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Targets set, Texans "chomping at the bit" for free agency


The Texans added eight players to their team in the 2011 draft. Now, they're playing the waiting game for free agency along with 31 other teams.

Whenever the league's labor situation is resolved, the Texans will be ready.

"We're going to be as aggressive as we can be, like we always are," Texans general manager Rick Smith said last week at the Texans' Charity Golf Classic. "It's odd this year, of course, because we've had the draft first, but in a lot of respects, it gives you an idea to really pinpoint where you think you need to go and try to address. We certainly have done that.

"We're chomping at the bit, both from a collegiate free agent standpoint as well as an unrestricted and restricted free agent standpoint. We're ready to go."

After ranking 30th in defense last season, including 32nd against the pass, the Texans used six of their eight draft picks on defensive players. Their top two picks were J.J. Watt, a defensive end, and Brooks Reed, an outside linebacker.

So what are they looking for in free agency?

"We'll see whenever it comes," new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. "I think our front seven right now is pretty solid. I think we've got a really good group on paper – what I've seen, what I think. We've got a pretty good group up front. We've got a lot of young secondary people that need to come on, and we'll see about free agency."

Most fans want to know if the Texans will pursue Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, a four-time Pro Bowler who'll be an unrestricted free agent. Asomugha, 29, likely will command a contract that will make him one of the highest-paid defensive players in NFL history.

The Texans haven't spoken publicly about Asomugha, and league rules prohibit them from talking about any players from other teams until free agency begins.

Texans coach Gary Kubiak did say that the safety position "continues to be something that we're looking at." Even if the Texans move cornerback Glover Quin to free safety as expected, they could add a veteran strong safety to compete with Troy Nolan, Dominique Barber and Torri Williams.

Wide receiver could be another area of need. Jacoby Jones, who started seven games last season, is a four-year veteran who will be a restricted free agent.

"There are some unknowns there," offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. "If we lose guys, we maybe need guys. We're going to wait and see."

Aside from not knowing when free agency will start, the Texans also don't know exactly which players will be available.

If free agency operates under the same rules as last year, players will be required to have six seasons of experience before they can become unrestricted. If the rules return to the way they were before last year, players would become unrestricted after four seasons.

"We've almost prepared for free agency like three times, so we know these guys very well," Kubiak said. "The list (of free agents) is real big when you think about these rules and it's very small when you think about some other rules that could be in effect. But the bottom line, we know who's there. We know who we want to chase, so to speak, when the time comes.

"I think us adding some veterans to our football team is very important. I think it would be a welcome addition to our players. I've heard some of them speak about that. There's two ways you get better in the offseason, the draft and free agency, and we're halfway there."

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