Over the next few weeks, "Shutdown Corner" will pay homage to "Office Space" (TPS reports) as we take a quick look back at each team's 2012 season and a look at what lies ahead for the 2013 offseason. We wrap up the AFC South with the Houston Texans.
2012 record: 12-4
What went wrong: Before the start of the 2012 season, the Texans signed quarterback Matt Schaub to a four-year, $62 million extension with $25.25 million in guaranteed money. Schaub responded with a 4,000-yard season during which he tossed 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, but had just one touchdown (and three interceptions) in the final month of the season and those struggles carried over into the postseason. The Texans were dealt a cruel blow when inside linebacker Brian Cushing was lost to a torn ACL courtesy of an illegal block by New York Jets guard Matt Slauson, who was fined $10,000 by the NFL.
According to Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted metrics, the Texans had the league's worst special teams units in 2012.
What went right: Running back Arian Foster (five-years, $43.5 million) and left tackle Duane Brown (six-years, $53.4 million) proved they were worth the big-money extensions. Foster ranked sixth in the NFL with 1,424 yards and led the league with 15 rushing touchdowns. Brown anchored a unit that ranked ninth in Football Outsiders' "Adjusted Line Yards" and "Adjusted Sack Rate" metrics, earning Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors. Defensive end J.J. Watt received 49 of the 50 votes for the 2012 Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award after leading the NFL with 20.5 sacks and tying for the Texans' lead with 16 passes defensed. The 6-foot-6, 295-pound Watt had 39 tackles for a loss, 42 hits on opposing quarterbacks, forced four fumbles, recovered two and was the best player on a defense that ranked third in Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) metric.
Coaching/front office changes: None.
Estimated 2013 cap space: $6.037 million
Possible cap casualties: The Texans have an extensive list of unrestricted free agents and have just over $6 million in space to work with after wide receiver Andre Johnson triggered a $3.3 million base salary escalator in his contract. Johnson now has a cap number of $14.852 million for the upcoming season and will likely be asked to restructure his contract (again) to free up cap space. Also on the Texans' "contract restructure to-do" list: Cornerback Johnathan Joseph ($7.5 million cash, $11.25 million cap number), quarterback Matt Schaub ($7.25 million cash, $10.75 million cap number), defensive end Antonio Smith ($6 million in cash, $9.5 million cap number) and running back Arian Foster, who is due $5.75 million in cash and has a cap hit of $8.25 million this season.
Fellow wide receiver Kevin Walter is likely to be asked to take a(nother) pay cut as the No. 2 receiver, who caught 41 passes for 516 yards and two touchdowns last season, is scheduled to earn $3.5 million in base salary. If Walter were released, the Texans would gain $2.5 million in cap space. Veteran guard Wade Smith would save the Texans $3 million in cash and cap space if he were released.
Unrestricted free agents
Alan Ball, CB/S
Connor Barwin, LB
Rashad Butler, OT
Antoine Caldwell, G
James Casey, FB/TE
Shaun Cody, NT
Quintin Demps, S
Tim Dobbins, LB
Jusin Forsett, RB
Keyaron Fox, LB
Shayne Graham, K
Ryan Harris, OT
Bradie James, LB
Donnie Jones, P
Brice McCain, CB
Jesse Nading, LB
Glover Quin, S
Stanford Routt, CB
Barrett Ruud, LB
Restricted free agents
Andrew Gardner, OT
RFA tender amounts in 2013 are:
• $1.323 million for right of first refusal and/or original draft round compensation
• $2.023 for right of first refusal and second round draft selection
• $2.879 for right of first refusal and first round draft selection
Franchise Tag candidates: According to John McClain, who provides blanket coverage of the Texans for the Houston Chronicle, the Texans' top priority will be keeping versatile safety Glover Quin, a 2009 fourth-round pick out of New Mexico who led the Texans in tackles last season (84) and finished second in that department in 2010 and 2011. Based on a projected league-wide cap number of $121.1 million, the franchise tag for a safety will be worth around $6.809 million, so the Texans would need to clear cap space to use the tender on Quin.
Previous installments of the "Offseason TPS Reports" series:
AFC East: New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns
AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts