The Houston Texans haven't even had their first mini-camp session yet, and already assistant head coach Mike Sherman has had an impact on the team's offensive line, the unit he is charged with upgrading.
Houston has reached a contract agreement with unrestricted free agent center Mike Flanagan, and there is little doubt that the presence of Sherman on first-year head coach Gary Kubiak's staff played a role in the decision of the 10-year veteran snapper. Sherman tutored Flanagan as an assistant at UCLA and then as the Green Bay Packers' head coach for six seasons.
Flanagan, 32, played his entire NFL career with the Packers before entering the unrestricted free agent market two weeks ago. He will sign a three-year, $9 million contract that includes a signing bonus of $3 million, and will become the Texans' starting center.
Texans officials had considered a few other free agents for the center position but Sherman, whose primary responsibility is to fix an offensive line that has ranked among the NFL's shoddiest during the Texans' four-year existence, preferred a player with whom he is familiar.
The acquisition of Flanagan, who played in the Pro Bowl in 2004 and has also been an alternate in the past for the all-star game, means the Texans will be able to move Steve McKinney to left guard full-time. The eight-year veteran, who recently signed a three-year contract extension, has played mostly at center for the Texans, but logged three of his 16 starts at guard in 2005.
An excellent technician and a savvy player who can handle all the line-calls, Flanagan will also bring some much-needed toughness to the Texans as they attempt to revamp their blocking unit.
A third-round choice in the 1996 draft, Flanagan suffered a ghastly right leg injury during the preseason of his rookie season. The injury was so severe, and required so much rehabilitation that Flanagan played in just two games during his first three seasons and started only twice in his first five years in the league.
But the Packers coaches, sensing Flanagan's considerable potential, refused to give up on him. In 2001, he became the full-time starter. Over the next five seasons, Flanagan started 13 or more contests four times. The only season in which he fell short of that mark was 2004, when chronic tendinitis forced Flanagan to have knee surgery and limited him to three appearances.
Last season, he missed only two games after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia, and started in 14 contests. For his career, Flanagan has played in 98 games and started 64 of them.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.