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Houston Texans

Texans address free agency


Wide receiver André Davis would like to sign a multi-year contract and finish his career with the Texans.

Rick Smith raced from interview to interview Monday, barely fitting in a bowl of soup for lunch.

Smith's time is a rare commodity these days as he begins to make offseason personnel moves. The Texans' general manager is looking forward to the NFL draft in April, but his first order of business is free agency.

The Texans have 15 unrestricted free agents going into the offseason. Smith can try to sign any of them to extensions prior to free agency, which begins Feb. 29. After that, players can talk with other teams, so Smith is hard pressed to determine who he wants to return to the team.

"The first step in that whole process is to evaluate your football team," Smith said. "We are now in some exhaustive meetings to talk about our team, to really assess the positions of strengths and weaknesses so that we know that once we do start to acquire players, we are doing so in a manner that is going to help us become the team that we are trying to become."

To become a playoff-bound team, the Texans recognize that they need to re-sign several free agents, namely wide receiver André Davis and linebacker Danny Clark.

"André Davis and Danny Clark – those are guys that we signed to free agent deals last year," Smith said. "They came in and had positive contributions, and we want to keep them around."

Clark, an eight-year veteran who has played with four different teams, is not shy about wanting to negotiate a multi-year contract with Houston.

"I was speaking to some children here at the stadium a few weeks ago," Clark said. "They were asking, 'What's the toughest part of your job?' and I said, 'Moving.' The turnover rate in this business is high. The toughest part is having to move, so hopefully that's not the case this year.

"I would like to stay here. I bought a home here. I would like to stay, but at the end of the day I understand the business."

Davis holds more bargaining chips than any of the team's unrestricted free agents, finishing the season as the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month in December and delivering the best season of his career. The six-year veteran returned three kickoffs for touchdowns and averaged 30.3 yards on kickoff returns, and had a career-high 583 receiving yards with three receiving touchdowns.

Texans' Restricted Free Agents

Texans' Exclusive Rights Free Agents

Davis feels confident he did his job and now he is letting his agent, Kennard McGuire, assume control.

"I know I put my all out there on the field, and I've done my part," Davis said. "So now it's the business side of it where he's going to be able to negotiate, and I can sit back and just hear what's really going on and make a decision from there."

Davis hopes the outcome will be a long-term deal that will allow him to finish his career with the Texans.

"I just want to take it year-by-year," Davis said. "Right now, hopefully I will be able to sign a multi-year contract and hopefully this will be my last one and I can just go out with a bang from here."

Davis and Clark highlight a list of unrestricted free agents which also includes Fred Weary, Ron Dayne, Mark Bruener, N.D. Kalu, Charlie Anderson, Matt Turk, Von Hutchins, Will Demps, Michael Boulware, Glenn Earl, Jason Simmons, Roc Alexander and Dexter Wynn.

Smith said the Texans won't let good players walk out of Reliant Stadium, which means that he will take a hard look at bringing back Dayne and Demps.

Dayne averaged four yards per carry and led the team in rushing with 773 yards. Demps proved himself as a legitimate starting safety and was named an alternate to the Pro Bowl.

The litany of injuries suffered by the secondary, including Earl and Simmons, certainly will influence how the front office handles the seven defensive backs in free agency. Hutchins showed his versatility, starting 14 games and playing both safety and cornerback. Boulware provided steady relief at strong safety.

Bruener and Kalu also signed one-year deals last year and have said they want to finish out their careers in Houston. Bruener has spent 13 years in the league and was the team's primary blocking tight end. Kalu, a 10-year veteran, finished third on the team in sacks with three.

Turk won starting punting duties last season, but could be competing for the job this year. The 14-year veteran finished 11th in the league with a net average of 37.9 yards.

"In this business, you just never know," Turk said. "If you would have asked me at this time last year if I thought about going back to St. Louis, I probably would have bet the house that I was going back to St. Louis after I had the year I had there. So I guess you just wait and see and hope and pray and just be happy to be working."

As for the restricted free agents, the Texans must decide how they want to tender offers to four players: safety C.C. Brown, guard Scott Jackson, defensive tackle Anthony Maddox and wide receiver Jerome Mathis.

Then, there are six exclusive rights free agents who have been in the league for two years or less. These players, including running back Darius Walker, can't negotiate with other teams unless the Texans don't make a minimum qualifying offer.

Smith has acknowledged that the running back and cornerbacks positions are two areas of focus for the Texans, but it's just the beginning of an evaluation and decision-making process to get the team to where it needs to be next season.

"Those are two areas," Smith said, "but we are going to meet here on Wednesday with our entire coaching staff and our pro scouting department to talk about our team and really hone in on where we think we need to go and players we think we need to address."

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