Replacing a legend like J.J. Watt will be no mean feat, and certainly a daunting challenge for anyone who accepts it.
A generational talent, the Houston Texans would have to be either incredibly smart or unimaginably lucky to find a direct replacement in the third round or later in this year's NFL Draft.
Given the recent trends at NRG Stadium, it is hard to picture either of those scenarios playing out...
As such, and given the number of holes this defense besides the departure of a future Hall of Famer, they would be wise to go for a multi-pronged approach.
The Texans should be looking for two or three veterans who can share the load Watt had been carrying the past couple of seasons. And not just at defensive end, but defensive tackle, and outside linebacker.
And given the Texans have little draft capital with which to trade, and no cap space to work with either, these veterans will likely need to be free agents who are inexpensive.
In an ideal world, here are a few names Houston should pursue:
Ryan Kerrigan - Defensive End/Outside Linebacker
A 2011 draftee alongside Watt, the longtime Washington starter would be a smart acquisition given his versatility and proven ability. At 32, Kerrigan would be relatively inexpensive and given he only started one game in 2020, the promise of a starting role would surely be enough to lure him to Houston.
Sheldon Rankins - Defensive Tackle
At 26, Rankins should still have plenty of years left in him, assuming he can stay healthy that is. Seemingly surplus to requirements in New Orleans, Rankins has proven high ceiling and would be an immediate upgrade at the position. And again, should be relatively inexpensive given his injuries.
Lawrence Guy - Defensive Tackle/Defensive End
Perhaps this is where Nick Caserio and Jack Easterby's New England Patriots ties can come in handy. Guy would be another instant upgrade on the Texans' defensive line and his versatility would, again, be a huge asset. His arrival would allow defensive coordinator Lovie Smith to move the likes of Ross Blacklock, Carlos Watkins, and Charles Omenihu around, making them unpredictable and harder to block.
Of course, these are but a few of the players the Texans could pursue who could improve this defense.
But amidst Watt's departure, it is important they don't attempt to replace this Texans legend with just one player. The reason being, there are few players like Watt who can fill multiple roles so well all at once. And even then - not to get too philosophical here - but one star does not a unit make.
As seen in 2020, this defense will not work if they only have one consistent pass-rushing presence. Likewise, without strong outside linebackers to set the edge, quality pass rushing is all but irrelevant anyway.
The key will be averaging out the level of talent equally across the front seven, rather than having one or two extremely talented individuals surrounded by backups. It is, after all, a team game.