As the Houston Texans work to replace Rick Smith with a new general manager (GM); let’s take a look at some of the first decisions the new GM will need to make concerning the current roster and the scheduled free agent group for the 2018 league year. Below we will discuss the types of free agents, which players for the Texans are scheduled free agents, and which players the team may choose to attempt to retain.
The Texans have 22 players scheduled to become free agents of various designations. The three types of free agents are: Unrestricted, Restricted, and Exclusive Rights. At the completion of a player contract the type of free agent status is based on the number of accrued seasons the player has earned. To earn an accrued season the player will have needed to be on the roster at full pay rate for at least 6 weeks during the regular season; this includes players on PUP & Injured Reserve. Players on Non Football Injury/Illness (NFI) or Suspension lists do not accrue seasons. A player must have 4 accrued seasons to become an unrestricted free agent, 3 accrued seasons to become a restricted free agent, and players with 2 or less accrued seasons will be exclusive rights free agents.
Unrestricted Free Agents – 16
Unrestricted free agents are able to discuss new contracts with any organization at the start of the 2018 free agency period (March 12th, 2018). However the player can negotiate a new contract extensions with their current team at any time.
|Alfred Blue||RB||Test the market, try to retain.|
|Marcus Gilchrist||S||Test the market, try to retain.|
|Eddie Pleasant||S||Test the market, look at retain.|
|Xavier Sua’Filo||G||Retain (yes seriously)|
The only difficult player to retain should be Johnathan Joseph since he has stated he plans to test the market. The Texans will likely have to wait to see what the market determines Joseph’s value to be. Joseph’s age will be a big factor however the market for cornerbacks is quite weak after you get past the top 3 or 4 names. If Joseph is able to pull in more than $8 million per year, the Texans might decide to let him walk and use that money on a younger free agent.
Think what you want but Xavier Su’A-Filo started to turn things around the last 7 games of the 2017 season. He would be a good player to sign to have compete for the job, and at a minimum would be an excellent depth asset for the offensive line. Su’A-Filo could likely be signed on a two year contract averaging $5-6 million per year with a partial guarantee in 2018.
The Ellington’s would be of minimal cost and the team could likely give it time before signing them to ensure their market value is aligned with the team’s thinking. Shane Lechler would likely take another 1 year contract similar to his last two contracts with Houston.
Marcus Gilchrist will be a wildcard in a weak safety market. Gilchrist is a former 2nd round draft pick in 2011 and played in all 16 games while posting a PFF grade of 77.2 (52nd among safeties). The Texans cloud look to bring Gilchrist back on a low two year contract averaging $4-5 million per year; but there are options to replace Gilchrist if the market pays more. For comparison Andre Hal’s extension averaged $5.0 million per year.
Restricted Free Agents – 4
Restricted free agents have the ability to discuss contracts with other teams after the new league year starts. The Texans will need to place a tender on the players they wish to have first right of refusal on. The team can place one of three tenders on the player: First Round Tender, Second Round Tender, or Original Round Tender. If the player is tendered and signs a contract (offer sheet) with another team; the Texans have the right to match the offer sheet or allow the player to sign with the new team and receive a draft pick matching the tender value. Keep in mind the team could reach a contract extension with their restricted free agents and not worry about the tender process. Here are the salary cap charges for each tender (projected):
First Round Tender: $4,152,000
Second Round Tender: $2,916,000
Original Round Tender: $1,908,000
*Projected amounts sourced from OverTheCap.com
|Greg Mancz||C/G||2nd Round|
|Angelo Blackson||DE||Original Round|
|Brian Peters||LB||No Tender|
|Ben Heeney||LB||No Tender|
Greg Mancz has stepped in at both Center and Guard in the past two seasons when a starter became injured and has played sufficiently well during that time. I expect the Texans to attempt to extend Mancz but likely that he will decline. Rather he would explore the market or play on the tender and try again as an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
Angelo Blackson has been a great find for the Texans filling in on the defensive line on the back half of the season. Blackson was a 4th round draft pick by Tennessee in 2015. Placing an original tender on Blackson should be enough to keep teams from offering him a contract, and will give the team a full season to evaluate his play before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
Exclusive Rights – 2
Exclusive Rights free agents have no power in free agency. The Texans will extend an ERFA tender to both players. At that point the player can only negotiate with the Texans. The tender amount will be the minimum based on the player’s credited season count.
The deadline for the Houston Texans to designate their tenders for Restricted & Exclusive Rights Free Agents is 3PM on March 14th, 2018.