Team Report - HOUSTON TEXANS

The SportsXchange

INSIDE SLANT

Head coach Bill O'Brien will attend quarterback Johnny Manziel's Pro-Day workout Thursday, but the Houston Texans expect to be no closer to determining what to do with the No. 1 overall pick in the May 8 draft.

"All options are open. What is it the end of March? We still have a lot of time. You go back and do re-checks," O'Brien said Tuesday morning at the league meeting. "What fun would it be if you already knew who you were going to pick?"

The Texans and O'Brien, whose background is offense and specifically the quarterback position, are closely evaluating as many as a dozen prospects. O'Brien made it clear the franchise is breaking down players through its own lens, not with the idea that a so-called "big three" exists at that position. Manziel, Central Florida's Blake Bortles and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater are the top three quarterbacks in NFLDraftScout.com's rankings, but Houston worked out Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois) and will invite several others to the team facility next month.

"I can see the strengths and weaknesses with every one of these guys," O'Brien said. "I don't see where there's one or two or three guys that are light years ahead of the rest of these guys. (Alabama's A.J.) McCarron and (Louisiana State's Zach) Mettenberger and Johnny played in the SEC. They won a lot of games. They might have done something right."

Previously, O'Brien told NFL Network, "I don't think there's any question that we'll draft a quarterback in the draft. Where we draft that quarterback, I don't think we know yet. We don't even know that yet. We're still in the process of studying all these prospects, in the process of putting a grade on them and place them where they would be in the draft. The big thing is it's such a long process. We're in the stage now where we go to the Pro Days and eventually we bring them into our facility for an interview, we call it an on-campus interview in Houston. As we get closer and closer we'll obviously be able to make a decision.

"There's not a lot of separation, and there are more quarterbacks than just three. Obviously, the three guys that everybody talks about, Blake, Teddy and Johnny, those guys are good players. They had great college careers. But there are other guys out there. You've got McCarron, you've got Mettenberger, you've got Logan Thomas, you've got (Tom) Savage, you've got Garoppolo. I mean, I could go right down the list. To me, you've got 10 or 12 guys you've got to do a great job of evaluating and make the best pick possible where ever you draft these guys. I see a lot of good quarterbacks."

Texans owner and South Carolina alumnus Bob McNair said in January that Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney would be under consideration with the top pick. Clowney, a rare athlete for his size at 6-5, 265, could play right outside linebacker in coordinator Romeo Crennel's 3-4 defense with the Texans. That would be an epic strain for offensive linemen already contending with defensive end J.J. Watt on the left side. O'Brien said there is no concern over Clowney's work ethic, which has been dogged by media and slighted by college coach Steve Spurrier.

"You go find me a guy who plays 90 plays life-on-the-line every game," O'Brien said. "When the game is on the line, he plays hard. He's an explosive player. He's a productive player. He's an instinctive player. I think it's been blown out of proportion. At the same time, we have to get to know him and keep getting to know him."

Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell said Monday that he believes Manziel, Bortles and Bridgewater are all likely going to need to sit as rookies before they are truly ready to play. That isn't the norm in today's NFL, where second-year quarterback Russell Wilson won the Super Bowl in February in his 37th career start.

The Texans could go that route after signing Ryan Fitzpatrick or use Case Keenum, who remains on the roster after displacing Matt Schaub as the starter during Houston's 2-14 season in 2013.

Like Wilson, a third-round pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2012, size is kicked around as a knock on Manziel, who is 5-11, 200. He won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman in 2012 with a reckless abandon that prompts concern from some scouts. O'Brien said Manziel's success is not fleeting.

He said, "If you watch the Ole Miss game, he might have hurt his ankle early on and he came back. And he threw from the pocket in that game. If you watch him, he's going to be able to do a lot of different things. So, yeah, I think he's sustainable."

Manziel might take shots with his aggressive playing style and O'Brien seemed to be taking one regarding his Thursday sideshow in College Station.

Will the Texans be able to work him out this week?

"I don't think so. He's got his Johnny Day," O'Brien said.

--It was only a matter of time and that time came Friday when the Houston Texans traded quarterback Matt Schaub to the Oakland Raiders for a sixth-round pick in the May draft.

The move came one day after the Texans signed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. They also still have Case Keenum and T.J. Yates on the roster, and are expected to select a quarterback in the draft. The question is whether they will use the first overall selection or a pick later in the draft.

Schaub, 46-44 as a starter, lost his job and his confidence -- not necessarily in that order -- last year during a dreadful series of four consecutive, game-deciding, pick-six interceptions that helped launch the Texans into a 14-game losing streak.

After beginning last season as the starter of a team that some believed could make the Super Bowl, Schaub was booed in Reliant Stadium when it was necessary to put him back into a late-season game. He was even booed while simply warming up.

But after reviewing Schaub's play for last year and before, Raiders coach Dennis Allen seems confident the quarterback will rebound.

In a statement, Texans general manager Rick Smith said, "On behalf of the Houston Texans organization, I'd like to thank Matt Schaub for the contributions he has made to this franchise on and off the field. Matt and his wife, Laurie, have given so much back to the Houston community through their GR8 Hope Foundation and have really served as role models here in so many ways. We wish the entire Schaub Family well in the future."

The Texans save $3.93 million against the cap with the move. He was scheduled to be paid $10 million in base salary, plus about $930,000 in roster bonuses earned last season. That is wiperd off the books, but the Texans will have dead money of $10.5 million for three years of signing bonus proration that accelerates into this year's cap.

As for the draft, team personnel has been busy attending Pro Days. Smith, head coach Bill O'Brien and quarterbacks coach George Godsey were at Pro Days this past week for Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater. Next Thursday, Johnny Manziel will have his personal Pro Day, which the Texans trio will also attend.

Fitzpatrick, who had been released by the Tennessee Titans, signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract that includes $4 million in guaranteed money.

Fitzpatrick started nine games for the Titans last season in place of injured Jake Locker. He completed 217 of 350 passes for 2,454 yards with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

The 31-year-old veteran previously played for the St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills, making 77 career starts since his rookie year in 2005.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The NFL announced each team's preseason schedule without precise dates or times, except for national TV games and the final preseason week in which all games will be on Thurs. Aug. 28. Week 1 games are Aug. 7-10, Week 2 Aug. 14-18 and Week 3 Aug. 21-24.

The Texans will be at home against Atlanta in Week 2 and San Francisco in Week 4, while going on the road against Arizona in Week 1 and Denver in Week 3.

--Tight end Owen Daniels, who missed the last 12 games with a fractured fibula, was released after eight seasons with the Texans. He hadn't passed his end-of-the-season physical.

Daniels, 31, said he was healthy and would have been willing to take a pay reduction. He should become the hottest tight end in free agency.

The Texans saved $4.5 million on the cap by waiving Daniels. They released him despite not having re-signed Garrett Graham, who started 11 games and caught 49 passes for five touchdowns, but Graham was re-signed March 13.

--Defensive end Antonio Smith, 32, had four visits lined up when free agency started with Washington, Tennessee, St. Louis and Oakland. He signed with the Raiders March 14.

He's an 11-year veteran who has started all but two games in five seasons with the Texans. The only game he missed in the last four years was a one-game suspension at the start of last season for swinging a helmet at Miami guard Richie Incognito.

"My heart's with the Texans, but they haven't made me an offer, so I'm taking these visits," Smith said.

--Cornerback Brice McCain, a five-year veteran, was placed on waivers. He saved the Texans $900,000 on the cap. He was the nickel corner every year. He didn't play well the last two seasons, including an injury-plagued 2012.

The defense needs depth at cornerback.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

--Texans running back Arian Foster, who had season-ending back surgery Nov. 15, turned to Twitter to announce he has been cleared by his doctor to return to the field.

"And for those wondering, I've been medically cleared by my doctor," Foster tweeted early Sunday morning.

Foster ran for 542 yards on 121 carries and one touchdown in eight games last season.

Foster worked through several injuries during the 2013 season, a back injury finally finishing his year.

TEAM NEEDS

--QUARTERBACK: Ryan Fitzpatrick will play the role of mentoring of whoever the Texans select in the draft after the subsequent trade of Matt Schaub.

--NOSE TACKLE: Romeo Crennel needs a bulldozer of at least 320 pounds for his two-gap system. They need a starter to replace the lighter Earl Mitchell, and they need depth.

--DEFENSIVE END: With Antonio Smith, who started on the right side for five seasons, gone in free agency, they need a larger starter for the two-gap scheme as well as depth.

PERSONNEL TRACKER

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--OT Ryan Harris was the swing tackle the last two seasons. He rotated at right tackle with Derek Newton. He's best suited for a zone scheme. He's not expected back with the Texans.

--FB Greg Jones left Jacksonville after nine seasons to sign a one-year contract with the Texans because he wanted to compete for the Super Bowl. He's entering his 11th season. He's still a strong blocker but not much of a runner or receiver. He's not expected back.

--RB Deji Karim was signed when injuries decimated the running back position. He's a solid kickoff returner. He's not expected to return.

--LG Wade Smith started at left guard the last three seasons. He played hurt last season and is healthy now. He's been in the league for 11 seasons. He started every game with the Texans since signing with them in 2010. At 33, he'll probably sign a one-year deal for close to the minimum with a team that needs a veteran left guard or a valuable reserve.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

--TE Garrett Graham: UFA; $11.25M/3 yrs, $4.5M guaranteed.

--CB Elbert Mack: UFA; terms unknown.

--LB Ricky Sapp: Potential ERFA; $570,000/1 yr.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--RB Andre Brown: UFA Giants; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--S Chris Clemons: UFA Dolphins; $2.7M/2 yrs, $450,000 SB.

--QB Ryan Fitzpatrick: FA Titans; $7.5M/2 yrs, $4M guaranteed.

--LB Paul Hazel (waivers Browns).

--S Kendrick Lewis: UFA Chiefs; $795,000/1 yr, $100,000 guaranteed.

--NT Ricardo Mathews: UFA Colts; terms unknown.

--DT Jerrell Powe: Not tendered as ERFA by Chiefs; terms unknown.

--WR Mike Thomas: FA; $730,000/1 yr.

PLAYERS LOST

--OLB Bryan Braman: Not tendered as RFA/Eagles; 2 yrs, terms unknown.

--TE Owen Daniels (released).

--LB Evan Frierson (released).

--T Andrew Gardner: UFA Eagles; terms unknown.

--WR Lestar Jean: Not tendered as RFA/Vikings; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--S Danieal Manning (released).

--ILB Joe Mays: UFA Chiefs; $6M/2 yrs.

--CB Brice McCain (released)

--DE Terrell McClain: Not tendered as RFA/Cowboys; 3 yrs, terms unknown.

--DT Earl Mitchell: UFA Dolphins; $16M/4 yrs, $9M guaranteed.

--QB Matt Schaub (traded Raiders).

--ILB Darryl Sharpton: UFA Redskins; terms unknown.

--DE Antonio Smith: UFA Raiders; $9M/2 yrs.

--RB Ben Tate: UFA Browns; $4.7M/2 yrs, $1.5M SB/$2.5M guaranteed ($1.5M total potential per-game RB).

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