A breakdown of the Houston Texans' 2018 free-agent signings.
The Texans signed safety Tyrann Mathieu, who played the past five years for the Arizona Cardinals. Here’s a closer look at the signing:
Grade: A. While the Texans made moves early in free agency, they hadn’t made a big splash, particularly considering how much money they had available to upgrade a roster that was plagued by injury in going 4-12 in 2017. Houston made that big move for a playmaker Friday night by signing Mathieu to a one-year, $7 million deal.
What it means: The Texans needed a strong safety to play along with Andre Hal next season, and they found that in Mathieu. The former LSU standout will start right away and should be a difference-maker if he can stay healthy. Mathieu has a nose for the ball and should help a Texans defense that tied for 21st last season with 11 interceptions.
What’s the risk: Mathieu -- a third-round pick of the Cardinals in 2013 -- has dealt with injuries throughout his NFL career and finished three of his five seasons on injured reserve; the safety tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee in 2013 and tore his right ACL in 2015. If Mathieu has success in 2018 while on a one-year deal, Houston will be quick to try to sign him long term; the Texans also have the flexibility of it being a short-term contract if it doesn’t work out.
Johnathan Joseph, CB
The Texans re-signed Joseph, who has played for them for the past seven season. Here’s a closer look at the signing:
Grade: B. This grade depends a lot on whether the Texans add another cornerback to improve their secondary. Joseph was the Texans’ best corner last year, but he turns 34 in April. If this is the last move the Texans make at cornerback, then bringing back Joseph and adding slot corner Aaron Colvin may not be enough to solve their problems in the secondary.
What it means: Last season, the Texans’ passing defense took a big step back after losing cornerback A.J. Bouye to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Texans are still in need of another veteran cornerback unless Houston believes 2015 first-round pick Kevin Johnson, who finished ranked No. 121 out of 121 cornerbacks last season by Pro Football Focus, can have a resurgent year.
What’s the risk: The risk with re-signing Joseph is his age, but it’s only a two-year deal. Texans coach Bill O’Brien has praised the job Joseph has done while being asked to cover top receivers as well as for being a leader in the locker room during his time in Houston.
Senio Kelemete, OG
The Texans signed guard Senio Kelemete, who played the past four seasons with the New Orleans Saints. Here’s a closer look at the signing:
Grade: B. The overhaul of the Texans' offensive line continued Wednesday with the addition of Kelemete. Kelemete was a part of the Saints’ line that led the NFL in yards per rush (4.7) and yards per pass attempt (8.1) last season, and the 27-year-old has a chance to compete for a starting spot in Houston.
What it means: The Texans once again went for versatility by adding Kelemete, who spent time at all five offensive-line positions in his four seasons with the Saints. The Texans have now added guards Zach Fulton and Kelemete during free agency and have right guard Jeff Allen on the roster. Those three will compete for the two guard spots, but if Kelemete plays well during OTAs and training camp, the Texans will find a place for him somewhere on the line.
Kelemete was Pro Football Focus’ 41st-ranked guard last season; Fulton ranked 14th. Both rated much higher than Allen (69th) or left guard Xavier Su'a-Filo (75th), who is an unrestricted free agent.
What’s the risk: It’s hard to tell how much of a risk this is without knowing the terms of the contract; regardless, adding competition for the spots on the offensive line is a good thing for the Texans. Kelemete has stayed healthy throughout his career, missing just one game in the past three seasons while starting 22.
Zach Fulton, G
The Texans intend to sign Fulton, who played the past four years for the Kansas City Chiefs. Here’s a closer look at the signing:
Grade: A. The Texans desperately needed an upgrade at guard in 2018 and they have that in Fulton. The former Chiefs lineman was Pro Football Focus’ 14th-ranked guard in 2017. By comparison, for the Texans last season, left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo ranked 75th and right guard Jeff Allen ranked 69th.
What it means: The Texans have to do a better job protecting quarterback Deshaun Watson next season, and Fulton joins former Buffalo Bills tackle Seantrel Henderson as a step toward doing that. Fulton will likely replace Su’a-Filo, who struggled last season in Houston and is an unrestricted free agent. Last season, the Texans' offensive line allowed the second-most sacks in the NFL. After Houston traded starting left tackle Duane Brown in Week 9, the line allowed 28 sacks, which was tied for most in the NFL in that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
What’s the risk: Fulton is not an injury risk, as he has missed only one game in his four-year NFL career. The lineman’s versatility makes him an attractive signing. The Texans have their starting center in Nick Martin, but the third-year player is coming off ankle surgery. Martin is expected to be back for the regular season, but adding Fulton is good insurance at center as well.
The Texans agreed to sign tackle Seantrel Henderson, who played the past four years for the Buffalo Bills. Here's a closer look at the signing:
Grade: B-minus. Henderson will bring some depth to the offensive line and could compete for a starting tackle spot but is not necessarily the reliable force the Texans are looking for. This is the first move for Houston to improve its line and protect quarterback Deshaun Watson, but they likely have another one or two other signings to make on the line as well.
What it means: The Texans have at least three open spots on the offensive line, and Henderson will compete -- perhaps with 2017 fourth-round pick Julién Davenport -- for one of those open tackle positions. Henderson played right tackle for the Bills while now-Texans general manager Brian Gaine was in Buffalo and started one of the seven games he played in 2017.
What's the risk: This is a low-risk one-year deal that gives the Texans another option on the offensive line. Henderson started every game his rookie season, but was suspended twice in 2016 for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Henderson said he was using medical marijuana to deal with pain from his Crohn's disease and two intestinal surgeries he had that year.
Aaron Colvin, CB
Grade: A-minus. The Texans desperately needed to upgrade their secondary after the group's fall from the No. 1 passing defense in 2016 to 24th last season. Adding Colvin doesn't mean Houston is done adding at cornerback and this move is a step in the right direction to improving Romeo Crennel's defense.
What it means: The Texans entered the offseason with Kareem Jackson, 2015 first round pick Kevin Johnson and 2017 fifth-round pick Treston Decoud at cornerback as their best corner a year ago, Johnathan Joseph, is a free agent. Colvin is a slot cornerback, which is the position that Jackson, 29, played primarily for Houston. Bill O'Brien has praised Jackson for his versatility, so it's possible Houston could move the longtime Texans player to safety next season. According to Pro Football Focus, Colvin was the 47th-ranked cornerback in 2017, which was higher than any Texans player at that position.
What's the risk: Colvin had success last season playing alongside Pro Bowl cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, so there could be a drop off in play with less elite talent around him. Colvin played in all 16 games last season, but did miss four games in 2016 for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing substances policy and another two with an ankle injury.
The Texans re-signed Shane Lechler, who's played the past five years in Houston. Here's a closer look at the signing:
Grade: A. It's not a surprise that the Texans chose to re-sign Lechler given the success and consistency he had last season. Not only did Lechler's 49 yards per punt rank second in the NFL in 2017, but Texans head coach Bill O'Brien also has called him a leader in the locker room.
What it means: The return of Lechler brings stability to the Texans' special-teams unit. The veteran has missed just two games in his 18-year NFL career. O'Brien has praised Lechler repeatedly during his time in Houston, especially for the way he had changed his punting technique in the latter stages of his career. Lechler has been able to direct the punts more than he was able to early in his career.
What's the risk: Signing Lechler to a one-year deal is a low-risk move for the Texans, but if there was a concern it would be that he will turn 42 before the 2018 NFL season begins. However, Lechler has actually improved as his time in Houston has progressed and should be a solid signing.