Breakdown of Texans' 3 biggest needs

Breakdown of Texans' 3 biggest needs
March 16, 2013, 7:00 pm
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Updating the ongoing Ed Reed situation

The Texans have been pretty quiet since free agency began on Tuesday afternoon.

So far, the team has signed one player. Offensive tackle Andrew Gardner. … Yeah, not exactly the sexiest signing of the week.

In fact, aside from Ed Reed coming for a visit, the only news the Texans have created was letting their own guys go. Glover Quin, Connor Barwin, James Casey, Justin Forsett and Alan Ball all signed elsewhere.

So, with that in mind, and with plenty of time before minicamps and OTAs, we’ll take a look at the three biggest areas of need for the 2013 Texans.

1. Safety

The Texans lost out on Quin … or maybe they just didn’t try that hard. Quin's deal isn't outrageous. In fact, it seems pretty fair. The Lions reportedly gave him $4.7 million per year over five years with a $5.25 million signing bonus.

And, Quin's deal likely won't have a big cap hit in 2013, as most NFL deals are back-loaded. The deal is worth less per year than the deals of William Moore and LaRon Landry.

The Texans seem pretty intent on bringing in Reed, but they’ve also put all their eggs in that basket. While they were hosting Reed, and now while they’re waiting to negotiate further, the safety market gets shallower. There are a few guys still out there, including Charles Woodson, but most of the marquee guys are gone.

If, for some reason, the Texans can’t sign a veteran safety in free agency, they could turn to the draft. Kenny Vaccaro from Texas will probably be gone but there’s a good chance Matt Elam from Florida might be there at 27.

But if the Texans sign a veteran safety, it doesn’t mean they won’t go after one in the draft. It’s a fairly deep draft for safeties and it might make sense to get a guy who can learn under Danieal Manning and an Ed Reed or Charles Woodson.

2. Wide receiver

The Texans needed a receiver badly. Then, they cut Kevin Walter. Now they really need another wideout.

The Texans were never really expected to pick up one of the big names on the free agent market. Those guys will and have commanded a lot of money, something the Texans don’t have because of the salary cap.

Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee) will probably be the first wideout taken in the draft. He's big -- 6-2, 215 -- and fast. He didn't do anything to hurt his stock at the Combine.

Tavon Austin has been flying up draft boards. The 5-8 receiver from West Virginia is lightning quick and is versatile. He can catch but is also a great return guy.

Keenan Allen is big and fast enough. And looks to be ready to play in the NFL. Allen was once widely considered the best of this class but his stock dropped some this year. He's still a first-round talent.

Finally, DeAndre Hopkins. This guy catches everything. The 6-1, 214 Hopkins has the best hands in the draft. He didn't post a good time in the 40 at the Combine but saved face with a solid time at the Clemson pro day.

3. Linebacker

Connor Barwin is gone. Bradie James is a free agent. And Brian Cushing is still working his way back from an ACL surgery.

Brooks Reed’s versatility gives the Texans some options. With Barwin gone, it stands to reason that second-year guy Whitney Mercilus just moves up and takes over the starting position as an outside ‘backer along with Brooks Reed. And that’s a good guess.

But Reed has the ability to play inside too. Basically that means the Texans can simply go after whoever they want and don’t have to be preoccupied with the idea of getting a guy to play a specific position.

Without much money, the Texans’ best bet to get a guy might come in the draft. Of course, it seems like they want to figure out what Reed is going to do before making any other free agent signings. They want to bring back other free agents too, so money will be tight. But without knowing how the situation with Reed will work out, they won’t know how tight.

Honorable mentions

They need an offensive tackle. Andrew Gardner and Nick Mondek are the only tackles under contract. Ryan Harris remains a free agent and if Duane Brown or Derek Newton were to go down, they don’t have an adequate backup.

How about nose tackle? They could use depth if Shaun Cody is gone but Earl Mitchell stands to be the starter. They’ll probably also want to see what they have in Terrell McClain and David Hunter.

Fullback? They won’t pay money for a fullback. Enter Tyler Clutts. Cheap and already on the roster. Forsett’s gone too, so they need a third-string running back too.

On special teams, they will likely look to re-sign punter Donnie Jones. And Shayne Graham is probably gone as Randy Bullock should return from injury.

Quarterback? Ha. Dream on. Schaub’s the guy.

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