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Texans: Free agency snapshot

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- Before the Houston Texans end the drama surrounding the No. 1 overall draft pick in May, general manager Rick Smith and coach Bill O'Brien are set to get their current roster in order. It might be painful.

Significant players not expected to return next season because of the salary cap or their contract expires are quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Ben Tate, left guard Wade Smith, defensive end Antonio Smith and inside linebackers Darryl Sharpton and Joe Mays.

Players on the roster who might move into the starting lineup as replacements are Ben Jones or David Quessenberry at left guard and Jared Crick at defensive end.

Brian Cushing, who spent most of the season on injured reserve, returns at inside linebacker, again.

Schaub's release guarantees nothing for Case Keenum, who went undrafted out of the University of Houston and was inconsistent as Schaub's replacement under coach Gary Kubiak in the middle of the 2013 season. Of course, Houston ended the season with 14 consecutive losses, and many believe that answers the question as to whether Keenum could be the answer.

More realistically, the Texans must determine if Keenum is even one of the multiple choice options when training camp begins in July.

Those who followed O'Brien at New England and Penn State say he loves coaching quarterbacks. He will have at least two new ones with the Texans, including a first-round draft choice.

"I think that's a fantastic position to coach because of all the things that go into it," he said. "Let's start with off the field. The quarterback has to be a great teammate, a leader, a hard worker, a really good practice player, a guy that's always striving for perfection knowing that he's probably not going to get perfection, but he's going to reach some level of excellence.

"On the field, it's a position that has to really have great knowledge not only of your own offense and your own teammates' talents on offense, but also he has to have a great knowledge of defensive football and the talents of the defensive players that you're going against.

"It's a job that's never-ending. It's a job that you can always improve at doing, coaching quarterbacks, and it's a lot of fun to do."

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--RB Ben Tate: They can't afford to re-sign him.

--TE Garrett Graham: They must re-sign him because new coach Bill O'Brien likes to use multiple tight ends, and he had 49 catches and five touchdowns.

--LG Wade Smith: He won't be re-signed.

--DE Antonio Smith: They'll re-sign him if he takes close to the minimum, but he's looking for more.

--NT Earl Mitchell: They want to re-sign him.

--ILB Darryl Sharpton: Played his best season but won't be back unless he takes the minimum.

--ILB Joe Mays: He's not expected to return.

--OT Ryan Harris: He's not expected to return.

--FB Greg Jones: He's not expected to return.

--OT Andrew Gardner: He might be re-signed for the minimum.

--RB Deji Karim: He won't be re-signed.

--CB Elbert Mack: He won't be re-signed.
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