Houston Texans 2021 free agency target: DE Deatrich Wise

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Mark Lane
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Defensive line has become an even greater need for the Houston Texans.

The departure of J.J. Watt only intensifies a problem that was already manifest for the 2020 Texans. Now, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year leaving means the Texans have to address the issue lest they continue to be porous against the run and fail to pressure opposing quarterbacks.

A name to keep an eye on during free agency is New England Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise. The former 2017 fourth-round pick from Arkansas was with the AFC East club while current Texans general manager Nick Caserio was the director of player personnel in New England.

Pro Football Focus has him as their 105th-best free agent, and predict he will sign a three-year, $21 million contract to stay with the Patriots.

An intriguing option, Deatrich Wise Jr. has played all over the defensive line in New England. He has generally been a very efficient pass-rusher but close enough to a liability in the run game that his role for the Patriots was reduced until injuries forced him back into more playing time. Wise has 57 total pressures on 452 pass-rushing snaps over the past two years and a top-10 pass-rush win rate over that time. If he lands in a spot that cares less about the run than New England, his best football could be in front of him.

The Texans will need as much versatility from their defensive linemen as possible as they transition from a 3-4 scheme, which has been deployed since 2011, and adapt to defensive coordinator Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2. Wise would be able to be a “hold the fort guy” in year one, and ultimately transition to finding a stable role on the defensive line for the final two years of his contract.

Wise produced 49 combined tackles, two tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and a fumble recovered for a touchdown in 16 games, seven of which he started for New England in 2020.