On March 13, Jadeveon Clowney, Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson are set to hit free agency. The Texans would like to keep their starting defensive players together if possible, according to general manager Brian Gaine.
"We'll have conversations with their representation this week so want to make an effort to keep all our good players, keep our core players intact," Gaine said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "Those guys are valuable guys so time will tell. Those are works in progress and those conversations will continue to take place here next week and the coming weeks prior to free agency."
NFL teams have until March 5 to use their franchise tag on a player to keep him from hitting the open market, but the Texans have not assigned it to a player yet. Gaine, in his second season as general manager for Houston, is open to using the tag which allows teams until July 15 to work on a long-term contract or extension or play out the 2019 season under the tag.
"It's not the priority but it's certainly an option," Gaine said.
Clowney, who just finished his fifth season with the Texans, worked his way back from microfracture knee surgery in 2014. The three-time Pro Bowler recorded 47 total tackles (38 solo), 9.0 sacks, 21 quarterback hits, 16 tackles for loss, one pass defensed, one forced fumble and a career-high three fumble recoveries, including one returned for a touchdown in 15 regular season games last year.
"I've had a really good experience with JD (Jadeveon Clowney)," head coach Bill O'Brien said Wednesday. "He's played good football for us. He's a good person. I've enjoyed coaching him."
After signing a one-year contract last March, Mathieu matched his career high with 89 total tackles (70 solo), a career-high 3.0 sacks, two interceptions, eight passes defensed, four quarterback hits, five tackles for loss and one fumble recovery in his first season with the Texans.
"He's (Mathieu) a guy that really meant a lot to our locker room," O'Brien said. "I've said it time and time again, this guy came in and was there from the offseason program and then at the end of training camp was voted a team captain. I think that says a lot about the impact he had – not just as a player, he's a good football player, he's a smart football player, he's a versatile player – but also, what he meant leadership-wise in the locker room."
Jackson, a 2009 first-round NFL Draft selection, is the longest tenured Texan on defense. He is tied with Johnathan Joseph as the franchise leader in interceptions with 16. Jackson ranks second in team history with 88 career passes defensed and third in Texans history with 556 total career tackles.
"Kareem had a really good year for us, also," O'Brien said. "He's a versatile player. He's a guy that has leadership qualities. He's been with us since the day I walked in here. He's an original Texan, was drafted as a Texan and has had a good career here."
The 2019 League year and free agency officially begins March 13 at 3 p.m. CT, when all 2018 NFL player contracts officially expire.