lot of the plays we both think are good stuff, we like to pass off our base runs and things like that.

“But I think you’ll see enough difference that teams will have to prepare for us differently than Houston -- just enough of a percentage that gives defenses headaches when they have to prepare for us. There is still a lot to differentiate us.

“And the Texans are doing everything a lot better than we are now, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
The target percentages posted earlier are open to interpretation. Drop percentages are a little more straightforward.

Six current or former NFC West players ranked among the NFL's top 20 qualifying wide receivers and tight ends last season in lowest drop percentage, defined as drops divided by targets.

Percy Harvin and Mario Manningham went without a drop. Neither played a full season, but each had enough targets to qualify for inclusion in the chart below.

You might recall some of these players suffering more drops than we've listed in the chart. ESPN's standard for drops could be stricter than the ones our uncles apply when deciding which objects to throw at the television following frustrating plays. Our game charters count drops as "incomplete passes where the receiver SHOULD have caught the pass with ORDINARY effort" and only when the receiver is "100 percent at fault" for the incompletion.

The first chart shows where NFC West teams' wide receivers and tight ends ranked in the league in drop rate. The Seattle Seahawks ranked third. However, their running backs ranked only 29th in drop rate (9.3 percent), one spot ahead of running backs for the San Francisco 49ers (9.4 percent). The Arizona Cardinals' backs were fourth at 2.7 percent. The totals for running backs affected the overall team percentages, which we can check out separately another time.

I've singled out wide receivers and tight ends because we've been looking at players from those positions while discussing potential changes to the 49ers following Michael Crabtree's recent injury. Getting Manningham back to health could help the 49ers.

ESPN Stats & Information has taken a close look at some numbers that show off Houston's needs.

The inexperience of the team’s options at receiver beyond Andre Johnson is apparent to everyone. A high draft pick obviously won’t come with NFL experience.

But he will give the team its best potential opposite Johnson.

Per Stats and Info: The Texans were one of four teams in the NFL where their most-targeted receiver had more targets than all other receivers on the roster combined. The Lions, Chiefs and Bears were the others.

Johnson’s 158 targets made up 58.1 percent of Texans’ pass attempts to wide receivers, the highest rate in the league.

The Texans need to get the ball to Johnson a great deal. But there is a point at which it’s too much, and that would seem to be beyond that point.

There will be days when a defense can slow Johnson and they need better alternatives who won’t be a big drop-off for quarterback Matt Schaub.

Here’s Schaub last season throwing to wide receivers:
  • To Johnson: 70.9 completion percentage, 10.1 yards per attempt, 10 plays of 30 or more yards, 31.6 attempts per interception.
  • To all other wide receivers: 56.5 completion percentage, 7.6 yards per attempt, five plays of 30 or more yards, 21.6 attempts per interception.

The numbers are going to be better when you are talking about one of the league's best receivers. It's not healthy for them to be that much better.

Kevin Walter is gone. DeVier Posey is coming of a torn Achilles and won't be an option in the first part of the season.

Right now, the options after Johnson are Lestar Jean and Keshawn Martin. It's not close to enough.
The accuracy of unofficial depth charts varies team to team. Non of them mean a ton in April.

But the Titans have one out as part of their pre-draft news release.

Five of the free-agent additions are listed as starters: Tight end Delanie Walker, left guard Andy Levitre, right guard Rob Turner, defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill and safety Bernard Pollard.

Where the other additions are listed:
The team’s first round draft pick could displace someone for sure, and the second-rounder could, too -- though unofficial depth charts typically honor veteran players and wait for kids to pay dues before they get their rank confirmed on paper.

Find the whole depth chart here.
New Titans receiver Kevin Walter had some conversations with Tennessee media Monday, and one of them was on my radio show.

I was really surprised when he said this: “I know they’re installing the same offense that I’ve been in the past seven years. It’s a fun offense to be in. It’s going to be a good transition, a smooth transition.”

[+] EnlargeKevin Walter
Thomas B. Shea/Getty ImagesKevin Walter caught 41 passes for 518 yards for the Texans during the 2012 regular season.
Upon further examination, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear him say that.

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is a disciple of the late Mike Heimerdinger, and Heimerdinger was a disciple of Mike Shanahan, just like Gary Kubiak is.

In language and philosophy there will be a lot of similarities.

It will usually be a run-first scheme with a lot of play-action. We will see Jake Locker rolling out and running the sort of bootlegs Matt Schaub executes in Houston.

But I think it’ll look more like Houston’s offense from Walter’s vantage point than it will from ours. I don’t expect we’re going to do a double take and look to the sideline to see if Kubiak is calling the plays.

The Titans will utilize plenty of zone blocking, but I don’t think they will be close to exclusively zone the way the Texans are. If they add Chance Warmack in the draft, they’ll be adding a major power element.

Walter’s new team lacks the clear-cut No. 1 receiver who keys much of what the Texans do in Houston thanks to Andre Johnson.

And the Titans' use of an H-back will be completely different than what Houston does.

Mike Munchak hired the tight ends coach, George Henshaw, who was with the franchise when Frank Wycheck (now a radio colleague of mine) was putting up big numbers as an H-back. Tennessee signed Delanie Walker to operate in much the same fashion, and that’s different than what Houston does.

When Heimerdinger landed in Nashville in 2000, he absorbed some of the offensive principles left behind by Les Steckel, particularly the use of the H-back since it rated as a strength of the offense that was in place.

While Chris Palmer’s term as offensive coordinator rated a failure, Loggains worked closely with him and will likely carry some Palmer stuff that he liked best.

So in terms of offensive foundation, there will be a lot of similarities and Walter will feel right at home. The final product, however, will hardly be a carbon copy.
Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks has signed a one-year free-agent deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he will work on the interior defensive line with Tyson Alualu and Roy Miller.

Marks is the seventh AFC South free agent to switch teams but stay in the division.

The other six:
  • Fullback Greg Jones went from the Jaguars to the Texans.
  • Running back Justin Forsett went from the Texans to the Jaguars.
  • Cornerback Alan Ball went from the Texans to the Jaguars.
  • Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck went from the Titans to the Colts.
  • Linebacker Moise Fokou went from the Colts to the Titans.
  • Receiver Kevin Walter went from the Texans to the Titans.

As for Marks, here's Scouts Inc.'s review of his game:
"Marks is a solid starting 3-technique with just adequate size, but he has excellent initial quickness, agility and body control. He is very quick off the ball and does a good job of hitting gaps and seams to get upfield and create problems in the backfield. He does a good job feeling and fighting through pressure and will use his hands to defeat and shed blocks. He is quick to locate the ball and takes good angles to get to the play, but he shows limited lateral range when the ball is run outside the numbers. He is not an effective pass-rusher because he lacks great upfield acceleration and does not bend to close on the quarterback with a burst."

Reassessing the Titans' needs

April, 2, 2013
We need to reserve judgment on just how well the Titans did with their free-agent haul. Several of their key additions -- like tight end Delanie Walker and defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill -- are expected to graduate into bigger roles with their new team.

The Titans project they can handle that and excel with it. We’ll have to wait and see.

What I like most about what they’ve done is this: A team with a ton of needs as the 2013 NFL year began has far fewer now.

That creates a certain draft freedom. While there are still things they need, they need them far less desperately. If a guy they really want in the draft goes off the board a couple picks before they are up, it will be less tragic.

[+] EnlargeBernard Pollard
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsThe Titans signed safety Bernard Pollard, hoping the former Raven can add fire and veteran leadership.
A review of what they needed as free agency opened, and some thoughts on what they need now.

Safety: Like it or not they are locked into Michael Griffin. So what they needed was a serious upgrade with regard to an in-the-box presence at the position who will allow Griffin to play as a center fielding free safety. Enter George Wilson and Bernard Pollard. They are veterans who are better than the options the Titans had in 2012, plus they bring leadership -- Wilson of a quieter variety, Pollard with a loud swagger. If they draft a kid to develop behind this group, that’d be fine, but it’s not a pressing need.

Guard: Andy Levitre was the best option on the market. Rob Turner and Chris Spencer are far better options than interior guys like Kevin Matthews or Deuce Lutui, who wound up playing last year. Ideally the Titans find a young stud to play right guard long term. But if the can’t get, or decide to pass on, Chance Warmack, Jonathan Cooper or Larry Warford they could still be OK.

Defensive end: Internally, it’s not been rated the need it was externally. They did add super-sized Ropati Pitoitua, but he doesn’t appear to be a guy who will spur the pass rush. I think they feel good about Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley, and will use Akeem Ayers more as a rusher. But I’d still rank an end that can boost the pass rush as a need.

Running back: They needed a short-yardage guy to serve in a complementary role with Chris Johnson, and found a guy they liked in Shonn Greene. Darius Reynaud is back, though he’s primarily a returner. A mid- or late-round back would make sense to increase their options if Johnson’s money is an issue next year and/or to compete with Jamie Harper for a role.

Defensive tackle: They showed no interest in bringing back Sen'Derrick Marks and found the size they wanted in Hill. With Jurrell Casey and Mike Martin, that’s a nice three-pack. Karl Klug is a question mark. This is a spot where they can definitely continue to add, even if they have high hopes for Klug and DaJohn Harris.

Cornerback: The one name that surfaced as a guy they courted was Keenan Lewis, the Steeler-turned-Saint. Depth at this position is shaky. Coty Sensabaugh did OK as a rookie nickel back. But ideally the Titans would get Alterraun Verner into the slot, even if he’s starting outside in the base defense. They need a better candidate that Tommie Campbell to play outside as the second or third guy. This could now rate as one of the top needs.

Tight end: Following the breakdown in talks with Jared Cook, the team decided against using the franchise tag on him. Walker is more equipped to shift around from the backfield to the line to the slot, and the Titans want to get back to using a guy like that. No remaining need with Craig Stevens, a solid blocker, and Taylor Thompson, a second-year project, in place.

Linebacker: Depth is the issue here, especially in the middle where Colin McCarthy gets hurt. Moise Fokou might help, and ideally the main addition would be a veteran upgrade over outgoing free agent Will Witherspoon. If Ayers moves forward to rush some as a defensive end, they’ll need a quality outside guy who can cover. A need, still, for sure.

Receiver -- I wasn’t thinking it was a spot they needed to address before the draft, but they looked at a lot of guys and signed Kevin Walter. He’s a reliable route runner who can work underneath and do well against zones for quarterback Jake Locker. But Walter isn’t explosive. I expect they’d like to add a draft pick who’s a smart, quality route runner with a little more ability for yards after the catch.

Newest Titans will add depth

April, 1, 2013
The Tennessee Titans added their 11th and 12th free agent in their ongoing roster revamp, signing receiver Kevin Walter and interior offensive lineman Chris Spencer.

Walter is familiar to the Titans as he played the last seven years for the Houston Texans, often serving as the second wide receiver opposite Andre Johnson.

He had 65 catches and eight touchdowns for Houston in 2007, but his role had diminished with only 39 and 41 catches the last two seasons and five total touchdowns. He was a recent salary-cap casualty for a team that drafted a couple receivers last year and is expected to draft a more dynamic No. 2 receiver at the end of the month.

The Titans have struck out with several veteran receivers, including Danny Amendola, Wes Welker and Brandon Gibson. Indications are they’d like to trade the expensive Nate Washington, but I am not sure Walter will add enough to make Washington expendable.

Walter joins Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt, Washington, Damian Williams, Lavelle Hawkins and Michael Preston on the Titans receiving corps. The group has a new position coach in Shawn Jefferson.

Spencer is the third veteran, interior offensive lineman the Titans have added. He joins Andy Levitre, who will start at left guard, and Rob Turner.

While Fernando Velasco is expected to remain the starter at center, right guard will be wide open and Turner and Spencer could compete with a draft pick or slug it out between them.

Seattle picked Spencer in the first round in 2005 out of Ole Miss and he played the last two years in Chicago, where offensive line struggles were a big issue.

“Both Kevin and Chris are established veterans in this league who have a great deal of starting experience,” said Titans general manager Ruston Webster said in a statement. “They have made significant contributions on good teams during their careers. We feel like they can come in and provide increased competition at their respective positions for us.”

The addition of Spencer could mean the end of overpriced Eugene Amano, who was hurt in the preseason last year and missed the entire 2012 season.

My plan for the Houston Texans

March, 7, 2013
My plan for the Houston Texans as we approach the start of the 2013 NFL calendar year:

Finances: Cut wide receiver Kevin Walter, saving $2.5 million in cap space. Restructure the deal of wide receiver Andre Johnson, reducing his base salary from $10.5 million to $940,000 (giving him the rest now as a bonus), resulting in a salary cap savings of $7.17 million. Restructure the deal of cornerback Johnathan Joseph, reducing his base salary from $7.5 million to $940,000 (giving him the rest now as a bonus), resulting in a salary cap savings of $4.373 million. Extend defensive end Antonio Smith, reducing his 2013 base salary of $6 million and his cap charge of $9.5 million significantly.

Continuity: Re-sign safety Glover Quin. The Texans didn’t use the franchise tag on him but would face a tough hole to fill if they let him depart. He’s carved out a good role on this defense, and it would be mutually beneficial for him to stay. In addition to extending Smith and saving money, invest in inside linebacker Brian Cushing, who counts $4.643 against the cap in the final year of his initial deal and is due $3.143 million in base salary.

Turnover: Allow outside linebacker Connor Barwin to leave as a free agent if he gets a good deal. Although it would be nice to keep him, the team is equipped to move on without him and should be able to draft a player who can be the third guy at the position behind Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus. Brice McCain can be a nice nickel but should be replaceable if he finds an opportunity he prefers. Be done with nose tackle Shaun Cody.

Additions: Sign a free agent defensive tackle like Roy Miller from Tampa Bay. He’s a good run stopper who could replace Cody and be better in tandem with Earl Mitchell in Wade Phillips' 3-4 front, which allows for a smaller nose. Mike DeVito (New York Jets) could also work and wouldn’t have to transition to 3-4 thinking.

Draft: Swing big for a wide receiver who can line up opposite Johnson and pose a matchup threat. Perhaps Cal’s Keenan Allen or Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins fits the bill. Tavon Austin from West Virginia, who is smaller and quicker, could give the Texans the sort of weapon they don’t have. Use other early picks on inside linebacker, safety depth and corner/nickel depth. Emphasize linebacker with late picks, looking to boost special teams coverage and blocking.

Eight in the Box: Biggest cap casualty

February, 22, 2013
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Welcome to Eight in the Box, a new NFL Nation feature that will appear each Friday during the offseason. This week’s topic: Who will be each team’s biggest salary-cap casualty this offseason?

Houston Texans: The one team in the division that could need some cap relief is the Texans, who currently have $5.768 million in space. But if they re-sign safety Glover Quin, outside linebacker Connor Barwin and fullback James Casey as they’d like to, that space will disappear quickly and they’ll need to find an avenue to gain room. I understand that the general public undervalues a lot of what Kevin Walter does. But a $4.5 million cap number and a scheduled base salary of $3.5 million is simply too much for what he does. A dynamic receiver is still on the Texans' list of needs, which seems to make Walter expendable.

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts don’t need to cut anyone. General manager Ryan Grigson has $43.427 million in cap room. So don’t expect anyone to be released. (Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney was not a cap casualty -- he was a pending free agent who was informed he wouldn’t be offered a new deal.) But are there players who are scheduled to make too much? Sure. Center Samson Satele is due $2.7 million in base salary, and his play in his first year as the team’s center wasn’t $2.22 million better than A.Q. Shipley's in 2012. I doubt it will be in 2013. Parting ways with Satele would save only $1.734 million.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars are in solid cap shape -- they have $23.807 million in space. But they have plenty of players with big deals that the old regime gave them. New general manager Dave Caldwell may be unwilling to pay out some of those contracts. Receiver Laurent Robinson is still dealing with concussion-related issues and although he’s due $2.6 million in base salary, he has the club’s fourth-highest cap number in 2013 at $6.3 million. Cutting him, though, would actually cost the team $100,000 more against the cap in 2013 than keeping him, because his remaining prorated bonus would result in an accelerated $6.4 million hit.

Tennessee Titans: GM Ruston Webster said at the combine Thursday that Tennessee won’t be cutting anyone as the new league year starts, but that once the team adds upgrades in free agency and in the draft, such moves may occur. Webster and coach Mike Munchak are talking about the need to rebuild the interior offensive line. So the top candidates to be cut down the road have to be guard Steve Hutchinson (due a $4.75 million base, he would cost $3 million in dead money cap hit) and guard/center Eugene Amano (due a $3.935 million base, but they’d save only about $1 million by cutting him).




Thursday, 9/18
Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22