With the 2012-13 NFL season now officially in the books, the offseason will soon kick into full swing. Free agency begins on March 12, which is the first day of the new League Year. The Houston Texans have eleven players on their roster who will be unrestricted free agents. That group is headlined by two starters on defense, free safety Glover Quin and outside linebacker Connor Barwin. The Texans fourth round pick in 2009 out of New Mexico, Quin led the Texans with 85 solo tackles this season. He also added 14 passes defensed and two interceptions, and two forced fumbles.
Quin is an important part of Wade Phillips defense. After playing cornerback in his first two seasons, Quin moved to safety when Phillips became Houston’s defensive coordinator in 2011. His versatility has paid dividends in the Texans secondary, as he played strong safety last season and free safety this season. Quin has 247 tackles over the last three seasons, which is more than any other Texans player. He definitely will be a top priority for the Texans to re-sign once the free agency period begins.
Three other starters on defense, Barwin, ILB Bradie James, and NT Shaun Cody are also free agents. Like Quin, Barwin and James started all 16 games this season. Barwin saw his production dip this season after a breakout 2011 season where he led the team with 11.5 sacks. He had only three sacks in 2012, to go along with 44 tackles. James, in his first season with Houston had 77 tackles and a half a sack. His experience of playing under Phillips in Dallas proved important when Brian Cushing was lost for the season in week 5, as James took over calling out the defensive signals in the middle.
Other free agents on the Texans defense include CB Brice McCain, CB Alan Ball and ILB Tim Dobbins. McCain also saw his season cut short when he went down with a broken foot in week 13. His loss, while not as big as Cushing’s, was also another blow to the Houston defense. As the Texans slot corner, McCain has been solid the last two seasons in Phillips’ defense. Dobbins, one of the Texans special teams captains, also replaced Cushing at inside linebacker. He started until he suffered an injury in the season finale that caused him to miss the playoffs.
Houston has only two free agents on offense, starting fullback James Casey and RB Justin Forsett. The versatile Casey saw his role expand this season in his first year starting. He caught 34 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to being the lead blocker for the Houston running backs. Forsett was the third running back but ended up finishing second on the team in rushing with 374 yards. He averaged 5.9 YPC and had the Texans longest run from scrimmage, an 81 yard touchdown.
The final two Texans free agents are the veteran kickers. Both placekicker Shayne Graham and punter Donnie Jones signed one year deals prior to the season. Graham made the fifth most field goals in the league and was 31-38 on field goals this season. Five of his seven misses were from 50 or more yards out. Jones was solid, averaging 47.2 yards per punt and pinning 28 punts inside of the 20 yard line. The Texans would like to bring back Jones in 2013. If Graham is brought back he would have to beat out Randy Bullock, last year’s draft pick who missed his entire rookie season with an injury.