Through two weeks of free agency, the Texans have quietly added players at key positions without a high-cost splash signing. In Brian Gaine's second offseason as general manager, the strategy is clear: build through the draft and rely on free agency as a secondary means of adding depth.
"I think free agency is tough," head coach Bill O'Brien said at Tuesday's NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix. "You try to do the best you can to keep your team together. We're not going to build our team through free agency. We try to build it through the draft, but there are some things that come up in free agency that you have to address and talk about, and I think we've done a good job of that. I wish we could keep guys, but based on how the system works we feel like we've done a good job of improving the roster."
So far, the Texans have signed six free agents this offseason: safety Tashaun Gipson Sr., cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Briean Boddy-Calhoun, tight end Darren Fells, quarterback A.J. McCarron and offensive tackle Matt Kalil. O'Brien is pleased with the direction of the evolving roster.
"I feel good. I'm not going to talk about each guy specifically, but I think we've definitely improved the roster," O'Brien said. "When we get these guys in here on April 15, we can start to teach them about our culture, the way we do things and basically indoctrinate them into the Houston Texans program. I feel really good about the guys that we were able to bring in."
Last year's draft class still made significant contributions on the field. Safety Justin Reid had 10 passes defensed, one quarterback hit, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and seven special teams tackles in 16 games as a rookie. Tight ends Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas saw action in all 16 games with Thomas scoring four touchdowns as a rookie for the second-most touchdown receptions by a rookie in franchise history. Rookie offensive lineman Martinas Rankin started three games at left tackle and once at left guard in addition to contributing on offense as an extra lineman. Wide receiver Keke Coutee Finished with 28 receptions for 287 yards (10.3 avg.) and one touchdown in his six regular season games while catching 11 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown in his playoff debut.
With the 2019 NFL Draft just one month away, the Texans will have three selections in the first two rounds, a luxury they did not have in 2018.
The NFL Draft begins Thursday, April 25 in Nashville and the Texans will have the following selections:
Round 1 23rd overall
Round 2 54th overall (Seattle)
Round 2 55th overall
Round 3 86th overall
Round 5 161st overall
Round 6 195th overall
Round 7 220th overall (New York, via trade with Denver)