Several key players for the Texans are un-restricted free-agents this off-season, but they don't have the cap space to re-sign all of them. They'll have to make some tough decisions, but who should they target and who should they let walk? If those decisions were only about talent, they'd be easy, but you also have to consider how much money they'll make in their new deal and how easily they can or can't be replaced. The Texans have about a month to make these decisions before free-agency starts, take a look at who I would keep and who I'd let go.
Glover Quin - I believe Quin is the most important player for them to re-sign. Not only is he a pretty good safety who gives them some flexibility with his experience as a corner, but he's also the least replaceable. He can play deep zone coverage, play man when you want to bring a blitz, and is effective as a blitzer himself. He's young, he's productive, and they don't have a replacement for him on the roster; they must re-sign him.
James Casey - This is a tricky situation. I like Casey, but not as a lead blocker at fullback; the Texans can do better than him in terms of a run blocker. However, I like his receiving skills as a tight end and if they're able to re-sign him for cheap, I'd consider dropping Owen Daniels to free up money for other players. Casey also provides potential mismatches when lined up as a fullback, but I wouldn't play him there every down. I'd reserve that for 2nd and 2 or 3rd and 3 type plays where you can run or pass and potentially exploit a linebacker trying to cover him out of the backfield.
Brice McCain - I think most Texans fans already knew McCain was valuable, but his value skyrocketed when he got injured and we saw what life was like with Brandon Harris (@NoFlyZone) playing the slot corner. I don't want to go into next season with Harris or a rookie as the slot corner; they should do everything they can to bring him back.
Donnie Jones - He's not great, but he's good enough and was reliable last season. Assuming they can get him from cheap, I'd bring him back. He's not the future at the position, but they could do a lot worse (Matt Turk). I'd like them to re-sign him and bring in another guy at the veteran minimum or an undrafted free-agent to compete for the job in camp.
Tim Dobbins* - This is another tough call. I like Dobbins as a run defender, but he's not great in pass coverage and should never be the starter. Dobbins is a quality backup and better than James or Ruud who got too much playing time last season, so it'll depend on how much he wants. I'd like to see the Texans target ILB early in the draft, so Dobbins will need to be paid as a rotational backup type player; hopefully he'll accept that.
Kevin Walter - I'd like to see them use the money they save cutting him and maybe Owen Daniels to sign a better veteran receiver in free-agency. I'd also like to see them draft a receiver in the 1st or 2nd round. Either way, they have to upgrade the 2nd receiver position.
Connor Barwin - I'm sure a lot of you will disagree with this, but I think they have to let him walk. On a good team with a lot of good players to take care of, you can't re-sign everyone; there just isn't enough cap room. Barwin plays the run well and is decent in coverage, but his sack total dropped off dramatically and they spent their 1st round pick last year on another OLB/pass rusher. Barwin is a good player, but they have a legit replacement for him already on the roster and I don't think they can afford him.
Shaun Cody - He's 30 now and they can get the same level of production out of Earl Mitchell, no reason to bring him back. I'd also like to see the Texans take a shot at a nose tackle in the 3rd-5th round this year making Cody expendable.
Justin Forsett - I like Forsett, but I don't think they can afford to re-sign him now. If he's still available after the draft, I'd consider bringing him back for the veteran minimum after they know what their cap looks like post free-agency. With Ben Tate about to be a free-agent, I'd also consider taking a back in the 3rd or 4th round.
Shayne Graham - Don't trust him, he was too shaky outside of 40 yards last season. Plus, they'll have Randy Bullock, who they spent a 5th round pick on, coming off the IR; it should be his job.
Alan Ball - This shouldn't need explanation, he's not a quality corner.
Rashad Butler - He'd be a quality backup, but he's injured too often. Plus, I'd like to see the Texans use a 1st or 2nd round pick on a right tackle, making Butler easy to let go.
Antoine Caldwell - Just never developed. I'd like to see 2nd year players Brandon Brooks and Ben Jones rotate at that position assuming they don't draft a player.