Team Report: Houston Texans

Team Report: Houston Texans

The Texans addressed one of their remaining needs by signing free agent Charlie Clemons to fill the vacancy at right outside linebacker left by the departure of last year's team sack leader Jeff Posey.

Clemons, who played the last three seasons for the New Orleans Saints, agreed to a four-year, $6.7 million contract. The deal includes a $1.3 million signing bonus.

The Texans had been searching for a "rush" linebacker since Posey, who had eight sacks in 2002, signed with the Buffalo Bills as an unrestricted veteran on the opening day of the free agency period.

Clemons had 13 1-2 sacks for the Saints two seasons ago. The total, however, dwindled to one-half sack last season when he was used more as a run defender. Playing in the Texans' 3-4 defensive scheme, which showcases blitzing linebackers, was a major selling point for Clemons.

He joins a veteran linebacker group that also includes starters Kailee Wong, Jay Foreman and Jamie Sharper.

"It's a system that creates sack opportunities. That's just one of the things that appealed to me," Clemons said.

The signing of Clemons addressed the Texans' biggest need on the defensive side of the ball and lessens the need to take a young pass rusher such as Arizona State defensive end Terrell Suggs in the first round of the upcoming draft. That could means the Texans are now concentrating on Miami wide receiver Andre Johnson with the No. 3 pick.

Another plus for the Texans in signing Clemons to replace Posey: The two deals were similar, so the Texans were able to fill the hole without stretching their budget. Posey signed a four-year, $6 million contract with the Bills and received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

Team Notes:
--The Texans strengthened one of their most glaring needs by agreeing on a one-year deal with free agent running back Stacey Mack.

Mack, who played the last four seasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars as the primary backup to Fred Taylor, chose to sign with the Texans because he wanted the opportunity to be a starter. Mack reportedly passed up more money from the Jaguars and Giants for the opportunity to start.

"I've always wanted to be able to showcase my ability," Mack said. "I am happy to be with Houston."

Mack, 27, played in 50 games with Jacksonville and started in 13 games. He rushed for 1,498 yards and had 19 touchdowns.

The Texans ranked next-to-last in rushing last season.

Jonathan Wells is the incumbent starter at running back for the Texans, leading the team with 529 yards rushing during his rookie season. James Allen made five starts and although the Texans are negotiating with him, it's unclear if he will be re-signed.

As a team, the Texans surpassed 100 yards rushing in a game just three times and averaged at least four yards per carry on only four occasions.

Interestingly, Mack and Wells are similar in style. Both are big, powerful backs who specialize in running between the tackles, but have not exhibited the speed or elusiveness to consistently turn the corner and make big plays in the open field. Wells has made an offseason commitment to shed some pounds in an effort to increase his burst out of the backfield.

--The Texans' 2003 schedule includes five playoff teams -- including three division winners -- and three trips to the Sunshine State.

Some highlights of the schedule include:

--Houston begins the season with back-to-back road contests against Miami (Sept. 7) and New Orleans (Sept. 14).

--The Texans are paired with the NFC South this season, which means a Nov. 30 home game against Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons and a Dec. 14 road trip to face the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Texans' other playoff match-up comes in an Oct. 19 home game against the New York Jets.

--The Texans open at home Sept. 21 against the Kansas City Chiefs, then host Jacksonville the following week for their first divisional game. Houston has its bye in Week 5.

--Capers' former team, the Carolina Panthers, visits Reliant Stadium on Nov. 2.

--The Texans will be weather-tested during a Nov. 16 game at Buffalo. Houston notes it's 1-0 in games under 40 degrees after a 24-6 win at Pittsburgh last year.

--The Texans play four of the last six games at Reliant Stadium, including back-to-back match-ups with division foes Tennessee and Indianapolis to end the season.

--Based on 2002 records, the Texans will play the seventh-toughest schedule in the NFL. Their opponents have a winning percentage of .533. Opponents of the Cowboys, Eagles and Jets had a .541 winning percentage in 2002. The Bucs' opponents had a .539 winning percentage, followed by the Redskins and Jaguars' opponents at .537.

--After playing five preseason games last year because of their participation in the annual Hall of Fame Game, the Texans have the standard four in 2003. The exhibition schedule begins Aug. 9 against Denver at Reliant Stadium. The Texans play at Dallas Aug. 15, host San Diego Aug. 23 and travel to Tampa Bay for the preseason finale on Aug. 28. Capers and Cowboys coach Bill Parcells are in the process of finalizing plans for their teams to practice against each other at the Cowboys' training facility in San Antonio during training camp. Capers also has spoken to Denver coach Mike Shanahan about the possibility of the Broncos coming to Houston early to work against the Texans in advance of the preseason opener.

--Tony Banks re-signed with the Texans to be the No. 2 quarterback and insurance policy for David Carr.

Banks, a seven-year veteran, has started 75 games in the NFL and passed for 14,433 yards and 71 touchdowns. He also has spent time with Washington, Dallas, St. Louis and Baltimore, where he was in the Super Bowl following the 2000 season.

The Texans signed Banks as a free agent during training camp last year to provide an experienced veteran to pair with Carr, the No. 1 overall selection in the draft. Although Carr was sacked a record 76 times, he took every snap.

Banks, 29, likely would have landed a starting job with another team last season, but a broken hand set back his offseason workouts and by the time he was healthy, no jobs were available.

--The Texans re-signed backup cornerback Kenny Wright. Wright, who backed up Aaron Glenn and Marcus Coleman and played on passing downs, appeared in all 16 games last year.

--In need of depth at the linebacker position, the Texans signed former Baltimore Raven Shannon Taylor and re-signed Troy Evans. Taylor played in 16 games for the Ravens last season and made two starts at outside linebacker. Evans played in 12 games, mostly on special teams.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "When you play a 3-4 defense, linebackers are critical in the defense. We've had a chance to study Charlie, and we think he has multiple talents at the linebacker position. He's played inside linebacker, and we've seem him excel at moving outside and rushing the passer. Our plan is to put him at right outside linebacker and go from there." -- Texans coach Dom Capers on newly acquired linebacker Charlie Clemons

Team Skinny: 

OL - In search of pass protection after quarterback David Carr was sacked NFL record 76 times. The additions of Zach Wiegert and Greg Randall will go a long way towards adding depth to the line and may allow the Texans to go for a playmaker with their first-round selection. The health of Tony Boselli will also play a factor in the decision making.

RB --- Even with the addition of Stacey Mack, the Texans might still draft a runner. Mack signed for just one year.

WR - Surrounding Carr with playmakers is a top priority. If Michigan State's Charles Rogers falls to No. 3 the Texans won't hesitate to grab him. Miami's Andre Johnson could also be an option.



UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: RB James Allen (was a one-year rental; won't be asked back after disappointing season); S Leomont Evans (neck injury in exhibition opener kept him out all season; may be forced to retire); OG DeMingo Graham (suspension for use of banned supplement to likely signal end of his stay with Texans); OL Ryan Schau (versatile lineman that can every position; still recovering from injuries to both feet).

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): WR Trevor Insley (not tendered as RFA); WR Dwaune Jones (not tendered as ERFA).

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Avion Black (tendered at $605,000 with 4th-round pick as compensation; could see his role increase with the departure of Jermaine Lewis); TE Billy Miller (tendered at $605,000 with 7th-round pick as compensation; team's most reliable receiver and solid influence in the locker room); P Chad Stanley (tendered at $605,000 with no compensation; had one of his best seasons with 36 punts inside the 20; likely to be retained).

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: WR Atnaf Harris (tendered at $300,000).

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: QB Tony Banks (UFA; terms unknown); CB Jason Bell (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); S Eric Brown (UFA; $10.5M/5 yrs, $1.5M SB); WR JaJuan Dawson (RFA; $605,000/1 yr); DE Jerry DeLoach (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); CB Pat Dennis (RFA; terms unknown); LB Troy Evans (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); LB Jay Foreman (UFA; $11.84M/5 yrs, $2.2M SB; 2003 cap: $975,600); DT Howard Green (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); OT Barry Hall (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); S Kyries Hebert (ERFA; $225,000/1 yr); OT Jimmy Herndon (UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown); TE Jabari Holloway (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); DB Brandon Jennings (ERFA; $605,000/1 yr); LB Jason Lamar (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); C Chris Lorenti (ERFA; $225,000/1 yr); TE/LS Sean McDermott (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); WR Frank Murphy (ERFA; $450,000/1 yr); QB Mike Quinn (UFA; terms unknown); DE Corey Sears (UFA; $555,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2003 cap: $475,000); CB Jason Simmons (UFA; terms unknown); S Matt Stevens (had been cut by Texans; terms unknown); OT Tarlos Thomas (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); S Kevin Williams (UFA; $530,000/1 yr, no SB; 2003 cap: $450,000); DT Shawn Worthen (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); CB Kenny Wright (UFA; terms unknown).

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: LB Patrick Chukwurah (waivers Vikings); LB Charlie Clemons (UFA Saints; terms unknown); P Craig Jarrett (waivers Redskins); RB Stacey Mack (UFA Jaguars; $705,000/1 yr, $175,000 SB); OT Greg Randall (trade Patriots); LB Shannon Taylor (RFA tender of $605,000 withdrawn by Ravens; terms unknown); OL Todd Washington (FA Buccaneers; terms unknown); OL Zach Wiegert (UFA Jaguars; $17M/5 yrs, $3.5M SB; 2003 cap: $1.756M); LB Antonio Wilson (not tendered as RFA/Vikings; terms unknown).

PLAYERS LOST: KR/WR Jermaine Lewis (cut); LB Keith Mitchell (UFA Jaguars; $1M/1 yr, $250,000 SB); LB Jeff Posey (UFA Bills; $6.425M/4 yrs, $1.75M SB); OG Cameron Spikes (UFA Cardinals; 2 yrs, terms unknown); OT Ryan Young (UFA Cowboys; $6.5M/3 yrs, $2M SB).

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