The decision to sign with the Houston Texans was an easy one for safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. and tackle Matt Kalil. Both entered free agency in March and were eager to continue the next chapter of their careers in Houston.
Gipson, who spent the last three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, was overjoyed at the opportunity to return home to Texas.
"It's crazy how it happened," Gipson said Tuesday. "I was actually at dinner with another team when I got the call. I won't share that team with you, but when I got the call, it just was simple. It was like, 'Close the deal right now.' Then I had to finish off dinner with them. It was just one of those situations where as soon as I got cut, the Texans were one of the teams that reached out."
Gipson, a Dallas native, joked that he could reach the maximum limit of family members allotted tickets to Texans games with his home being just three hours and ten minutes north on I-45. But aside from his Texas pride, Gipson sees himself as a good fit for Romeo Crennel's defense.
"It just fits my scheme, fits what I do," Gipson said. "I feel like I'm a versatile safety. If you want to play me in the middle of the field, which is what Jacksonville did, they relied on me heavily there, aside of man-to-man situations. I feel like I'm a versatile guy. If you want to play me close to the line, deep, I think I'm very interchangeable with J-Reid (Justin Reid) and I think this is an awesome opportunity to be here. However they feel like they want to utilize me best, I'm excited about that opportunity. Obviously, we're just getting our feet wet and we haven't cemented a role, but just know the best tight ends that are coming into NRG, I'm going to put the clamps on them."
Kalil, a California native, also has ties to Houston. His dad used to play for the USFL team, the Houston Gamblers. Now an eighth-year offensive tackle and former 2012 first-round (fourth overall) draft selection, Kalil signed with Houston for different reasons. After suffering season-ending injuries in two of his last three seasons (2016 with Minnesota and 2018 with Carolina), Kalil admits his "x-factor" will be health. After not missing a snap for the first four years of his NFL career, Kalil hopes to get back on track with the help of an elite Texans Sports Performance staff. The medical staff and trainers, who helped get the likes of J.J. Watt, Deshaun Watson, Jadeveon Clowney among many others back to full-go, was one major incentive for him to sign with Houston.
"As soon as I got released and I got called up by Houston, I didn't hesitate – came here right away," Kalil said. "Just the way that they run their program, meeting some of the guys in the locker room, meeting a lot of the coaches, their expectations for me, them really wanting me to be here, and just kind of the program they're running. Obviously, they've had a lot of great players who have had setbacks and feel like they have developed a system to keep people healthy and a lot of communication and a lot goes into keeping these guys healthy and coming up with the right schedules for each individual guy. Just kind of hearing that and everything they do really excited me."
After playing in a number of different systems, Kalil's experience in the league should help him learn the Texans playbook. He has blocked for mobile quarterbacks such as Cam Newton and Teddy Bridgewater and is excited to do the same for Deshaun Watson.
"Watching him (Watson) and his presence in the pocket and the talent that kid brings to the offense – he's a tremendous player and to think what he's accomplished with his limited time in the NFL, the sky's the limit for that guy," Kalil said. "To be blocking for a guy like that – a lot of times quarterbacks like him, you get beat and he helps you and he saves you and he makes you look a lot better. I get real excited watching him and I can't wait to get on the field."