HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans may have made the biggest move of the offseason when they traded Brock Osweiler to Cleveland, but now more than two weeks since the beginning of the free-agency period, they are the only team in the NFL not to add a free agent from another team.
Despite the new salary cap of $167 million cap -- a $47 million increase over 2011 -- the Texans have chosen not to add through free agency, the opposite of their approach last offseason, when they made a big splash by adding Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller.
Houston entered this offseason without many holes on the field, especially with its top-rated defense. But after losing three defensive starters -- cornerback A.J. Bouye, safety Quintin Demps and outside linebacker John Simon -- in free agency and trading Osweiler, they now have some positions of need. In addition to replacing those three players and finding a quarterback, the Texans need to upgrade their offensive line.
Houston could still be in the market for free-agent signings, but they may be waiting to see if Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will become available. The Texans have around $30 million in cap space after adding punter Shane Lechler, kicker Nick Novak and tight end Ryan Griffin, so they do have space to add players. However, because they have been waiting on Romo, most of ESPN’s top 150 free agents are now under contract.
At the NFL combine in early March, general manager Rick Smith noted that the Texans prefer to build through draft and reward those players with long-term contracts.
“If you look at our team, I think nine of ten of our first-round picks are still on our football team, so we’ve had some success at keeping our guys. That’s the way that we’ve decided to build our football team,” Smith said. “That’s through the draft. We’ve identified the good, young players. It’s not only first-round picks, it’s other players that have performed. Again, I will tell you that – and I don’t say this lightly – about the job that [vice president of football administration] Chris Olsen does in managing our salary cap, putting us in a position to have the chance to keep those players.
“That’s a big part of what we do and how we’ve decided to manage our football team. I’m confident in that. Listen, the reality is that you can’t keep all your good, young players. But the balance of your football team is made up of players that you draft, and then that core group, hopefully, are players that you drafted and you’ve developed and they are arrow-up-type players and that you can get those players under contract long-term and continue to build your football team.”