The NFL Lockout is over and teams cannot waste any time as free agency is set to begin tomorrow. It should be important to note that no one can sign until Friday so you will hear a lot on negotiations and offers. Tonight, however, undrafted free agent rookies can negotiate. According to some sources, they can also sign tonight but let's not get mixed up on night one of the season.
Your Houston Texans have gotten to work on undrafted players by picking up five that we know of. Those five players are Florida Atlantic wide receiver Lester Jean, Colorado State (of course) fullback Zac Pauga, Tulane offensive tackle Pete Hendrickson, Oregon wide receiver Jeff Maehl, and Carroll College (Montana) fullback/tight end Bubba Bartlett.
Normally, undrafted rookies have a tough time to make a roster. Given the rapid amount of time to learn the offense that will be an even tougher time. More often than not, these guys are just camp bodies to take the abuse and hoping to catch on the practice squad.
Of all of these free agents, Maehl's the most interesting. The 6'0'', 189-pound wide receiver was productive in the Oregon offense with 77 receptions, 1,076 yards, and 12 touchdowns for the Pac-10 conference champions. He's not a burner, but a lot of pre-draft reports had him pegged for a slot role. Given how pass-happy Gary Kubiak can be, Maehl's going to get his opportunities in the pre-season.
Of course, every fan should take note that these players could be part of a contingency plan since they play at positions of three key free agents: Jacoby Jones, Vonta Leach, and Rashad Butler. Butler's already set his mind on playing in Washington while Jacoby has openly said he'd like to return to Houston.
As for the All-Pro fullback, his is a curious case. Leach wants to be the highest paid fullback in the game. While no one's doubting that he's deserving of the cash, the Texans have other needs and Leach only played in 38% of the Texans offensive snaps. If you just need a part-time blocker, you may be able to find one for cheap in Pauga, Bartlett, or James Casey. In other words, fans shouldn't stress too much. A veteran cornerback will have more of an impact on the game, and all eyes are on Rick Smith to deliver, if this is, in fact, his plan.