Gross, considered the top offensive tackle in the upcoming draft, was among several potential first-round picks to visit with the Texans during the second week of April. The Texans also entertained Miami receiver Andre Johnson, Arizona State defensive end Terrell Suggs, Miami running back Willis McGahee and Michigan State receiver Charlie Rogers.
As recently as February, Gross was speculated to be the Texans' target with the third overall pick. By most accounts, draft observers do not consider Gross a top-three pick and the Texans' need on the offensive line is not as pressing following the signing of free agent Zach Wiegert to a five-year, $17 million contract and trade for veteran Greg Randall. Left tackle Tony Boselli is also said to be recovering nicely from shoulder surgery, which further lessens the need to draft a tackle in the first round.
But with injuries decimating the offensive line last season the Texans could turn to Gross as insurance and depth. Collectively, Boselli, Ryan Young and Ryan Schau -- all projected starters in 2002 -- missed 35 games because of injuries. That forced the Texans to use makeshift offensive lines that included inexperience with a pair of rookies and career back ups. As a result, David Carr was sacked NFL record 76 times.
Gross is considered the top offensive tackle in the draft, but part of his appeal is his versatility. He can play both tackle positions and has experience at guard. The Texans plan to play Chester Pitts at left guard, with Fred Weary and Milford Brown vying for the starting job on the right side.
"I'm expecting to go anywhere from the third pick to the 12th through 15th," Gross said. "If the Texans decide to trade, it's still an option. And if they don't, it's still an option. On draft day, I'll definitely be sitting on the edge of my seat for about two hours waiting to see what will happen."
--The Texans officially completed a deal April 9 with running back Stacey Mack. Mack received a one-year, $705,000 contract that includes a $175,000 signing bonus. He will enter training camp competing with incumbent Jonathan Wells for the starting job.
--With 13 draft picks, including multiple selections beginning in the third round, the Texans could gamble on injured Miami running back Willis McGahee.
McGahee doesn't think he'll fall that far in the draft, despite tearing three ligaments in his left knee in the fourth quarter of the national championship game loss to Ohio State. Before the injury, most mock drafts listed McGahee as a top three pick, going to Detroit or the Texans.
--Utah offensive tackle Jordan Gross has no regrets about not attending the Senior Bowl, a showcase of some of the top draft-eligible talent in the country, in late January.
Some Texans officials were unhappy that Gross elected not to attend because they would have gotten the chance to see him first hand with Dom Capers coaching the North squad. Originally, Gross had committed to play in the game, but changed his mind.
Gross did help his stock with a solid combine. Scouts were impressed with his footwork and initial burst. He participated in all of the drills in Indianapolis and bench-pressed 225 pounds 28 times, one of the best performances in the category among players at his position.
--If Arizona State defensive end Terrell Suggs lands with the Texans, he will have to learn a new position. Because the Texans use a 3-4 defense, Suggs would project as an outside linebacker, a position with which he admits to being intrigued. He has even gone so far as to study tape of Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
Suggs was receiving increased interest from the Texans, who were looking for a right outside linebacker to replace free-agent Jeff Posey. That position has since been addressed with the signing of veteran linebacker Charlie Clemons to a four-year, $6.7 million deal.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's motivation for me. Everyone has their critics and everybody is saying something about someone. There are always people who want to see you do well and people who want to see you do bad. I'm about proving people wrong. I've done it all my life, so it doesn't bother me at all." -- Kansas State's Terence Newman, the top-rated cornerback in this year's draft, about concerns about his 5-foot-10 height.
NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: OL, RB, WR.
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.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
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; $6.7M/4 yrs, $1.3M SB); 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).
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.