Fantasy Football

Go ahead, admit it.

You saw the list of unprotected players the NFL released Friday and your fantasy football mechanism kicked in. Tony Boselli? Jamal Anderson? Keenan McCardell? Rob Johnson? Are you kidding me?

Now before you start printing those AFC South champion banners, Texans head coach Dom Capers would like you take a deep breath.

"When you look initially at the list, it excites you," Capers said Friday. "But as you start to dissect the list and add up the numbers, you have to start projecting where a guy can be in three to four years.

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Rob Johnson's salary cap hit for 2002 is projected to be over $11 million.

"Will he be contributing? Can he do it with the salary structure he has now? How does that fit into our master plan? Then you start to look at it in a different light than when you did initially."

Translation? The Texans might indeed land a few of those heavy hitters. But the team's general long-term philosophy will not change.

"Fans want to win and we're all fans here," Texans general manager Charley Casserly said. "So you've got to do everything you can to win, not to collect names that everybody will get excited about in the off-season. You've got to collect names that help you win."

For instance, the Texans could very well assemble, say, a dream offensive line of (left to right) Tony Boselli, Randall McDaniel, Bruce Matthews, Wally Williams and John Fina. Those five players have 31 Pro Bowls between them.

They would also cost a combined 26.5 million. Which begs the question, who would they block for?

Make no mistake, the Texans will trot out some familiar names at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Feb. 18. But the focus will be on quality, not necessarily quantity.

"I'd be surprised if we don't take some names in this expansion draft that are recognizable," Casserly said. "I think the difference between the perception right now and the reality is how many of those names."

Now Casserly, Capers and the rest of the club's football staff have some research on their collective hands. Nine boxes from the league offices in New York were delivered to the Texans at 10 a.m. this morning. Seven were filled with medical records, the other two with contracts. Head athletic trainer Kevin Bastin sat down with the team doctors to pour over the medical records, while director of negotiations Dan Ferens and manager of player information Tom Halligan studied the contracts. They will continue that work through the weekend.

Neither Capers nor Casserly would comment on specific players. But Capers indicated certain positions are tougher to find than others.

"From an offensive standpoint, the offensive tackles are very hard to come by," Capers said. "From a defensive standpoint, corners and defensive linemen are very hard to come by. And I know we'll have to place a lot of emphasis on special teams with where we'll be as a team."

So let the speculation begin. It's part of what makes the expansion process so much fun. Just don't be disappointed if the Texans fail to assemble an all-star squad in mid-February.

"You know," Capers said. "You can have a blueprint for a 9-7 team and probably get there a lot quicker than you can if your blueprint is to eventually win the championship."

And that, for the Texans, is the primary goal.

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