After losing Tyrann Mathieu to the Kansas City Chiefs and Kareem Jackson to the Denver Broncos, Texans’ General Manager Brian Gaine had to act quickly to replace two 16-game starters from a year ago. Enter Tashaun Gipson and Bradley Roby. The Texans signed Gipson to a three-year, $22 million deal to start alongside Justin Reid in the secondary after spending the past three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Although receiving interest and multi-year offers from other teams, Bradley Roby signed a one-year, $10 million prove-it deal with the Texans, citing that he’d like to hit free agency again next year. While these aren’t flashy signings for a team that has over $70 million in cap-space, both players have shown that they can be capable starters on good defenses.
The Jaguars were forced to cut Gipson after failing to find a trade partner to take on the remaining two years of his contract. Over three seasons and 48 starts with the Jaguars, Gipson managed 159 tackles, 16 pass breakups and 6 interceptions. Tyrann Mathieu over the same time had 202 tackles, 19 pass breakups and 5 interceptions. Gipson won’t offer what Mathieu does in the run game, but is better suited to cover opposing tight ends. In 2018, Gipson held Rob Gronkowski to two catches for 15 yards and Travis Kelce to four catches for 26 yards. This was certainly a reason Gipson was targeted, as most Texans fans remember the 12-catch, 110 yard, two touchdown performance by Zach Ertz towards the end of the 2018 season. ProFootballFocus graded Gipson as the 29th best coverage safety of 2018, compared to 38th for Mathieu. Considering the former Pro-Bowler is set to make half of what Mathieu signed for, the Texans get an A for this pickup.
Former Bronco Bradley Roby had an up-and-down career in Denver, but finds himself in a position to prove his worth as an outside corner with the Texans. After playing third-fiddle to Chris Harris and Aquib Talib for the first few years of his career, Roby started all but one game in 2018, totaling 50 tackles, 12 pass deflections and one interception. With both Talib and Harris ahead of him, Roby played a lot on the inside—and excelled, posting an above average grade of 78.3 in 2017 according to PFF. In 2018, however, Roby’s grade dropped to 59.8, which ranked 89th among all qualified corners. With Aaron Colvin penciled in as the slot corner in this defense, it looks as though Roby has a chance to be the Texans number two corner behind Johnathan Joseph—depending on what they do in the draft. If Roby excels with the Texans, expect him to cash in in 2019, just like Tyrann Mathieu did.
Most of the top free agents have already agreed to deals with their new teams, however, value still remains. The Texans should add another body at cornerback. Ronald Darby, Morris Claiborne and Rashaan Melvin could be options for Houston. Additionally, former San Diego Charger Jason Verrett is set to visit the Texans.
Keep an eye on the tight end market, as the Texans could consider Darren Fells or Jermaine Gresham to be their ‘Y’ tight end after being cut from their respective teams. Adding a blocking tight end would boost the Texans run game and allow Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins to focus more on their receiving duties.
It doesn’t look as though the Texans will add any significant pieces to the offensive line through free agency. As Brian Gaine said in his combine press conference, the Texans think the draft is the best place to find future starters for the line. Former Jaguar Jaremy Parnell and former Falcon Ryan Schraeder are the best remaining tackles on the market. It’s looking more and more like pick 23 will be used on a new right tackle.
The new league year has just begun. Although the Texans didn’t make any major moves during the first wave of free agency, expect them to closely monitor other teams’ cuts and add value through a wave of smaller signings.