HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans have spent free agency revamping their secondary, just as they did last year. And as things stand, they'll be doing the same thing a year from now.
The Texans might have to hit the reset button again in the secondary after the 2019 season because of that group's contract situation. In free agency this year, Houston has signed cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Briean Boddy-Calhoun to one-year deals. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph also is entering the final year of his contract, and if slot corner Aaron Colvin does not improve his play in 2019, he could be released before the start of the new league year in 2020.
Last season, Houston gave up an average of 260 passing yards per game, which ranked 28th in the NFL. The Texans cut 2015 first-round pick Kevin Johnson before the start of the league year and did not re-sign cornerback/safety Kareem Jackson, who was the Texans' first-round pick in 2010. After he signed a three-year, $33 million contract with the Denver Broncos, Jackson told Houston TV station KRIV that the Texans did not talk to his agent about a return.
Like most general managers, Brian Gaine prefers for the Texans to focus on drafting and developing and re-signing their own players rather than going all-out in free agency. During former general manager Rick Smith's final offseason in 2017, the Texans were burned by several large free-agent contracts, including quarterback Brock Osweiler and guard Jeff Allen Last offseason, Colvin signed a four-year, $34 million contract that he did not play up to in 2018.
The Texans had great success with a one-year free agent last offseason -- Tyrann Mathieu, who made $7 million with Houston in 2018. Instead of signing a long-term deal he believed wasn't worth his value last offseason, Mathieu bet on himself with the short-term pact and won. He finished with 89 tackles, two interceptions, three sacks and a fumble recovery and played multiple positions on defense because of injuries in the secondary. Although Texans coach Bill O'Brien said there was "no doubt" the Texans wanted to re-sign Mathieu, the safety got his huge contract elsewhere, leaving Houston to sign a deal for three years and $42 million with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Gaine now aims to rebuild the pipeline in the draft, calling the draft capital the Texans have -- one pick in the first round and two in the second -- "a great opportunity" to get players who "we think can make a significant impact for the team."
"The evaluation is really a process," Gaine said. "If you decide to extend or keep a free agent, you have a plan in place of what the long-term future is or you can decide to turn the page and move forward and you know what's available in the draft if you have to replace that player."
The Texans will spend at least one, quite possibly two, of those top three picks on an offensive lineman. Since Boddy-Calhoun can play as a slot corner, Houston could use one of those first three picks on an outside corner to play behind Joseph and Roby.
While talent evaluation will of course never be an exact science, the Texans have shown in the past that they prefer to be what Gaine calls "selectively aggressive" in free agency to fill the holes they don't have internal solutions for.
"We're always going to try to keep our own, draft and develop our own, and try to sign our own guys to long-term deals before we look for external solutions," Gaine said. "And if we have the ability to do that, that'll be my first priority."