A year after finishing as the second-worst team in the NFL, DeMeco Ryans and C.J. Stroud came in and led the Houston Texans to an AFC South Division title. Once they arrived in the playoffs, the Texans showed they belonged by dominating the Cleveland Browns 45-14. While their Divisional playoff matchup against the Baltimore Ravens didn’t go as well, the Texans proved their championship window is wide open.
Yet, we also saw that this is a team that still has plenty of work to do before becoming an AFC powerhouse. If the Texans improved from three wins to ten in their first season under Ryans with a rookie QB, what can this team accomplish in 2024? With over $70 million in cap space, there’s no reason why the Texans can’t maintain their momentum, and with these four moves, the Texans can put themselves in Super Bowl contention next season.
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Give Bobby Slowik a raise, or hire Klint Kubiak to take over as offensive coordinator
Offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik has become a popular head coach candidate after helping C.J. Stroud finish with arguably the greatest season by a rookie QB in NFL history. In a perfect world (for the Texans), Slowik would return for at least another season. Yet, the Texans have to at least be prepared for a scenario where Slowik takes a head coaching job this offseason.
If offering a healthy pay raise isn’t enough to keep Slowik around, the Texans should quickly reach out to the San Francisco 49ers again. This time, the target would be hiring offensive passing game specialist Klint Kubiak to be Houston’s play-caller.
Kubiak does have previous experience as an NFL offensive coordinator, back when he called plays for the Minnesota Vikings in 2021. When Mike Zimmer was let go, Kubiak followed. He has since worked for the Broncos and 49ers but is viewed as a candidate to become a coordinator again in the near future.
Sign Saquon Barkley to give C.J. Stroud a backfield weapon
Devin Singletary proved to be a capable running back. He definitely earned his $2.75 million salary in 2023, but there’s a sense that Houston can do better and likely recruit more talented players. One option who could become available is former No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley, who’s entering unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career.
Barkley is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, averaging just 3.9 yards per carry, but the entire New York Giants offense struggled. At his best, the 26-year-old represents a home-run threat capable of breaking off a big play each time he touches the ball. That’s as a rusher or as a receiver, with Barkley displaying great hands and an ability to get open, using his speed to get past linebackers.
Barkley, like other running backs, doesn’t seem likely to rake in top dollar this offseason, especially after failing to cross the 1,000-yard mark for the third time in the past four seasons. Therefore, the Texans could be buying low on a player with the potential to offer plenty of rewards.
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Antoine Winfield Jr. joins DeMeco Ryans in Houston
While the Texans have assembled a formidable rotation of cornerbacks, plus Jalen Pitre at safety, this defense still ranked 27th in the NFL in yards allowed per pass. Getting more pass-rushers will help, but this secondary is still in need of another playmaker capable of creating turnovers.
When it comes to winning the turnover battle, there may not be anyone better than All-Pro Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. who has forced at least three takeaways in each of his four seasons. That includes six forced fumbles and three interceptions this past season. Adding a versatile player like Winfield gives DeMeco Ryans a true chess piece capable of moving all over the field.
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Houston Texans become true contenders with Chris Jones signing
If the Texans really want to make a splash this offseason, there may not be a bigger name than former Defensive Player of the Year winner Chris Jones. Somehow unable to reach a long-term extension with the Kansas City Chiefs, Jones could become the highest-paid defender in the NFL this offseason. After racking up 75.5 sacks across the past eight seasons while helping the Chiefs win two Super Bowls, he’s earned a blank check.
Since the Texans are a team on the rise while also having tons of cap space, Jones could be looking at Houston as one of the most attractive free-agency destinations around. That is, of course, if he’s actually willing to leave Kansas City.
Yet, as we’ve seen before, the Chiefs aren’t afraid to move on from even the most talented players if they feel they’re no longer worth the price. If he’s eager to hit the open market, the Texans should do whatever it takes to add a new franchise cornerstone like Jones to the team.