Texans Offseason: Steve Slaton On St. Louis Rams' Radar?

Keeping up-to-date with rumored Texans transactions.

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NFL Rumor Mill Links Steve Slaton To The St. Louis Rams

Trade speculation surrounding former rookie phenom turned ousted Houston Texans running back Steve Slaton is nothing new, but today may or may not mark the first time a possible suitor has been linked to him via the ever-present NFL Rumor Mill. 

CBS Sports' Len Pasquarelli passes on information that Slaton may have a potential landing spot in St. Louis with Steven Jackson and the Rams:

Rumors have linked him to St. Louis, where the Rams could use a reliable back capable of getting 6-8 touches per game, to reduce the workload for Steven Jackson, but the talk has been unsubstantiated.

Len's use of the word "rumors" already implies that the talk has been unsubstantiated, but I think that's his way of saying "**I** think Steve Slaton would be a good fit in St. Louis and while I've heard nothing to intimate these plans are in the works, it sounds better if I say "rumors link" him to the Rams."

Even after his disastrous second and third seasons in Houston, which were plagued with injuries and a ridiculously maddening fumble problem - I stil, still think he can be a solid NFL contributor. That said, it probably needs to happen elsewhere. He could use a change of scenery I'm sure, and the Texans are pretty stacked in a backfield that features Arian Foster, Derrick Ward, and Ben Tate

Still, with Gary Kubiak's offensive smarts and Slaton's pass-catching ability, I'd love to see him get worked into the offensive scheme somehow, but it would be silly to burn a roster spot for that possibility on a guy who still runs timid, may still have a fumbling problem, and was sadly one of the most God-awful kick return men I've ever seen.

We already know Slaton is on the outs, but it will be interesting to see how he does in a complimentary back role, possibly behind a powerful grinder like Jackson in St. Louis.

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Former Texan Marcus Coleman On Texans GM Rick Smith: "Rick Doesn't Do A Whole Lot."

Rick Smith is not having a good week

Following Ahman Green's interview on 1560 The Game with Sean Pendergast, where he got after Smith regarding his time in Houston, the station brought in former Texan Marcus Coleman to speak on Smith and the Texans as well.

It's important to note two things. 1 - I don't know if Coleman is or ever was an employee of 1560 The Game, but he is a frequent contributor to their programming. 2 - Coleman was not in Houston during Smith's tenure. 

That said, Coleman has discussed (and derided) Smith in the past, as he claims to have inside information (an assertion I don't doubt at all as he has friends who are both current and former Houston Texans.)

The money quote from this interview is that, according to what Coleman has heard from those in the know, Rick Smith "doesn't do a whole lot" as Texans GM. Not sure if that deals mostly with player decisions, draft, free agency, or day-to-day, but it's certainly worth noting. Also - very troubling if true, in many ways. First in that, well, what the hell is he doing there if he's not doing much of what a typical GM does? Secondly, If true, then firing him wouldn't necessarily fix the problems he's caused unless they brought in a guy who would be taking on far more decision-making than he is responsible for.

Coleman added that Smith basically acted as a "mole" in the locker room for the front office when he was employed by the Denver Broncos. That would be yet another punch to the gut in Smith's withering reputation in how he handles player relationships. A mole for "the man" in Denver, and now a guy who asks players if they're faking injuries?

When asked if he thought the Texans were a poorly-run organization, Coleman didn't hesitate in saying "yes."

I'm sure the truth is somewhere in the middle, as it almost always is. Plus you simply have to allow for some room in the discussion for the fact that this is secondhand information, unlike Ahman Green's firsthand account. I have no idea if Coleman has an ax to grind with the organization, or anything like that. Personally, I don't think he does. I think he's been pretty fair in on-air assessments of the team to this point, despite their often-negative nature.

Short of taking pictures of his crotch and sending them to Texans season ticket holders, I'm not sure Smith could have a worse week.

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Ahman Green Was Warned About Rick Smith Prior To Signing

Ex-Texans running back Ahman Green decided to tell his side of the story from his Houston tenure yesterday, and went on Sean Pendergast’s show on 1560 to try to explain what happened to him when he was a Texan. Of course, he talked about his injuries, about his father having cancer, tough times with his daughters: the type of stories that fans are isolated from because of the “tough guy” image the league projects.

But perhaps more interestingly, Green went on a mini-rant about current Texans GM Rick Smith. What he was warned about, he does not say, but I think if you read between the lines you’ll find that it’s probably rather unsavory. Green also revealed that at one point, Smith directly asked him if he was faking his injuries.

It would have been nice to have seen Green be a little more contrite and take more ownership of his tenure with the Texans in the interview, but those Rick Smith allegations can’t make Texans fans feel any better about a front office figure who is already known to stay out of the limelight. Smith had held the confidence of most Texans fans until last season, when he decided to start Kareem Jackson as a rookie and did little to bolster what was already a lackluster secondary in free agency.

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McClain: Foster Won't Hold Out This Offseason

Per John McClain’s most recent NFL chat, which sadly passes as the best chance of obtaining actual Texans news these days, running back Arian Foster will not attempt a hold out this offseason and the Texans will probably take care of him after the 2011 season:

Comment From Jimbo
Do u think we will have problems with holdouts

12:24
John McClain: Foster says he’ll report instead of holding out trying to get a new deal. They want him to do it again. Then he’ll get a new deal. Leach won’t be a holdout. He’ll get the offer he wants from another team or re-sign with the Texans. I don’t look holdouts to be a problem. They usually get their guys signed on time.

Very classy of Arian Foster, perhaps in light of the fact that the Texans were the ones who actually gave him a chance to get on the field? I don’t know that I would be so forgiving if I were in his shoes, considering the shelf-life of an NFL running back essentially forces him to get his as soon as he can.

Houston is guaranteed to have some bargain production next year from the NFL’s leading rusher, which hypothetically should help them shore up some holes on the defensive side of the ball if there actually is free agency this year. Sounds like good news all-around for Texans fans.

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Trindon Holliday, Ben Tate In The Mix To Return Kicks For Texans In 2011

Little Trindon's only accomplishment in his rookie season was riding a tricycle at training camp. Ben Tate's only accomplishment was getting screamed at by Gary Kubiak every day for not being a good practice player. I can tell you, from in-person experience at camp, that the bit about Tate is absolutely true.

So naturally, a guy who rides a four year-old girl's bike and a guy who thinks practice starts whenever he wants it to start are candidates to fix Houston's awful return game. This, from HoustonTexans.com's Nick Scurfield:

(Special Teams coach Joe) Marciano said that "long list" includes wide receivers David Anderson, Derrick Townsel and Paul Williams; cornerbacks Roc Carmichael, Brandon Harris, Sherrick McManis and Glover Quin; and safeties Quintin Demps and Shiloh Keo. And Tate, who's by far the most surprising name in the group.

Here's the reality - Ben Tate is going to need something to do in 2011, assuming he doesn't spend training camp in Kubiak's doghouse. The front office has hinted that they are going to feed Arian Foster until he can't eat anymore, and the Texans didn't pay Derrick Ward to come in and be the number three who is just around in case someone gets hurt. 

As far as Holliday goes, should he make the team, it will be as a true specialist. The coaching staff keeps pumping that he needs to learn receiver to make the team, but that's simply not true. The guy is not a receiver and no amount of practice is going to change that. He can absolutely make the Texans as a return specialist, the problem is that he has to be an excellent return specialist to be worth that roster spot, especially since we know Kubiak loves himself a long-snapper. Oh, and a third quarterback.

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Would Texans Showcase Steve Slaton In Hypothetical Preseason?

Per Pro Football Weekly comes the story of that other guy on the Texans running back depth chart. Not the league’s leading rusher, not the second round rookie who missed all of last season with a broken ankle, and not the veteran back who averaged 6.3 yards per carry last year. No, we’re talking about West Virginia’s own Steve Slaton, who was shoehorned into being a kick returner with disastrous results last season and hasn’t shown much of anything as a running back since injuring his neck in the 2009 season.

Turns out the Texans know he is worthless to them, and they have plans to showcase him in the preseason if there is one:

With a logjam in the backfield, we hear the Texans would love to get Steve Slaton as many carries as possible in the preseason to showcase him for other teams. The club is not likely to cut the former 1,000-yard rusher, but it would entertain trade offers for him.

Listen, there’s not going to be a preseason this year barring a drastic change in the tenor of the labor talks. Steve Slaton has no value to anybody right now. I understand that the Texans want to try to get the best value they can for someone if they get rid of him, but lets not turn this into another Antwaun Molden situation where Houston is essentially playing with a 52-man roster. If there are no offers for Slaton on the table coming out of training camp, the Texans need to cut him. Yes, he had a fabulous season once. That Steve Slaton no longer exists though; the one makes indecisive cuts and has no value to the Texans is the one that currently is on the roster. The Slaton that doesn’t deserve to be there.

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Texans Offense Will Have 'Mini-Camps' Organized By Schaub

The Houston Texans may be locked out, but their offense is going to get in all the work it’s supposed to. Matt Schaub, always a leader despite his soft-spoken nature and a quiet disposition, has made sure that the Texans have stayed on schedule. That include a mock mini-camp this week:

Some defensive players began working out at the Plex facility in Stafford. The offensive players worked out at Rice, where Schaub tried to stick to the same schedule the Texans would have used if there wasn’t a lockout, including 14 organized team activities and a three-day minicamp this week.

Some defensive players joined the offense for the OTAs and minicamp.

“We’re doing more detailed work as a group and running through the same type of practice plan that we’d be doing at Reliant,” Schaub said about the minicamp. “We’re also going to work on some situational football that helps us in crucial points in the game — like the two-minute drill, the red zone, etc.”

While there are a lot of things conspiring against the Texans short-term road to contention on the defensive side of the ball, and a lot of villains in the NFL front office trying to force a bad deal down the players’ throats, it’s nice to see that the Texans themselves are taking the offseason very seriously.

Offensively, anyway.

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McClain: Texans '20-80' To Sign Nnamdi Asomugha

The NFL Lockout is dragging on, meaning that all we have to rely on are hearsay and conjecture when it comes to free agency. Fortunately, as Lionel Hutz informs us, those are kinds of evidence.

So hey, here’s your Nnamdi Asomugha update of the week, per John McClain’s latest chat at The Chronicle: he puts the odds of Asomugha wearing a Texans uniform at 20-80.

Comment From kh
What are the odds the Texans get Asomugha?

John McClain: 20-80. It just depends on guaranteed money.

Is it me, or is that figure a little optimistic?

Either way, Nnamdi is still unlikely to be a Texan, we still don’t have an actual NFL season, and Bob McNair will likely not open up the vault for a free agent out of fear of setting the market. Got it? Great. I’ll see you back here next week so we can pretend that there is news to report on when it comes to the Texans.

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Even When He's Bad, Arian Foster Is Unbelievably Good

2010 was a disaster for the Texans. There's simply no way to dress it up or take the sting out of it, but the emergence of Arian Foster was certainly the brightest spot in the cold, dark, distant world that was 6-10.

ProFootballFocus recently did an examination of running backs and dropped passes, where they look at which backs are best and worst at hauling in catchable balls. Best on the list in 2010 was Pierre Thomas with no drops out of 29 catchable balls, but really the true king is Ray Rice who had one drop out of 75. Incredible.

Not so high on the list was our own beloved philosopher, wisdom-Tweeter, Pterodactyl-Linguist, and running back Arian Foster. PFF had this to say about Foster:

One man who didn't make quite the statement in this area was Arian Foster, which is something that should worry the rest of the league. His five drops were far too many for a running back, leaving him in 19th position with a 7.04% drop percentage. Yet he still finished as our highest-graded receiving running back, in large part to his ability to make defenders miss (his 18 forced missed tackles were second of all backs). When one of the top players at his position still has room to improve, that has to be of concern to those especially in the AFC South.

So Foster, even with a high-number of drops, graded out as their top pass-catching RB. Not their top RB, mind you, but their top pass-catching RB. While I can't imagine anyone being rated higher than Ray Rice in this category, it's not surprising when you factor in the considerable amount of wiggle that Foster brings when he's in the open field. It goes to show you just how smart the guy is, because we know he's not a speed-burner. Foster's ability to break tackles and use his hips to throw off defenders comes from the fact that he clearly studies a LOT, and, well defenses - he's just smarter than you.

I could get used to this whole "having a dominant running back" thing. Let's try and get this possible future contract problem settled before it becomes an issue, shall we?

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Texans DB Coach Vance Joseph Joins Wade Phillips In Some Gentle Public Criticism Of Kareem Jackson

On the heels of new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' concerns about Kareem Jackson's deep speed, new defensive backs coach Vance Joseph has now gone on the record on Jackson, telling HoustonTexans.com's Nick Scurfield:

He (Joseph) said that Kareem Jackson is a very good zone player who needs a lot of work on his man-to-man technique.

I'd say that's quite an understatement. The Texans make a practice of not publicly criticizing their players. It's fairly-standard league-wide, with notable exceptions. I hesitate to use the word "coddling" but that's what it feels like most of the time. I suppose the thinking is that young players are impressionable and certain types of players need the carrot, not the stick.

See, I thought this was football. A sport where guys line up and knock the hell out of each other... but keeping up appearances has become a big part of the NFL experience, unfortunately.

Even as gentle as the criticisms of Jackson from Phillips and Joseph are, they're nothing you would hear in the pre-Wade Phillips era. It's always been about putting those good kids in a position to succeed as coaches, and how they work hard and show up every day at practice. Well, that's great. They show up to practice, yay! Kewpie dolls for all!

I have to admit that it's refreshing to hear Phillips (and now his staff) hold PLAYERS accountable in public, instead of all this fake self-criticism that comes off like these guys are off at some Harvard Rowing Team retreat for the summer. 

Kareem Jackson was garbage in 2010. Garbage. There's no dressing it up. Did he have bad coaching? Absolutely he did. But when you're a first (or yes, second) round talent, there should be SOME signal that you can rise above the poor positions you were put in. Talent has to show through, and none of it did. None of it.

Hopefully these tepid offseason jabs from coaches are the beginning of a new culture of accountability in Houston, but I'm not getting my hopes up. 

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TRANSCRIPT: Gary Kubiak Most Concerned About Getting Defense Taught

Gary Kubiak sat down with 610 the other day to answer a few questions, and our good friends at Sports Radio Interviews transcribed it for us. How is the embattled coach feeling about not being able to talk to his rookies? Spoiler alert: he doesn’t like it.

What are you up to these days?

“I tell you what boys it really is tough. It’s great time of year for us to work with our players, all of them, but especially our young players that we’re trying to make a big jump and help us out going into next year. We would normally be in week two of our OTA’s, but you know it’s difficult and we’re all dealing with the same situation and hopefully it gets solved here sometime soon and we do have a normal training camp and get ready to play in 2011.”

What is your biggest concern? The rookies?

“Yeah, basically we spent a little bit of time with J.J. [Watt]. We got to bring him in after we drafted him, but other then that a phone calls to those other guys we drafted and that’s been about the contact, so that’s been very difficult and we’re counting on some of those guys to help us very quickly, but I think number one for us really is Wade [Phillips] getting his hands on our defense and getting that installed and getting to work on that. I’m concerned with some of the players coming off injuries when you talked about DeMeco [Ryans], you talk about Brian Cushing come off a knee surgery, Connor [Barwin] coming off the surgery last year, Mario [Williams] is coming off of missing basically the last month of the season, so my biggest concern is getting our defense going and taught as quickly as we can.”

We are almost past the OTA period here. What is your level of concern in terms of developing the 3-4 defense if we move past mini-camps and have the lockout still going on?

“Well it’s obviously a concern, but I think the great thing we have going for us is Wade [Phillips]. His defense to me is not very complicated and he’s also shown he can get this thing done very quickly in some places he’s been and just being around him everyday with his confidence once he gets his hands on these guys and having Reggie [Herring] with him from Dallas, bringing Bobby King, a young coach with him from Dallas. I think that these guys can make up a lot of ground very quickly, so that does give me a great deal of confidence.”

Kubiak continues to put a ton of trust into Wade Phillips’ defense to fix everything, which is not a surprise given how fast they needed the defensive turnaround. They’re probably still a few free agents away from actually having a good defense, but I’m more confident about them than I would’ve been with Frank Bush.

Not that saying that implies much, since I would be more confident about the players coaching themselves than I would be with them being coached by Bush.

Also, this is not a slam against Gary Kubiak’s passion for his job or profession, but boy, it sure would suck to get paid a lot of money to not do anything.

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Where Are The Houston Texans Working Out?

While they’re busy fighting a legislative battle against the NFL, players are also trying to keep themselves in shape and ready for next season. Obviously it’s not a fact that there will be a next season, but the common wisdom points to the prepared groups being ready earlier. Thus, it makes all the sense in the world for players to get together and begin working out.

The Texans offense has worked like a well-oiled machine in this regard. They’ve been meeting almost since the day of the lockout, usually practicing at Rice Stadium. It’s not a surprise that they are the better organized of the two Texans units, seeing as how the defense has a whole lot more to take in, but it’s looking like the offense will be NFL-ready by the start of the season.

The defense is a different matter. Captain DeMeco Ryans is rehabbing his injuries on his own at the University Of Alabama. Some of the defensive players are working out against the offense, and some of them are working out at an entirely different location. It also doesn’t help matters that the defense has many more rookies than the offense, and thus is much less tight-knit at this point.

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NFL Owners Approve New Rules That We'd Be More Mad About If It Weren't For The Lockout

The NFL, which is strongly for player safety asides from untraceable steroids, trying to push for an 18 game season, and actually forcing players who have concussions to not play, approved another step towards the wussification of the sport yesterday.

In addition to a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty, under the new rule, the launching defender can be ejected from the game if the action is judged flagrant by the officiating crew.

The league also announced plans for another safety initiative that will result in teams being fined if their players accumulate too many penalties for illegal hits.

Prohibited contact against a player in a defenseless position was further defined as “forcibly hitting the neck or head area with the helmet, facemask, forearm or shoulder regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him.”

Fact: at some point during the next NFL season, whenever it is, some team will get hurt by a questionable penalty or ejection stemming from these new changes. Then there will be controversy. Then it will be amended ad nauseam until people find something new to complain about.

The NFL is concerned enough about their image with player safety that they’re willing to risk that. At least for this year. Of course, there are certain lines that shouldn’t be crossed on a field, but the more one looks at all these new rules, the more one wonders why they can’t just be uniform and simple rather than vague and abstract.

If you can’t properly and consistently define the level at which a football hit goes from clean to dirty, then why are you trying to legislate it so much?

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Andre Johnson Becomes World's Most Expensive Recruiter

On his way from recovering from a devastating foot injury that limited his explosiveness in 2010, Andre Johnson found time to host his annual football camp for children, and has also been busy making calls. Per John McClain of The Houston Chronicle, he’s talked to All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach about returning. Perhaps more importantly, he’s talked to former Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha about signing up.

“I’ve talked to him, and every time I hit him with it, it seems like it’s on his mind,” Johnson said. “I don’t even say, ‘Hey, man, what’s up?’ The first thing I say is, ’What’s up? Are you coming to Houston? What are you going to do?’ ”

When the lockout ends, Asomugha, who is regarded as one of the two best cornerbacks in the league, will become the most attractive free agent. The Texans know him very well because they play the Oakland Raiders almost every season.

“He’ll have to make a decision,” Johnson said. “I know it’ll be a big decision. He’s a very talented guy. I’d love to have him on our team.”

If the Texans aren’t able to coerce Asomugha into coming on board, as is expected and would be the norm for this franchise, Houston would likely slide down to Ike Taylor on it’s targets list. Johnson is doing his best for the franchise on and off the field.

Unfortunately, Johnson can’t control the amount of money Bob McNair is willing to spend on these two. But, as usual, he’s doing what he can to keep Houston relevant in the conversation.

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Dallas Safety Gerald Sensabaugh A Likely Target For Houston In Free Agency

With last season's starting safeties, Bernard Pollard and Eugene Wilson on the outs in Houston, the Texans obviously have a couple of openings at the back end of the secondary. It was long rumored, and now all but confirmed that Glover Quin is going to be the new free safety. That leaves a starting hole at strong safety that a lot of us assume is going to be filled by Troy Nolan, who showed a nose for the ball in 2010 (but not much else).

The Texans drafted Idaho product, safety Shiloh Keo in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. He seems a great candidate to be a special teams demon and hopefully solid depth in the future at the safety position, but speculation is that he will at least have a chance to compete for a starting job. But in a year where the Texans are supposed to be making a quick-turnaround on defense, do they really want to go with yet another rookie, or barely-past rookie in Nolan at the back end of the secondary?

This is where Cowboys strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh logically enters the picture. This sort of thing happens all the time when a team hires a new coach or coordinator. They want to bring guys in that they're familiar with, and can help ease the transition to new systems. 

Sensabaugh isn't going to get anyone excited. His ceiling tops out around "solid". He isn't the run-stopper you'd like to see in your strong safety, and while he's not a coverage specialist - he would be better in that role than Nolan, or sadly - anyone else who has played the strong safety position in the history of the Houston Texans. He'll be 28 years old in June, so he's by no means over the hill. On a great defense, Sensabaugh would make a very solid backup and spot-starter. For Houston, well... I think you get it.

This isn't meant to be an endorsement of Sensabaugh-to-Houston. It's just something I see as a likely direction the team will head. Presently, the options at strong safety are Nolan, who only looks like a decent option because of how awful the position was last year. Keo, who the coaches are absolutely in love with, but let's not get crazy here - he's a rookie, and his leadership/mettle/tenacity will only take him so far at the next level. (Especially, again, as a rookie.)

While going forward with only Troy Nolan or Shiloh Keo as their main options to start at strong safety would certainly fit the way the Texans typically do business, the hope is that the addition of Wade Phillips to the staff will change some of their set ways. The Texans are big fans of using the previous season's "flashes" of young players as a reason to assume they are going to take the next step in their careers. It doesn't always work out that way.

Sensabaugh would be a fairly cheap addition that could give the Texans some flexibility at the safety position if Nolan and/or Keo aren't ready to be starters (and really, I don't think they are).

Of course, I'd love to see the Texans pursue Dawan Landry if the CBA shakes out in such a way that it's a possibility. However the Texans are all but a lock to spend their big free agent dollars on a cornerback. They'll make the proverbial "competitive offer" to Nnamdi Asomugha, and he will laugh uncontrollably. They'll pursue Ike Taylor, and hopefully fail, because Taylor has free agent bust written ALL OVER him. Perhaps Carlos Rogers or Johnathan Joseph will be the guy. The point is, there isn't going to be enough free agent money to get a top-tier caliber safety and a cornerback good enough to give this secondary some real improvement. 

Rotoworld "reports" (more like suggests) that Sensabaugh is likely to test the free agent waters once he's able. Sensabaugh could be a sensible (heh) addition to the Texans, provided the team also gives Nolan and Keo a real shot to compete for a starting job. I'm just very skeptical that either of those guys are ready to be starters - even in a secondary as awful as Houston's.

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'Report': Nnamdi Asomugha May Not Be Interested In Playing For Texans

The lack of NFL news in the wake of the lockout has left us desperate, and thus, any little speck of precious NFL news is being held up, overanalyzed, and reposted left and right.

Richard Justice of The Houston Chronicle, in a throwaway line in his recent piece, wrote that Nnamdi Asomugha may not want to be a Houston Texan. Everyone jumped on this despite the fact that a) the first Texans story that Richard Justice breaks will be his first, b) it was anonymous, and c) it wasn’t even attributed to a source. “Word is.” I am going to say two words here: “Ridiculous money.”

Word is the Texans are offering Nnamdi Asomugha ridiculous money, per my sources.

The Texans were never going to be players for Asomugha without backing up the Brinks Trucks to begin with, so lets not overreact to this “news” story. If the Texans want Asomugha, they will pay him what he’s worth. If they don’t, which seems likely given Bob McNair’s history of not setting the market in free agency, then it wasn’t going to happen anyway. Maybe the Texans history will be the deciding factor if the money is close to a team like the Eagles or Giants. I doubt it, though.

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Report: Steve Smith Is Interested In Texans?

Pro Football Weekly (hat tip to Alan Burge) had a vague interview with Panthers All-Pro wide receiver Steve Smith about where his next destination could be given the rebuilding circumstances in Carolina. One of the teams that came up, and it looks like it’s PFW’s writer suggesting the interest rather than Smith, is your Houston Texans.

Smith wasn’t giving specifics. In fact, he said that returning to the Panthers — despite all he and the team have been through the past two seasons — remains in the realm of possibilities, even referring to the Panthers’ decision whether or not to trade Smith as a “family matter.”

“The teams that have been linked to me as being ones I have interest in going to” — most notably the Chargers, Ravens and Texans — “I think any professional would be interested in playing for a team that is interested in having them, especially those that have the potential to give you a chance to win a championship. That also plays into Carolina, as well,” he said.

Smith would be a very interesting over the top piece for the Texans, and I mean that in both the “he would make the offense officially crazy” sense and the “second legitimate deep threat” ideal.

It’s way too early to speculate how this could turn out given the lack of a collective bargaining agreement, uncertainty over who would and who wouldn’t be a free agent, and whether the Panthers will cut Smith loose or hold him hostage. You would have to think, for now, that the Texans would be better off spending whatever money or resources they have into rebuilding their secondary. They’re still at least two starters away from having that area of the team potentially fixed, and they could still improve a few other slots on the defense as well.

But wide receiver could be a priority for the Texans, and though Smith appeared to have lost a step last year, he was also playing hurt and was a part of one of the worst offenses in modern NFL history. He could very well be an intriguing option down the road for the Texans.

Just not one that should come at the expense of rebuilding the defense.

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2011 Texans Schedule: Texans Announce Pre-Season Dates

The Texans took to their own website yesterday to announce the preseason dates that they have made with other teams. The Texans will host the Jets and the Saints in the first two weeks of the preseason, then will travel to San Francisco and Minnesota in the last two.

This is, of course, assuming we have a preseason. The NFL, as you may have heard, is currently in a lockout that threatens their season. Should the lockout stay be granted today, as is expected, the preseason will likely be in jeopardy.

Here’s what the complete preseason schedule looks like, courtesy of HoustonTexans.com:

DAY DATE TIME (CT) OPPONENT TV
Monday 8/15 7:30 p.m. NEW YORK JETS ESPN
Saturday 8/20 7:00 p.m. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS KTRK
Saturday 8/27 7:00 p.m. at San Francisco 49ers KTRK
Thursday 9/1 7:00 p.m. at Minnesota Vikings KTRK

The Texans will kick off the regular season against the Indianapolis Colts, in Houston, for the second straight year. Assuming the lockout is over at that point.

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Texans Free Agents: Vonta Leach Shopping HImself Today

Vonta Leach has commanded his team to take the Texans bull by the horns today as his agent calls around gauging interest in his client. The NFL has said that there will be no workouts or normal business today, despite a court order compelling them to do so. However, it’s in the best interests of the players to pretend like business is usual, particularly since the court has ordered it so, and thus Leach is shopping his wares to other teams today.

“I’m contacting teams on Vonta’s behalf,” Vitolo said. “They can take my calls, ignore my calls or tell me not to call back.”

“The judge has already ruled twice against the league. The NFLPA is telling us we need to do our jobs. As far as I’m concerned it’s open for business.”

Seems like a logical position for Leach and his agency to take, even if it’s unlikely to yield any actual results today. The NFL is in clear violation of the rules here, and they’ll be lucky to hold that legal position up in court later on should it be challenged.

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Texans Free Agents: Rick Smith Wants Vonta Leach Back

While Vonta Leach invited himself out of Houston last week on Twitter, Houston general manager Rick Smith either isn’t quite ready to let that happen or is engaging in some clever PR spin as he made it clear at a Tuesday press conference that the Texans are still interested in re-signing Leach:

"We’ve talked to Vonta and his representatives, and he knows we want him back," Smith said. "We’ve communicated that to him."

Smith called the fullback position "a bit of a dying art" when asked about the crop available in this year’s draft. His press conference ended with a question about what direction the Texans would go at fullback if Leach does not return.

"I think that there’s some options," Smith said. "We won’t know anything about our ability to sign Vonta back prior to the draft, but I don’t think we’re going into the draft saying we’ve got to get a fullback. That’s kind of a bit of a hypothetical."

Sounds like, at the least, the Texans will make an effort to bring him back still. Keep in mind that outside of Andre Johnson, the Texans have been very hesitant to hand top-tier money to anyone at a position though. According to The Houston Chronicle’s Jerome Solomon, who took a break from trolling Daryl Morey fans, the failure to bring Leach back would send the wrong message to the team:

Keep losing 10 games a year and the Texans could have a heck of a lot less for which to be fiscally responsible. Actually, one more 10-loss campaign and Smith might not be responsible at all. He and Gary Kubiak could exit together.

Don’t even try to talk about the money being better spent elsewhere. Leach’s signing won’t prevent the Texans from signing other players, including high-dollar free agents, who could blow their noses with Leach’s tidy little sum.

I’m not a big believer in the theory that the Texans need to re-sign Vonta Leach. Great player, but all fullbacks should have a price tag that you don’t need to cross in this day and age. However, Solomon does breach a good point in his article: what kind of message does it send to the players and fanbase if the Texans don’t re-sign Leach? Particularly weighed against the fact that Smith and Gary Kubiak have accomplished nothing but a nine win season in five years in Houston?

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Texans Offseason: Curious Comments From Vonta Leach During Radio Interview

Vonta Leach's seemingly imminent departure from the Texans has been well-covered here, but in a radio interview on Sports Radio 610, things got a little strange.

"I think they want to throw the ball more."

Huh?

The Texans, who are great in ONE area and one area only - running the football - want to throw the ball MORE?

Okay, Vonta. 

I say that because, if you listen to the interview the above quote doesn't come off as some kind of inside information, or something Vonta has been told by the team. It comes off as Vonta throwing out an answer to a question. It feels like pure speculation. It almost sounds as if he came up with something in order to perpetuate the thought that the Texans don't actually want him back, which of course is asinine.

The Texans want to continue their elite-level rushing attack, but they're also not going to break the bank for a fullback. I'm sure the Texans would be just fine making Vonta the highest-paid fullback in NFL history - the question is, how much more than the current highest paid fullback in the NFL would it take? If it's a significant amount more, I won't be upset about him walking in the slightest. Vonta Leach is great at what he does. You can't argue the results, but he's not an irreplaceable player.

I wrote this article recently explaining that it already looked bleak for Leach to remain in Houston. The flurry of new Vonta speculation this week certainly hasn't changed that thinking. To me it sounds like he is motivated by the dollar, which is totally fine. Injuries happen, skills decline - these guys have to get what they can get while they can get it, just like I would. It just depends on how much is too much.

More on this subject by Rivers McCown over at Battle Red Blog.

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Texans Rumors: Leach Tweets That 'The Writing Is On The Wall' With Texans

Pro Bowl and All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach all but declared it was over with the Texans last night in a Twitter storm from his account @vleach44. As was pointed out earlier, it was pretty telling that the Texans and Leach didn’t see eye-to-eye on his value when they didn’t sign him to a new contract on the last day before the league season ended, as they did with Owen Daniels, Shaun Cody, and Derrick Ward.

Leach tweeted that the Texans “front office wants to go in a different [direction]” with him, and that he’d had no contact with the organization since the NFL Combine. He followed that up with:

I played in the league long enough to know when writing is on the wall If i played my last game as a Texan I enjoyed my 5 years. To my teammates keep working hard y’all will get things turned around, to the fans the best fans and deserve a winning franchise.

Pretty classy response, considering the way that some athletes have taken contract offers that they don’t like as slaps in the face. Leach is reportedly looking for a contract that will make him the highest paid fullback in the NFL.

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Texans Rumors: Texans Won't Bring Back Vonta Leach?

Pro Football Weekly suggests that the Texans won’t re-sign Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach once the sides are allowed to negotiate again.

It was always a rather ominous sign that the Texans could reach agreements with Shaun Cody, Derrick Ward, and Owen Daniels before the season, but couldn’t reach anything with Leach. His tweets following that were rather indicative that he would at least test the market, as our own Chris Watkins explored. John McClain has also said that he thinks another team will make Leach the highest-paid fullback in NFL history.

So while Pro Football Weekly isn’t typically the sort of publication you’d run to the bank with on these rumors, it does seem to fit into the established pattern. James Casey is the Texans backup fullback, and they’ve also been talking to (surprise surprise) Colorado State fullback Zac Pauga.

I would not personally be completely outraged if Leach wasn’t back, especially should he become the highest-paid fullback in the NFL. But it does say a lot about this team that it chose to re-sign two players at positions of depth and Cody over someone who was sent to Hawaii last year.

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Houston Texans 2011 Schedule: Thoughts On The Texans Schedule

As tough as the first grouping of games the Texans will face is, I think overall this is a very favorable schedule for Houston. “But look at all the playoff teams!” you might say, well sure, but last year is last year. If the Texans do get held back this year, it’s not going to be by the schedule, but by half-assing their approach to fixing the defense. Again.

Three reasons I like this schedule for the Texans:

1) Only one prime-time game.

As great as it was being featured all over the place last season, the Texans did go 0-3 (against admittedly good opponents) on days that weren’t Sunday last year. They were 4-2 on the regular Sunday rotation before the bye, then they had MNF against the Colts, and a really awkward stretch where they played on three days rest in Philly and 10 days rest against Baltimore.

I would choose bland and routine every week with the schedule if I could, and the Texans won’t have to change their plans at all until the next-to-last week of the season, which may be the best time to catch the Colts considering how many injuries they tend to accumulate.

2) We’ll figure out right away if this team is a contender

Almost all of the Texans really difficult games come in the first six weeks of the season. Hosting the Colts and Steelers, and then going on the road against the Dolphins, Saints, and Ravens. Oh, and they play the Raiders too.

The good news about this? Well, like I said about the Colts earlier: the sooner the Texans face these teams, the less likely they are to be dealing with a lot of injuries. Additionally, if they come out of that stretch at 3-3, you have to like their odds of dealing with their schedule for the rest of the season.

Oh, and if the lockout happens to extend into the season and take away some of these games…well, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Texans fans.

3) The NFC South is a paper tiger

It’s really unfair that the Texans got the NFC South, right? Two playoff teams, and even the Buccaneers went 10-6 last year. What grave misfortune for the Texans!

Well, it’s not really that big of a deal. Remember 2009, when the Texans went 9-7? How overjoyed we all were? What really gave them a boost that season was a 3-1 slate against the NFC West. Or as it’s been called for the last five or six years now: the worst division in football.

The NFC South made their living last year on slapping around, you guessed it, the NFC West. To be sure, the Saints and Falcons are solid teams, but they’re not hardly the juggernauts that their records last season made them out to be. Tough games? Yes. Winnable games? Yes.

If that Texans defense is fixed, that is.

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Houston Texans 2011 Schedule: An Insanely Early Analysis Of the Road Ahead

 

The NFL released their 2011 regular season schedule earlier tonight which means we have had some time to digest the news. The schedule release is a welcome fix for football junkies around the world as fans have been hungry for some news concerning the game as opposed to the lockout which threatens to delay/cancel the season.

Many people are rushing to break down the schedule. The problem with that? Well, rosters are wildly incomplete due to the lack of free agency and the NFL Draft being next week. Your Houston Texans, for example, could barely field a defense and have no fullback. How can I predict the games when no one knows what the team, especially the defense, will look like?

The unknown that is the defense does help the Texans during the early part of the schedule as teams will not have any game film on new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' defense. Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts will have to prepare with old game tape and some guesses while the Miami Dolphins, who have never beaten the Texans, and whoever is the quarterback there will only have the one game to study.

The rough stretch of the season hits with Houston taking on the offensive juggernaut Saints, intensely physical Steelers, and equally physical Ravens over the course of four weeks. This is broken up by the nearly annual game against the Raiders. If the Texans can stand up to this first third of the season, they may have a chance at playing meaningful football in the second half of the season.

That second half of the season is highlighted by the Texas returns of Cleveland Browns quarterback, and Texas Longhorn alumnus, Colt McCoy and Atlanta Falcons cornerback, and former Texan, Dunta Robinson as both their teams head to Houston. After back-to-back match-ups against two teams drafting in the top-four next week (Cincinnati and Carolina), the Texans draw the Colts on a Thursday night game and finish the year on New Year's against the hated Tennessee Titans.

It's a tough schedule, but that toughness is front-loaded before the bye week which many will see as a positive...if the Texans are contending that is. There is not any home or road stretch longer than two weeks plus the Texans avoid any long trips to the west coast. In an interesting tidbit, the Texans will play three games in the state of Florida which should make the many Texans who graduated from the University of Miami (FL) happy to get multiple trips near home.

Overall, it's hard to predict how the Texans season will turn out. All I can tell now is that we will know who the real Houston Texans are within those first six weeks.

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Houston Texans 2011 Schedule: Texans Get 1 Prime Time Game, Open With Colts

Currently, the 2011 NFL Schedule looks like this.

Now to April 28th: Lockout
April 28th - April 30th: NFL Draft
May 1st - Indefinite: Lockout.

However, if the NFL and Players Association do get their acts together then this is the slate your Houston Texans will tackle in 2011:

Week 1: vs. Indianapolis Colts - Noon CT
Week 2: at Miami Dolphins - 3:15 pm CT
Week 3: at New Orleans Saints - Noon CT
Week 4: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers - Noon CT
Week 5: vs. Oakland Raiders - Noon CT
Week 6: at Baltimore Ravens - 3:15 pm CT
Week 7: at Tennessee Titans - Noon CT
Week 8: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars - Noon CT
Week 9:  vs. Cleveland Browns - Noon CT
Week 10: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Noon CT
Week 11: BYE WEEK
Week 12: at Jacksonville Jaguars - Noon CT
Week 13: vs. Atlanta Falcons - Noon CT
Week 14: at Cincinnati Bengals - Noon CT
Week 15: vs. Carolina Panthers - Noon CT
Week 16: at Indianapolis Colts - 7:20 pm CT (Thursday night)
Week 17: vs. Tennessee Titans - Noon CT

At first glance, the schedule is heavily tilted with the tougher part before the bye with the opener against the Colts and the Saints, Steelers, and Ravens all within four weeks of each other. The home and road mix is pretty balanced, so that shouldn't be a factor.

Another key note is the sole prime time game. The prime time games usually go to teams that the NFL thinks will be contending for the playoffs, so it looks like the NFL isn't buying much of the Texans this season. More detailed analysis to come.

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Houston Texans 2011 Schedule To Be Released Tuesday

Per NFL's vice president of football communications Michael Signora, who sounds like his title was invented by John Madden, the Houston Texans (and all NFL teams) will see their schedules revealed tomorrow at 6 P.M. CT. Of course, we already have the list of teams that the Texans will be playing, but this will reveal the order that they are playing in. The Texans will play home-and-homes with the AFC South, as well as games against the AFC North, NFC South, and the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders. Here's a handy breakdown from the Mothership on where each game will be:

HOME AWAY
Indianapolis Colts* Indianapolis Colts*
Jacksonville Jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans Tennessee Titans
Cleveland Browns Baltimore Ravens*
Pittsburgh Steelers* Cincinnati Bengals
Oakland Raiders Miami Dolphins
Atlanta Falcons* New Orleans Saints*
Carolina Panthers Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The big things to look for out of the schedule release will be a) the possibility of nationally televised games, which are generally a good sign of how highly-regarded a team is, b) the timing of the bye week, which can be immensely helpful in healing up injured players, and c) who the teams will kickoff with, because those are the games most in danger of being moved or cancelled by the NFL lockout.

Right, this would also be a good time to mention that this schedule is dependent on the two sides actually coming to terms on an agreement. Otherwise, it's sort of meaningless. 

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Houston Texans 2011 Preseason Schedule

Assuming they actually, you know, play the games instead of having a lockout, the Texans have made some real changes from last season’s preseason schedule. Gone is the yearly tiff with Dallas, and the Buccaneers are also off the schedule. The Texans did manage to keep a game with the Saints—they’ve played the Saints the last four preseasons—and they will play one nationally televised preseason game against the Jets.

Should the NFL get it’s act together in time to play the game, the Texans will host the Jets on August 15th at 7 P.M. CDT. It would be broadcast on ESPN, so that we would all learn just what the Texans would need to do to make the playoffs.

The remainder of the games don’t have a set date yet, but would be roughly considered preseason weeks 2-4. The Texans would host the Saints and travel to face the 49ers and Vikings, in order. All the games would be on KTRK, which means fans would be treated to another case of KTRK desperately trying to understand social media. With unicorn blood for all.

If you're a sap for schedules that will likely be completely altered, here is SB Nation's complete breakdown of all the preseason games.

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Texans Rumors: Johnathan Joseph Could Be On The Texans Offseason Radar; Will Vonta Leach Come Back?

The Houston Chronicle’s John McClain, in his latest chat wrap, speculated that Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph could be the Texans biggest priority in free agency, should he be available.

Any veteran DB’s that the Texans have expressed interest in lately?

John McClain: Nope. They to to stay quiet or it’s tampering since there’s no free agency. I can tell you this: If free agency started tomorrow, they’d be after a veteran CB like Jonathan Joseph. They made NA [Nnamdi Asomugha] an offer, but I don’t think it would be enough.

Joseph would only be a free agent if the collective bargaining agreement plays out so that it returns to it’s old rules. If an injunction forces the owners to make the offseason start, he would not be available. Joseph would make a lot of sense for the Texans as an established corner, and definitely would fit their mold of going after young solid players in free agency rather than transcendent superstars like Asomugha. I guess Texans fans should just be relieved that they made contact with Asomugha.

McClain also thinks that Vonta Leach will likely bolt to a new team:

Will the texans resign Leach?

John McClain: They want to. He wants to re-sign. It depends on what he gets from another team. I may be wrong, but I think another team will make him the highest-paid FB in history.

Very interesting. Leach was, of course, a big part of Arian Foster’s amazing season in 2010. However, he was pretty sub-par in 2009, and fullbacks aren’t often thought of as a valuable commodity. James Casey is the only player on the roster with experience at fullback, and moving him there would make the Texans play-action game much more interesting underneath, but he’s obviously not in Leach’s league as a blocker.

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Texans Receive Seventh Round Compensation Pick In This Year's Draft

The NFL handed out it’s compensation picks for this year’s NFL draft today, and the Houston Texans were awarded only a seventh round pick. It was thought that the team might be able to get more by the local media, considering that Dunta Robinson signed an enormous contract with the Atlanta Falcons. However, even simple reverse engineering of the formula showed that the Texans would likely only receive a seventh-rounder because they started two free agents last season: Wade Smith and Neil Rackers.

The Texans weren’t handed a seventh-rounder for the loss of Robinson, but rather because the formula calls for there to be 32 compensation picks. According to ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky, the pick will be the last of the entire draft (253rd overall), meaning the Texans will finally get their own Mr. Irrelevant. It also will likely be the last morsel of non-litigation/bargaining related NFL news this offseason, as it seems fairly unlikely that the players and owners will agree to the deal before the NFL Draft on April

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Will Amobi Okoye Be Back In Houston?

It didn’t take much to read these tea leaves, but The Houston Chronicle’s John McClain is predicting that Texans defensive tackle and 2007 first rounder Amobi Okoye will probably not make the 2011 roster.

[Comment From JJones]
So with your response on Amobi Okoye not being on the team, do you think we trade him? What do you realistically think we could get for him?

John McClain: I don’t know. I’m just saying when the season starts I’ll be surprised if he’s on the team. I may be wrong. He can play the run, but he doesn’t look like a 3-4 DL to me, even in Phillips’ defense.

It would have been a massive stunner if Okoye actually did make the roster, considering he’s a 4-3 off-tackle and Wade Phillips has switched to the 3-4. I’d bet he’ll get a look at 3-4 DE throughout the abbreviated preseason, but it also wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was on the outs in Houston.

Okoye hasn’t been worth the first-round pick the Texans used on him, but he’s been a serviceable off-tackle. Used in a rotation instead of as an every down lineman, he may recover some burst and value. It’s clear that the Texans aren’t interested in being the team that gets that out of him considering the amount of hype that Earl Mitchell and Shaun Cody have received thus far this offseason, but with his youth and talent, Okoye could be a nice bargain for some 4-3 team out there.

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Nnamdi Asomugha To Be Wooed By Texans? Adam Schefter Says So

I know, I know, it’s hard to buy into the idea that the Texans will actually take a chance and woo a top tier free agent. But lets put that aside for a moment, because the latest news out of the Bristol news desk is that ESPN’s Adam Schefter thinks it could happen. He still thinks Nnamdi Asomugha wants to play on the East Coast, but he listed the Texans as one of three teams lined up to pursue Asomugha:

Unfortunately, when you juxtapose chasing Asomugha against Bob McNair’s comments from yesterday, it appears unlikely that the Texans will actually be able to meet Asomugha’s asking price:

“If there’s a veteran player out there who can really help our team, we’ll go after them, but we’re not going to pay more than we think they’re worth. We’re not going to do something we think is crazy.”

It will be interesting to see which way this goes, but Texans fans would be advised not to get their hopes up too high given the number of teams likely to be involved with Asomugha and Houston’s track record of not chasing (and paying) elite free agents.

But it’s a nice change of pace to actually see the Texans linked to the player who would do the most for them this offseason.

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Rashad Butler Really Doesn't Sound Like He Wants To Stay In Houston

One important, yet highly-overlooked position on every NFL roster is the swing tackle. Rashad Butler fills this role for the Texans, and proved valuable when he stepped in for starting LT Duane Brown last season after Brown was popped for PEDs. 

Butler filled in admirably (not spectacularly) for Brown during his four-game suspension, and he figures to cash in on that performance if/when free agency begins. You can't blame him for wanting to 1) get as much money as he can, and 2) perhaps earn the chance to start elsewhere.

The Texans did slap a third-round restricted free agent tender on Butler before the lockout came down, but in all likelihood that will be rendered meaningless when the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached. Unless something unexpected happens, Butler will be an unrestricted free agent once things are "back to normal."

It wouldn't be anything resembling a crushing blow to the team, but unfortunately Butler seems pretty dead-set on getting out of town. Check out this exchange between Butler and Brian Cushing via Twitter:

@briancushing56 CAMP? Depending on the new CBA ur boy might be an unrestricted free agent and u know what that means OPPOSING TEAM!!!

You may think I'm reading too much into this, but being a follower of Butler since he joined Twitter, I can assure you this is typical. I don't hold it against him, in fact, that kind of public honesty from a player is refreshing. In Butler's perfect world, he would join the Miami Dolphins as their starting LT, and women would line up to "congratulate" him. He could then go on a Twitter-tirade about how fake they all are, and how they're gold-diggers. I could link you to examples of that, but there are too many. It would cripple the Internet.

In his own mind, Rashad Butler is a superstar. Photo shoots, his own clothing line, lavish parties - all part of the @RB2Cool experience. Again - can't fault him for that. "That kid's got a lot of confidence," as his head coach would say. 

Looking over the roster, I don't see a guy who I think coach Kubiak would have that same level of confidence in as a replacement. I'd expect the Texans to look at a veteran free agent to fill this void once Butler is gone. There is always the draft, but the smart money is on a new wide receiver if the Texans are going to draft an offensive player. (You may insert your own tight end joke here.)

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Texans Offseason: "Rumblings" That Texans Had Interest In Dolphins NT Soliai

An interesting NFL rumor surfaced this morning on the excellent National Football Post's Sunday Blitz. According to NFP writer Dan Pompei, the Texans were planning to sniff around true 3-4 nose tackle and prospective free agent Paul Soliai:

The Dolphins raised a lot of eyebrows when they put the franchise tag on nose tackle Paul Soliai, guaranteeing him about $12.5 million in 2011. Why did the team step out like that on a player who most fans aren't even aware of? My sources tell me the Dolphins surveyed the free agent field and believed there were no other nose tackles close to Soliai in ability. Given the number of teams playing a 3-4 defense, the Dolphins feared Soliai would be the subject of a bidding war. In fact, there were rumblings that the Redskins and Texans coveted him.

If true, this would certainly signal a monumentally-welcome shift in the way the Texans have projected their feelings about the starting 2011 NT. Soliai is definitely a guy I had my eye on as a possible free agent target for the Texans, but the Dolphins took care of that when they franchise tagged him. 

With the, I'm just going to go ahead and call it "disturbing" news that the Texans re-upped on a deal with alleged NT-starter-in-waiting Shaun Cody, we may in fact be in store for what the Texans have been telling us all along. The NT rotation in our "must turn this defense around in one offseason" will consist of Cody as the starter, with 2nd-year player Earl Mitchell as the primary backup.

Face, meet keyboard. *SLAM*

Now, Cody isn't making crazy starter money (two years, $5.75 million), but it certainly seems to be enough to indicate the Texans aren't planning a significant free agent acquisition at the position, and with little-to-no chance that top-end position prospects Nick Fairley and Marcell Dareus will still be on the board at #11, I wouldn't expect the Texans will select a NT with either of their first two picks. 

More on the Soliai rumor and resulting NT ruminations by Battle Red Blog's Jake Langenkamp.

Another Texans-related NT article can be found at my other joint.

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Shaun Cody Agrees To New Two-Year Deal With Texans

Per John McClain, yet again today, the Texans have reached a contract agreement with DT Shaun Cody. Cody will receive $5.75 million over the next two seasons, with $1.5 million of it guaranteed. It’s not an outrageous salary, but $1.5 million is a lot of guaranteed dollars for a player who might not even start next season.

Cody came over from the Detroit Lions after the 2009 season and made his way into the starting lineup after the first few games of the season showed the run defense needed help. He’s mainly around to help stuff the run, but given the Texans poor showing against the run in 2010 and the switch to a 3-4 defense, it was considered somewhat of a longshot that he’d be back.

No matter, McClain says, because Wade Phillips likes him as a 3-4 nose tackle. I’m not so sure. Nose tackle has been a major weakness for this Texans defense since the beginning of their existence, and in moving to a 3-4, it was thought that maybe this would be the year that they started to take the position seriously. Instead, they will paper over the hole with second-year defensive tackle Earl Mitchell and Cody.

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Texans Complete One-Year Deal With Derrick Ward

The Texans have reached terms with running back Derrick Ward on a one-year contract for the 2011 season, according to The Houston Chronicle’s John McClain. Per team policy, contract details were not revealed, although it’s doubtful that it’s too much money given that Ward is a backup.

Ward, who will be 31 before next season starts, averaged 6.3 yards a carry as Arian Foster’s chief handcuff. While he’s a little old to be depended on as a secondary back, the Texans will likely hand that role over to Ben Tate if he stays healthy. It’s a decent depth signing for the Texans, and a nice reward for “The Glacier” for some solid play last year.

If this doesn’t effectively end Steve Slaton’s career in Houston, I don’t know what else will. He’s behind three guys on the running back depth chart and according to Pro Football Focus, was the worst kick returner in the NFL last year. Happy trails, Stevie.

EDIT: McClain is now reporting the terms are $875,000 to sign and $875,000 in base salary, for a total of $1.77 million for one year. Maybe a slight overpayment, but after his last season, someone was going to have to do it.

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Texans Re-Sign Tight End Owen Daniels

The Houston Chronicle’s John McClain is reporting that the Texans have reached and agreement with tight end Owen Daniels on a new contract.

Daniels was tendered yesterday at a first round level, meaning he would have gotten the second-highest tender if the system had stayed in place for players of his experience bracket.

Daniels has been injured for much of the last two seasons, and the Texans currently employ four separate tight ends that they’ve invested a lot of development into, and that’s not counting perpetually injured fourth-rounder Anthony Hill. It was thought that those tight ends would keep the Texans from making a big offer to Daniels, but apparently the Texans decided he was their best option in the passing game after Andre Johnson

EDIT: ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that the deal is for four years and worth $22 million. No word on how much of that comes as a bonus yet, but that's a pretty decent sized chunk of change for a tight end coming off two straight years of injuries. 

But then again, the owners don't really make enough money. 

EDIT 2: According to FoxSports.com's Adam Caplan, Daniels will receive just below $14 million in the first two years of the contract. Still no word on how big his bonus is, but again, that's a pretty high figure for a guy with a lengthy injury history.

FINAL EDIT: McClain is now reporting that Daniels will get $6 million guaranteed. That makes the overall deal look a little better, but it's still a bit of a headscratcher for a team that desperately needs to spend money upgrading the other side of the ball.

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Texans Tender Owen Daniels At First Round Level, Don't Tender Bernard Pollard At All

The new collective bargaining agreement may not include the restricted free agent tenders, but the Texans have done their homework and have slapped several players with tenders anyway.

The restricted free agent tenders limit young free agents from moving to a new team, as teams who sign those players are forced to fork over a draft pick in exchange for signing the player. The tender levels refer to both the draft pick that must be given up and the amount of money a player may make--the higher the draft pick that must be given up for a player, the more money he must be paid in restricted free agency.

The Texans made their moves today, according to The Houston Chronicle's John McClain, and the first order of business for Houston was to slap first round tenders on tight end Owen Daniels and backup quarterback Matt Leinart. There was some train of thought that Daniels would be let go in free agency due to the tight end surplus behind him, but it appears the Texans are still very serious about keeping him. The tendering of Leinart that high has to be a serious cause for concern for Dan Orlovsky, who should probably be renting instead of leasing right now.

Second round tenders were applied to wide receiver Jacoby Jones, guard Mike Brisiel, and defensive end-to-linebacker project Mark Anderson. Jones was one of the biggest drop machines in the NFL last year, and at 27, it's a little surprising to see the Texans value him as much as they do. Brisiel is a great run blocker, but injury prone and not terrific in pass protection, that was a pretty obvious tender. Anderson was signed in midseason after the Chicago Bears released him, and he had a strong showing for the Texans in the second half of the season.

Finally, backup tackle Rashad Butler was tendered at the original draft pick level, which means he will be worth a third-round pick on the open market. Butler started four games for Duane Brown during Brown's performance-enhancing drug suspension and did not look out of place in the slightest.

On the other hand, safety Bernard Pollard, linebacker Zac Diles, guard Kasey Studdard, and defensive end Tim Bulman were not tendered contracts at all. Regardless of the outcome of the new CBA, they will be unrestricted free agents when free agency starts again. Pollard apparently did not fit the mold that Wade Phillips and company wants to see on defense, but it's still a little surprising to watch a team shed both of it's safeties. Studdard was abysmal in 2009 and spent most of this season on the sidelines as a game-day inactive. The Texans wish Diles had been a game-day inactive last season. Bulman was hurt in training camp and placed on IR before the season started.

While these aren't 100% positive to hold up, depending on the rules in a new CBA, they are pretty clear indications of how the Texans value their players, and it's pretty interesting that they'd just cut Pollard loose and retain Leinart, Daniels, and Jones at such high levels despite the offense performing just fine without them.

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Texans Waive Eugene Wilson, Andre Davis, Three Others

According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans will sever ties with five players today, one of them is embattled free safety Eugene Wilson.

Wilson, 30, looked lost in coverage last year and was a big factor in the Texans pass defense being one of the worst in the history of the NFL. He was splitting snaps with rookie Troy Nolan by Week 4, but was never able to completely lose his job, probably because Gary Kubiak believed in him.

Also getting the cut was WR/KR Andre Davis, who spent all of last year on IR. While he was a dynamic kick returner for a few years, and filled in ably for Andre Johnson during his last extended injury absence in 2007, his skills had diminished with age. In 2009, he was terrible as a kickoff returner. This was another move that had to be made.

Also getting waived today were LB Isiah Greenhouse, LB Darnell Bing, and DL DeMario Pressly. Most of these players are practice squad fodder, although Greenhouse did play a few games on the active roster due to injuries last year.

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Texans Hire Jim Ryan And John Butler To Complete Coaching Staff

Very odd timing here late on a Friday, but the Texans announced that they have completed their coaching staff search and according to HoustonTexans.com’s Nick Scurfield, they’ve hired ex-Broncos (shocking!) coach Jim Ryan as an offensive assistant and Minnesota Golden Gophers Special Teams coach John Butler as a defensive assistant.

Butler has much more of a background in special teams, so while he’ll be a defensive assistant in name, I’m sure a lot of his addition to the staff will be about helping embattled coach Joe Marciano avoid being fired after the season. FoxSports.com’s Adam Caplan provides some more background info on Butler in this piece. While it’s hard to glean a lot from one interview question, apparently he’s a Bill Kollar style coach:

You’ve mentioned that coach [John] Butler tries to create monsters in the linebacker room. Do you fit that description?

SL: Oh, definitely. Last year, when I came in, I had more of a defensive back mentality from playing safety [in junior college]. And coach Butler beat that out of me pretty quickly this year.

Jim Ryan, on the other hand, was originally a defensive assistant. With the mid-2000’s Broncos. He recently had worked with the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL, again on the defensive side of the ball. He’s only worked one season as an offensive assistant: 2006 under the Broncos, though he was a “Texans coaching intern in 2010,” whatever that really means.

Here’s an interview that Ryan conducted with the Denver Broncos official website in 2005.

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2012 Super Bowl Odds: Texans Are 35:1

Before anything is done in the offseason, and before the lockout hits so that nothing ever really does get done in the offseason, we have this: the 2012 Super Bowl Odds by BoDog.com. The Texans are towards the lower end of the pack with 35:1 odds to win next season’s Super Bowl, to be held in shudder Indianapolis.

At 35:1, the Texans are tied with the Chiefs and Buccaneers, while being ahead of 16 other teams. Do the oddsmakers love them some Wade Phillips or what? I guess it’s hard to look at the Texans offense and not see good things from an outsiders perspective.

Too high? Too low? What say you?

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Foster Finishes Third In Offensive Player Of The Year Balloting

Texans running back Arian Foster may have been the leagues leading rusher, but without eye-popping personal statistics like 2000 yards or 20 touchdowns or a playoff team around him, it wasn’t quite enough to sway the voters of the Offensive Player Of The Year Award. Foster finished third behind Tom Brady and Michael Vick in the voting, which was announced yesterday.

While Foster won’t be able to add this trophy to his mantle, he made the Pro Bowl and was an AP All-Pro earlier this week, so he’s already garnered plenty of praise this offseason. Clearly he’ll be the focal point of the Texans offense next season, except against the Colts, where he will be ignored for the first half since he only rushed for 230+ yards in his first meeting with them. Lightweight.

For more on the Texans, check out Battle Red Blog.

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Texans Hire Reggie Herring To Coach Linebackers

Per John McClain’s Twitter feed, the Texans have hired Reggie Herring, the Cowboys linebackers coach, to perform the same job for them.

The Texans were originally refused permission to interview Herring, but the Cowboys relented once new defensive mastermind Rob Ryan had essentially been handed the keys. Herring coached the Texans linebackers earlier in his career, in the inaugural 2002 campaign, and in 2003 as well.

This one goes right up there with the hiring of Wade Phillips as moves that had been rumored for a solid week before they actually happened. Herring had previously coached linebackers under Phillips for the Cowboys. He will be tasked with helping Brian Cushing, DeMeco Ryans, Connor Barwin, and Darryl Sharpton, among others, as the Texans transition from the 4-3 back to the 3-4.

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Arian Foster Earns PFWA All-NFL, Most Improved Player Honors

The post-season awards keep rolling in for Texans running back Arian Foster. The NFL’s leading rusher has been named to the All-NFL team by the Professional Football Writers Association. Andre Johnson and Vonta Leach, the Texans other representatives on the Pro Bowl team, lost out on this ballot to Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles and Colts WR Reggie Wayne.

Foster also took home the award for Most Improved Player, which really makes one wonder how much attention these writers paid to Foster last year. He had two pretty good games when he was able to get the lion’s share of the carries, but that wasn’t until the Texans placed Steve Slaton on IR and every other running back on the roster was found wanting. But voila, he improved! By playing in more games! Silly.

The Texans did not land one player on the all-rookie team. Don’t worry though, Kareem Jackson is still much more NFL ready than Devin McCourty.

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Herring To Interview With Texans, Matthews To Interview WIth Cowboys

The Texans will finally bring in Cowboys LB coach Reggie Herring for an interview on Tuesday. They originally wanted to interview him last week, but were denied permission by the Cowboys at that point in time. However, with the Cowboys essentially settled on Rob Ryan as their new defensive coordinator, they were willing to let Herring walk this time. Herring was the linebackers coach for the Texans for the first two years of their existence, and has to be considered a heavy favorite to land the job again.

Offensive line assistant Bruce Matthews interviewed with the Cowboys for a job of his own today, as the Cowboys look for ways to get more out of a subpar line that held them back last season. The Texans are hoping to retain Matthews, but nothing is set in stone.

Perhaps this is an interview-for-interview proposition? Either way, it would be shocking if Herring was not named linebackers coach tomorrow after all the effort the Texans went through to try and obtain his services. The Texans let go of ex-linebackers coach Johnny Holland following the season, as part of the Frank Bush-endorsed group that produced one of the worst defenses in recent memory.

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Fox Lands Broncos Job, Ray Rhodes Retires, Vance Joseph To Coach Texans' Defensive Backs

John Fox will be the Broncos new head coach, meaning Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison will stay put in Houston, for his ‘job’. Having some continuity on the offensive staff can only be a good thing for the Texans after the year they just had. Dennison and Gary Kubiak won’t have a whole lot to improve on this coming year, although hopefully they’ll work a little on their play-action deep balls.

The other coaching news is via John McClain, who is reporting that the Texans have hired ex-49ers secondary coach Vance Joseph. Greg Manusky, a Wade Phillips disciple, heavily recommended Joseph. Here’s what Kubiak had to say about it:

“Vance has been coaching Wade’s coverages and playing his techniques with the 49ers, so he’ll fit right in,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “He comes highly recommended by some real good people. We think he’s got what it takes to be real special.”

Defensive assistant Ray Rhodes, who had heart conditions that kept him from being a serious candidate to step in for Frank Bush in the middle of last season, has retired. The writing was on the wall that most of Bush’s defensive staff would follow him into unemployment, and Rhodes’ health probably helped push him in this direction.

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Texans Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison Early Frontrunner For Broncos Job

The Broncos, looking for familiarity, may go back to one of their own when they sign their new head coach.

Both Adam Schefter and Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network are reporting that Dennison is the early favorite to take over as the new head coach of the franchise, after Josh McDaniels was unceremoniously dismissed in the middle of the season.

While this wouldn’t be the end of the world for the Texans, who have gotten used to replacing offensive coordinators under Gary Kubiak’s watch, Dennison oversaw a massive improvement in the Texans running game last year. Arian Foster’s talent played a big part in the resurgence of the run game, but even Derrick Ward was picking up yards in chunks behind Dennison’s offensive line. Additionally, it would give them one more Denver coach to battlefight over skill position coaches with on the open market. The Texans still have to find a new linebackers coach and a new defensive backs coach.

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Arian Foster And Andre Johnson Named To Sporting News All-Pro Team

Need some more proof of the greatness (on one side of the ball) the Texans had last season? They are the only team in the NFL with two All-Pros on offense as the Sporting News’ team was unveiled today.

Running back Arian Foster led the NFL in rushing and was probably a sure bet to take home this honor. But Andre Johnson also turned the trick, this despite playing in only 13 games. The Texans as a whole can keep playing the ‘no respect’ card, but it’s clear that Johnson has plenty of it.

Foster also finished fifth in the voting for Sporting News’ Offensive Player Of The Year. Which proves that, as usual, quarterbacks win every award unless the numbers are crazy. New England’s Tom Brady routed fellow quarterbacks Michael Vick, Phillip Rivers, and Matt Ryan to take the award.

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Texans Hope To Raid Cowboys Staff, Broncos Might Be Interested In Dennison?

ESPN Dallas’ Calvin Watkins is reporting that Wade Phillips is lobbying for some of his defensive staff in Dallas to join him in Houston. The Texans have officially requested to interview linebackers coach Reggie Herring, and the Cowboys have denied that request.

Watkins also is speculating that the Texans could make a move on safety coach Brett Maxie, who played for Phillips when he ran the Saints defense.

The Texans also may need to look for a new offensive coordinator, as Rick Dennison is among the candidates for the Broncos vacant head coaching job. Football czar John Elway (that feels weird to type) will ask the Texans for permission to interview Dennison.

While the running game flourished under Dennison’s touch, the passing game somewhat regressed, particularly the Play Action pass and pass blocking for Matt Schaub. The Texans would probably be obligated to let Dennison pursue the opportunity, and that may be a bigger deal than the typical fan might think considering the state of the running game when Dennison took over.

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Report: Wade Phillips Is Your New Texans Defensive Coordinator, This Time It's Super Duper Official

Now we’ve had an interview and everything, so we can declare it super duper official. Oh, and John McClain finally said it was fact. The Texans have officially hired Wade Phillips to coordinate their defense. Stunning, I know.

It was one of the worst-kept secrets in the history of Houston sports journalism. There were numerous rumors about it and the fact that Gary Kubiak blatantly said they’d be talking to him in his Monday presser was an additional hint. Oh, and the defensive staff firings were pretty much attuned to Phillips’ liking, as he worked with defensive line coach Bill Kollar in Atlanta (as Houston Diehards pointed out earlier), not to mention the fact that Phillips was the one potential hiring that satisfied both the “respected defensive coordinator” and “Gary’s Denver Pipeline” chains of thought.

The Texans will move forward with Phillips helming the defense. For more on how that will work in theory, please check out MDC’s spectacular article on what his scheme will mean for the Texans on Battle Red Blog.

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Report: Wade Phillips Hired As Texans Defensive Coordinator

ABC 13’s Bob Allen is reporting that ex-Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips will be the new defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans.

It was one of the worst-kept secrets in the history of Houston sports journalism. There were numerous rumors about it and the fact that Gary Kubiak blatantly said they’d be talking to him in his Monday presser was an additional hint. Oh, and the defensive staff firings were pretty much attuned to Phillips’ liking, as he worked with defensive line coach Bill Kollar in Atlanta (as Houston Diehards pointed out earlier), not to mention the fact that Phillips was the one potential hiring that satisfied both the “respected defensive coordinator” and “Gary’s Denver Pipeline” chains of thought.

The Texans will move forward with Phillips helming the defense. For more on how that will work in theory, please check out MDC’s spectacular article on what his scheme will mean for the Texans on Battle Red Blog.

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Texans Hand Out Reserve Contracts To Ogbonnaya, Four Others

The Texans made their first foray into the offseason today, signing five players to reserve/futures contracts. Nick Scurfield has the details:

The Texans have signed safety Antonio Baker, running back Chris Ogbonnaya, offensive tackle Cole Pemberton, center Cody Wallace and wide receiver Paul Williams to reserve/future contracts.

Each player finished the season on the Texans’ practice squad. Baker and Pemberton were rookies, Ogbonnaya in his second NFL season and Wallace and Williams in their third respective seasons.

Because of the way the contracts work, these are additionally one-year practice squad extensions for the five players. Pemberton and Ogbonnaya stayed on the squad all year, while the other three were signed in-season as the Texans original practice squadders were called up to the 53-man roster.

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Texans Offseason: Who Will The Texans Target?

Lance Zierlein of the Houston Chronicle is your one-stop shop for early Texans free agency rumors. The first one? That we might see Pittsburgh Steelers CB Ike Taylor be their number one free agent target:

There are whispers in the Steelers locker room that CB Ike Taylor could be the Houston Texans primary free agent target this offseason.

The Texans obviously need a #1 cornerback with some experience, so the fit makes sense, although I think a plurality of fans would rather have someone better. Like say, Champ Bailey. Still, Taylor has been the top corner on a pair of Super Bowl winners. Not too shabby. Taylor has defensed 99 passes and picked off 11 in eight seasons with the Steelers thus far.

The other rumor is that if the Wade Phillips 3-4 shift comes to the forefront, the Texans will have to go out and grab a nose tackle to stuff the run. Zierlein's first thought on that? How about Minnesota NT Pat Williams?

I have no doubt that the Texans can switch to a 3-4, but they need some time in the offseason. Look for Pat Williams to come in as NT.

Williams, ageless in NFL terms at 38, is a 14-year-veteran that has helped the Vikings be one of the best run-stopping 4-3's in the business over the last six years. He nearly retired last year, so it might take some coinvincing (see what I did there?) to get him on the team. But as long as he doesn't fall off the age cliff, he would be a solid fit at nose for the Texans, at least until they can develop their own guy. 

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