With the season still about six weeks away and possibly more signings along the way, we have decided to look at the free agent signings the Houston Texans have made this off-season. The names the Texans have brought in are not considered big splashes by any stretch, but there is a possibility a few of these free agent additions could prove vital for the Texans in 2012.
In 2011, the signings of Johnathan Joseph, Danieal Manning and Lawrence Vickers proved to be great signings. Joseph and Manning were big reasons for the change of culture for the Texans defense, while Vickers came on late for the offense and became a reliable fullback.
This season was a different approach to the off-season. With a cap strapped situation, the Texans had to find bargain basement prices in veterans to fill some holes within the roster.
Here is a look at the free agent signings. This list will change closer to the season.
The Early Analysis
8. Keith Browner Jr. (Outside Linebacker)
Little is known of the second year player out of California who had been listed as a defensive end before coming to Houston. Coming from a football family, Browner looks like he will be in a battle at the outside linebacker position and for the fourth spot, if any. At 6-6 and 232 lbs., Browner will have to impress from day one of training camp to make the active roster, but practice squad is always an option. The fact the Texans signed him after his mini-camp workout over veteran Prescott Burgess is already a good sign for Browner.
7. Shayne Graham (Kicker)
I have been on record saying the job is rookie kicker Randy Bullock's to lose. With news coming out during mini-camp that Graham was putting on a kicking display from 50+ yards away, makes me think that Graham might have an outside chance. The Texans drafting Bullock is the only reason that makes me think the job is already Bullock's, but training camp will help decide it.
6. Justin Forsett (Running-back)
It's early but the signing of Forsett gives the Texans arguably the best depth at running back in the NFL. I would like to put Forsett higher but with Arian Foster and Ben Tate in front of him the carries might be scarce. Forsett will help on special teams and whether it is covering kicks or returning them the idea of having a potential starting running back as your third string guy is impressive. Forsett is great insurance for the Texans and with his water-bug running style the zone scheme might be a welcomed sight for him.
5.Donnie Jones (Punter)
Jones was brought in to replace second year punter Brett Hartmann for at least three games due to Hartmann's suspension. Word out of mini-camp is that Hartmann is still in a brace and was working lightly on the side fields, but the veteran Jones is going to be the starting punter come week one. Jones might have a chance to stick for some time with the Texans especially if Hartmann can't come back from injury before week 4.
4. John Beck (Quarterback)
Head Coach Gary Kubiak has already made it clear that he will keep three quarterbacks active at all times during the season, stating the injuries that occurred last season with the quarterback group. If Beck can beat out Case Keenum for the third spot on the depth chart, he too could become a viable resource as the season carries on. Beck is high on our list because of what Kubiak has said, the injuries. Let's hope we don't see Beck at any point this season but him being game ready is important.
3. Moran Norris (Fullback)
Kubiak has made the fullback position a key part to his offense and Norris is here for his second tour of duty. One of the original Texans from 2002, Norris is looking to take over the fullback position vacated by Lawrence Vickers. The coaches were impressed with what they saw with Norris at mini-camp. If Norris can provide some help on special teams and provide some good lead blocking, he could prove to be another quality pickup for the Texans offense.
2. Alan Ball (Cornerback)
Ball is high on our list, especially with the words that defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said of him. Playing safety with the Dallas Cowboys, Ball looks to be in Houston to play cornerback and that leaves the possibility for him to take Jason Allen's position from the 2011 season, switching out with Kareem Jackson. Phillips has faith in the 5 year veteran and there is no better person to trust than the guy who drafted Ball from Illinois.
1. Bradie James (Inside Linebacker)
Without question, James has the biggest role to fill for the Texans in 2012 with running the defense. James will also have to fill the leadership role that DeMeco Ryans left but it seems like he is fitting in well with the team over the past month. James will not be expected to fill major snaps for the defense in 2012 but he will be a 1st and 2nd down player for the defense. James' knowledge of the defense could prove huge when it comes to on field adjustments, and he posted his best numbers as a pro when he was being coached by Phillips and linebackers' coach Reggie Herring.