In the second wave of free agency, the Houston Texans added depth across multiple position groups, signing AJ McCarron, Darren Fells, Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Matt Kalil to one-year deals. Let’s take a look at each player the Texans added as well as how they might impact the team going forward.
According to ProFootballFocus, Fells posted a grade higher than every Texans’ tight end in 2018. In 420 snaps with the Browns, Fells was one of the league’s best pass blocking tight ends, posting an above average grade of 72.9. Ryan Griffin, Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins posted pass blocking grades of 56, 56 and 37, respectively. With clear issues at both tackle spots, the addition of Fells will help the Texans scheme against edge rushers. In the passing game, Fells has career stats of 68 catches for 830 yards (12.2 yards-per-catch) and 10 touchdowns. At 6’7’’, Fells has a chance to add to his touchdown total in the red-zone. Bringing in a capable “Y” tight end was crucial for Houston, so the signing of Fells during the second wave of free agency gets an A+ in my book.
Briean Boddy-Calhoun was primarily a nickel corner for the Browns from 2016-2018, playing in 43 and starting in 21 games for Cleveland. It’s hard to see where Boddy-Calhoun fits in this Houston defense, as the team recently signed Bradley Roby to a one-year deal. Roby is also primarily suited in the slot, as well as 2017 free agent addition Aaron Colvin. With three slot corners now on the roster, Romeo Crennel must find ways to effectively utilize the talent he has on the defense. At 5’9’’, Boddy-Calhoun shouldn’t see much time on the outside, but with 19 career pass breakups and 3 interceptions, he should see playing time as a reserve corner. His 62.9 coverage grade in 2018 ranked higher than every Texans’ corner not named Johnathan Joseph.
AJ McCarron was almost traded to the Cleveland Browns for a second and third round pick just two seasons ago, so the Texans are getting a player that many have been high on in the past. In four seasons as Andy Dalton’s backup in Cincinnati, McCarron played in just 10 games, completing 66% of his passes for 920 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. Since being drafted in 2014, many believed McCarron would be an eventual starter in the NFL. Prior to the 2018 season, the Buffalo Bills signed McCarron to a two-year, $10 million deal for him to compete for the starting quarterback position. After losing that battle to Nathan Peterman and rookie Josh Allen, McCarron was traded to the Oakland Raiders to be Derek Carr’s backup. Now with the Texans, McCarron has a chance to become Deshaun Watson’s long-term backup. It was clear that the Texans needed an upgrade over Brandon Weeden, who—outside of decent starting experience—offered little upside as a 35-year-old backup. Although signing just a one-year deal with Houston, expect McCarron to be brought back if he performs well in 2019.
Brother of long-time Carolina Panther Ryan Kalil, Matt Kalil was drafted fourth overall by the Minnesota Vikings in 2012, earning a trip to the Pro-Bowl in his rookie campaign. Starting every game during his first four seasons in the league, Kalil had the looks of a franchise left-tackle. Injuries, unfortunately, derailed Kalil’s career. Playing in just 18 games since 2016, Kalil’s early success hasn’t been duplicated. According to PFF, his average grade over his first four seasons was a 72.2, which would have ranked him has the 28th overall tackle in the NFL in 2018—ahead of players like Trent Brown, Ja’Wuan James and Jason Peters. Since then, however, Kalil has posted grades of 52.4 and 63.1. With the Texans, Kalil will have a shot at starting at right tackle despite his injury history and poor performance. At worst, Kalil could serve as a veteran backup to Julien Davenport and whoever starts on the right side of the line.