Houston Texans 2024 NFL offseason primer: Things looking up thanks to C.J. Stroud, AFC South title

Houston Texans' 2023 season: 10-7, won AFC South, lost in divisional round

Overview: The Texans took a big and surprising step forward in 2023 behind Offensive Rookie of the Year C.J. Stroud, Defensive Rookie of the Year Will Anderson Jr., and first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans.

Houston quickly became one of the NFL's best passing offenses, winning the AFC South and a playoff game before falling to the Ravens in the divisional round. Stroud had arguably the best rookie quarterback season in NFL history, and the advanced metrics placed him firmly in the upper tier of the league's starting QBs, including a rank of third in adjusted net yards per attempt (which incorporates yardage, sacks, touchdowns and interceptions). The eye test was perhaps the ultimate compliment: Stroud belonged immediately.

Anderson helped helm a defense that wasn't great in any particular area but solid overall. Now that side of the ball, especially at defensive back and pass rush, becomes a focal point of improvement for Ryans and general manager Nick Caserio. And the team has been aggressive in filling those holes in free agency.

(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)
(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)


Key free agents

DE Jonathan Greenard
RB Devin Singletary
DT Sheldon Rankins
CB Steven Nelson
WR Noah Brown
K Ka'imi Fairbairn

Who's in/out: Greenard and Singletary were tough losses in free agency, but Houston has also made some major additions, most notably edge rusher Danielle Hunter on a reported two-year deal with $48 million guaranteed. The Texans are also signing RB Joe Mixon, DL Denico Autry, LB Azeez Al-Shaair, and re-signing tight end Dalton Schultz to a three-year contract worth $36 million, including 23.5 million fully guaranteed.

The Texans snagged former Vikings edge rusher Danielle Hunter in one of the bigger free agent signings of the offseason. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
The Texans snagged former Vikings edge rusher Danielle Hunter in one of the bigger free agent signings of the offseason. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Key free-agent needs

Running back
Defensive end
Defensive tackle

Why the holes? Key defenders have been lost in free agency, and the Texans' defense was more passable than lockdown last season. The team has been active in bringing in free-agent defenders, agreeing to deals with three new cornerbacks: Mike Ford, Lonnie Johnson and Jeff Okudah, all on smaller, short-term contracts. Additionally, Devin Singletary signed elsewhere. Do the Texans go back to Dameon Pierce, whose struggles in pass protection are worrisome with Stroud now in the fold? It's an iffy proposition.

Do they have the money?

Yes. Per Spotrac, the Texans have more than $20 million in salary cap space. On the heels of a breakthrough season behind Stroud, the Texans have the flexibility to fill multiple needs.

Potential notable cuts

WR Robert Woods
S Jimmie Ward

Why they might be gone: Woods dropped to fourth on the depth chart last season, and carries a $9.7 million cap hit. Ward was a team captain last season but injury-prone in the first year of a two-year deal, and the Texans may decide his $7.8 million cap hit is too much as they remake their secondary.

2023 NFLPA report card

(Yahoo Sports)
(Yahoo Sports)

Draft picks (compensatory picks TBD)

2nd round: No. 42 (from Vikings)
2nd round: No. 59
3rd round: No. 86 (from Eagles)
4th round: No. 122 (from Browns)
4th round: No. 126
6th round: No. 188 (from Vikings)
7th round: No. 224 (from Cardinals)
7th round: No. 238 (from Saints)
7th round: No. 247

Good draft fit

Texas DL Byron Murphy

Why him? The Texans need help up the middle of their defensive line, and Murphy is a "gap-shooting defensive tackle who can provide explosive plays" who will fit Ryans' style of play perfectly, according to Yahoo Sports draft expert Nate Tice, despite lacking ideal size and strength.

What can move the fantasy football needle this offseason?

The Texans are a real threat to win the AFC in 2024 with C.J. Stroud, Nico Collins and Tank Dell all returning along with the coaching staff. Stroud is already one of the league’s three most valuable players, while Collins and Dell are both going top-30 overall in early fantasy drafts. Collins doesn’t have a fifth-year option since he wasn’t a first-round pick, so he’ll be motivated to put together a huge season while looking for a big contract in 2025.

With Devin Singletary gone, whoever ends up as the Texans’ feature back in 2024 has the upside to finish as a top-five RB in this offense, so this is one of the biggest fantasy stories of the offseason. Dalton Schultz is returning, while Robert Woods will turn 32 during the offseason, so Houston may have a new WR3 in 2024. Regardless, ride Stroud and draft Texans with confidence. — Dalton Del Don