The Houston Texans are no strangers to being criticized, especially over the past 12 months. However, we can easily argue that general manager Nick Caserio has taken the bull by the horns at NRG Stadium and given the roster and coaching staff the shake-ups they desperately needed.
However, critics will critique whatever they can, and according to one, the Texans made three glaring errors at one particular position this offseason.
"One of the more questionable decisions was signing a trio of backs who all appear to be making a desperation stop in Houston before their time in the league is up," said Alex Kay of Bleacher Report. "The club has come to terms with David Johnson, Mark Ingram II and Phillip Lindsay in the last few weeks, crowding the backfield with aging veterans."
"Aging''? Johnson is still in his 20's and Lindsay is just 26. Also worth mentioning, both Lindsay and Ingram (who, it's true, is 31) rushed for over 1,000 yards just one year ago.
Perhaps claiming their days in the league are numbered is a little harsh ...
Granted, the Texans did invest heavily in short-term deals for three potential starters at the same position, which is unusual. However, when you look at the bigger picture it fits in comfortably with the strategy Caserio is trying to implement - This year, it's competition ... and survival of the fittest.
The Texans are essentially throwing darts at the board and seeing what/who sticks. And contrary to B/R's assertion, they are doing so knowingly.
Anyway, back to Kay.
"Johnson earned the most money of the three, picking up a one-year deal worth $5 million," said Kay.
"He inked that contract despite participating in just 12 games for the Texans last year and contributing just 147 rushing attempts for 691 yards. While Johnson is a quality receiver out of the backfield—he caught 33 passes for 314 yards in 2020—he is going to turn 30 during the 2021 campaign and hasn't come close to being the back he was for the Arizona Cardinals during his breakout 2016 season."
All the stats are correct. His production was disappointing in 2020 and his lack of consistency since his breakout year, combined with Houston's heavy investment in him is, on the surface, baffling.
Again, however, there is a reason behind the apparent madness.
Johnson was previously guaranteed just $2.1 million in 2020, the final year of his deal. Granted, had they simply cut him the Texans would have freed up $6.9 million in cap space. But as mentioned, he was already due over $2 million in dead cash this season.
With this restructure the Texans freed up just over $6.3 million, meaning they cleared the cap of nearly the same amount they would have anyway, and still get something for the money they would have had invested in him regardless in 2021.
Also worth mentioning, Johnson recorded over 100 yards of offense in each of his final three games of the 2020 season. And with the same offensive coordinator returning this season in Tim Kelly, there's no reason Johnson can't pick up where he left off last season.
But the Texans did not truly "give'' him a new contract. Rather, they sliced up his old one.
Again, let's get back to Kay.
"The team also committed $3.25 million to Lindsay and $2.5 million to Ingram, and the latter was an especially puzzling move given his career-low 72 rushes for 299 yards with the Baltimore Ravens last year," said Kay. "Not only did the Texans tie up valuable cap space in these rushers, but they also created a tough situation for their new coaching staff."
First, we're not sure in what world "committing'' $3.25 million to young Pro Bowler Lindsay is a negative. And the $2.5 million "commitment'' to Ingram is also affordable and hardly a clog of "valuable cap space.''
Second, this is where the 'throwing darts' analogy comes into play once more. Coach Culley worked with Ingram in Baltimore during his 2019 Pro Bowl season and speaks highly of the former Ravens assistant head coach. As such, Culley should know exactly how to get the best out of the veteran back.
2020 was a tough season for Ingram who: "was slowly phased out of the Ravens' game plan" according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley, with Baltimore opting to go for younger backs, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. But to be fair to Ingram, his health or lack thereof may have also had something to do with his performances last year, hinting at this in a recent press conference.
"I feel like I'm going into this offseason healthier than I have in the past two offseasons," said Ingram.
The Bleacher Report analysis is largely based on the idea that the moves put the coaching staff in a bad position, an odd assertion that paints a picture of Caserio making moves against the will of Culley.
That, frankly, is a reckless accusation. And wildly untrue.
If anything, these moves have put the Texans' coaching staff in a great situation as they enter training camp knowing that all of the players on short-term deals will be giving their all from the word go.
That kind of competitiveness is designed to bring out the best version of each of those players, and it should help throughout the season as these year-long tryouts continue.
And if they don't work out? Then the Texans can simply move on from them in 2022 when, hopefully, the team should be a more realistic contender.
No, Caserio and Culley are not turning NRG Stadium into an assisted living facility. No, they did not overpay (really, for anybody in free agency). And no, they are not at odds in making this moves.
But critics must critique.
CONTINUE READING: NFL Free Agency Tracker: Texans Bolster O-Line Depth With Familiar Face