The Texans will have a lot of important decisions to make over the next two months that will greatly affect their chances to go deeper into the playoffs during the upcoming 2013 season. They have holes to fill and free agents to re-sign, all with limited room under the salary cap. Their actual cap number is hard to come up with because the information varies depending on which website you look at, and the team can always cut a player or re-work a deal to create room if they really want to sign someone like they did last year. We do know for sure though, that they don't have room enough to re-sign all of their key free agents. When making these moves not only will they have to figure out who they want for this year, but they have to think ahead to the next several years with Brian Cushing and J.J. Watt due to become free-agents over the next two years. With that in mind, this is how I would rank their priorities this off-season.
1. Re-sign Glover Quin
As a former cornerback, Quin has better than average cover skills as a safety. He's also proven to be pretty good around the box, playing basically the linebacker position in some nickel/dime formations. The flexibility he gives Wade Phillips defense is very valuable and they don't have anyone behind him already on the roster that can fill his spot if they lose him. If they're not able to reach an agreement on a new deal, they'll have to give him the franchise tag.
2. Draft A Receiver Early
They have to grab a receiver in either the first or second round. I won't say it has to be in the first because they have other legit needs to address early on and I like the depth of the receiver position in this draft, but they can't wait till the mid to late rounds. Kevin Walter just is not capable of giving them the type of production they need from the position; I'd like see them cut him as well. If they're going to be stuck with Matt Schaub, probably for the next two seasons, then they have to improve and add to the weapons around him.
3. Let Connor Barwin Walk
He had a great 2011 season, but that's just one year of production out of his four years with the Texans. Not only did his sack total drop off the cliff, but advanced stats websites like ProFootballFocus.com ranked him as the third worst 3-4 OLB in the entire league. Is Barwin the type of player we saw rack up 11.5 sacks, or was that season just a fluke? I'm not convinced he's a great player, I like him, but he's closer to being 'Just A Guy' then a star. His value has obviously dropped and dropped the money he can expect to make, but I still don't think the Texans should give him a new deal when they already have Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus (1st and 2nd round picks) on the roster ready to replace him.
4. Add Linebackers
The Texans need to draft an inside linebacker in the top 3 rounds to play next to Cushing, and if they let Barwin walk, they'll need a third OLB to rotate as a pass rusher. The ILB play next to Cushing last year was just awful and with him coming off an injury, it's even more important to add a starter at that position. James and Rudd were slow, bad against the run, couldn't cover, couldn't do anything right last year. I'd like to see them target Kevin Minter from LSU in the first round if he's available. There is talk that Brooks Reed could move inside, if he does, then they'll need to add a pass rushing OLB in the first or second round. If Reed stays outside, I'd look for my third OLB in the third or fourth round since they'd be looking for depth and not a starter.
5. Add Depth On The Right Side of the Offensive Line
The play of the right side of the line dropped off last year, but that was expected after losing two starters. By the end of the year rookies Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks, and second year player Derek Newton started to play better but still have room for improvement. Two of those three guys should be capable of starting on the right side, but I'd like to see them add depth in the middle rounds. This offense depends on the running game so you can never have too many lineman and having competition for the two spots wouldn't hurt.