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Draft Process Could Hinge on Barwin

On Thursday, General Manager Rick Smith said the Houston Texans have made it a priority to re-sign Connor Barwin for the 2013 season and beyond. He is considered a "core-player" according to Smith and the preliminary discussions with Barwin's agent, Scott Smith (XAM Sports), will start this weekend in Indianapolis at the 2013 NFL Combine. Word is that Barwin was offered a lucrative deal at the beginning of the 2012 season, but turned it down to chance on building on his 2011 breakout season. Barwin had a solid season, but did not provide the splash plays that would consider him a difference maker.

Barwin seems to be the player that could shape the Texans' 2013 mentality heading into the draft, and it all hinges on if the team can bring him back.

If They Don't Re-sign Him:

The linebackers will project to look like this.

Outside Linebacker: Brooks Reed, Whitney Mercilus, Bryan Braman and DeLano Johnson

Inside Linebacker:Brian Cushing, Darryl Sharpton

The Texans could possibly be in worse shape if they do not re-sign Barwin, and this could leave them thin at both positions. The Texans would have to go look for another starter at inside linebacker and depth to help Reed and Mercilus with snaps during games. Braman is strictly a special teams player and not ready for an extended role on defense, while Johnson (6-4, 280 lbs.) was on the practice squad in 2012. He could be a dark horse to make the active roster but is still a question mark.

The inside linebackers are even more of an issue, especially when both Cushing and Sharpton will be coming back from injuries that landed them on the injured reserve in 2012. Cushing should be ready to go even with his torn ACL at the beginning of training camp. Sharpton has not finished a season in his career where he has not been on the injured reserve, and he has only played 27 games in the past three seasons.

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Not re-signing Barwin could thin out the linebackers more than ever and put the team with more holes to fill and trusting in players who could be fillers once again, like Bradie James. The Texans would have to look to find another starter and look inside the top 2 rounds to fill the inside linebacker position if they did not find one in free agency. They could possibly miss out on the wide receiver they seem to be coveting to help out on offense opposite of Andre Johnson. There are too many moving pieces that the Texans are dealing with that are not guaranteed to work.

If They Re-sign Him:

Brooks Reed #58

Brooks Reed #58

The linebackers will project to look like this.

Outside Linebacker:Brooks Reed, Connor Barwin, Whitney Mercilus, Bryan Braman and DeLano Johnson

Inside Linebacker: Brian Cushing, Darryl Sharpton

This is where it gets interesting for the Texans if they can find a way to bring Barwin back to Houston. The re-signing of Barwin could possibly lead to the move of Brooks Reed to the inside linebacker to help Cushing, and the team has been talking publicly about Reed moving inside. Either way you look at the position group, keeping Reed on the outside would give the team a seasoned group with Barwin and Mercilus. If they move Reed inside, the starting linebackers, who all received plenty of snaps in 2012, could be a nice group. Reed, Cushing, Barwin and Mercilus could be an impressive group on the field and already an improved group from 2012.

This move could also allow the Texans to look for offensive help early in the draft with the starting defense intact with the exception of nose tackle. Later in the draft, the Texans could draft young to provide depth at both linebacker positions or find some veterans to help too in free agency for a reasonable price tag. This is a more controlled situation for the team and not needing to make as many moves if they do not re-sign Barwin.

You can follow Patrick on Twitter. He is the Editor of State of the Texans.