The Houston Texans are one season into what has to be considered one of the biggest rebuilding jobs in modern NFL history. As the general manager of this team, Bill O’Brien performed the equivalent of a nuclear bomb detonation on the team’s draft capital and salary cap in 2019 and 2020, and they are just now beginning to function more like a normal team here in 2022.
Of course, Deshaun Watson’s whole situation, from his dissatisfaction with the team to the legal quagmire caused by 22 civil lawsuits, has not helped either, and who knows when that gets resolved (although today’s grand jury session with the district attorney will be a big step in getting clarity). For now, Texans GM Nick Caserio will continue to operate with some degree of caution and prudence as the real rebuild kicks this season.
Part of that is the continued cleaning u[ of the salary cap and preparing for free agency next week. Last season, the Texans brought in over 30 veteran free agents, most fo them on one year deals. I would expect some of the same over the next few weeks, with maybe some higher tiered free agents sprinkled in. I mean, they have to get some foundational pieces in here at some point, right?
One of the few veterans to sign a multiyear deal last spring was cornerback Terrance Mitchell, who started 13 games in 2021, intercepting one pass and breaking up 10 others. Well, his two year deal never made it to Year 2, as the Texans released Mitchell on Wednesday evening, freeing up about $3.1 million in salary cap space.
A few thoughts on this move and what comes next:
Why was Mitchell let go? I mean, he started most of last season, right?
Well, yes, he started a bunch of games, and boy was he fun in press conferences, but he was not a good football player. Just because you’re starting for an NFL team doesn’t mean you’re worth keeping around. It IS the Houston Texans’ defense, after all. The original question, as to why Mitchell was let go, is that players like Mitchell are a dime a dozen in the NFL, and the team is better off clearing out the cap space from cutting him than rolling with him for one more season. Hell, there’s a chance they could bring Mitchell back for half the money they just opened up from cutting him.
So does this make cornerback a higher priority in the draft next month?
Absolutely not. Let’s be very clear about one thing — there is nothing that the Texans can do in free agency next week, nor in making roster cuts over the next several days, that should impact the way they approach the draft. They need EVERYTHING. So if Justin Reid is back to play safety on a new deal, this should not alter their thinking one iota on taking someone like Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton with the third overall pick. THEY NEED EVERYTHING, and lots of it.
So where are the Texans with their cap space now?
This bit of Mitchell housecleaning, according to Spotrac, puts the Texans 14th in the league in available cap space, with over $21 million. Right now, it’s worth noting, the two highest cap hits on the roster are quarterback Deshaun Watson ($40.4 million) and left tackle Laremy Tunsil ($26.2 million), a duo who played in a combined five games last season, and who seemingly would like to play in a combined zero games for the Texans next season. Trading either or both of them will open up even more cap space.
Who are the next ones to go when it comes time to free up more cap space?
Aside from the aforementioned trade possibilities of Watson and Tunsil, the Texans will likely be releasing at least two or three more veterans before the start of free agency next week, to open up even more cap space. I would guess you can expect to hear these names in news flashes over the next several days — safety Eric Murray ($5.5 million in cap savings), tackle Marcus Cannon ($5.2 million in cap savings), linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis ($3.1 million in cap savings), and guard Justin McCray ($2.3 million in cap savings).
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