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This is the 13th in a series of scouting reports on 15 key players who are slated to become free agents — restricted or unrestricted — March 5, unless they are re-signed before then.
News: The Texans will allow CB Dunta Robinson, one of their defensive stalwarts, to test free agency, a move that likely paves the way for Robinson to sign elsewhere. The Texans gave Robinson the franchise tag last year, but they declined to do so again, for it would have necessitated a tender offer of close to $12 million. Talks on a long-term deal did not lead to a pact, which leaves Robinson poised to hit the market on March 5 as the top cornerback in a year when there is a dearth of starter-caliber UFA corners and when the position is as valuable as ever because of the proliferation of powerful passing games throughout the league.
Notes: Robinson has been a starter ever since joining the Texans in 2004. His best season may have been his first, when he earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors from Pro Football Weekly and the Pro Football Writers of America after intercepting six passes and forcing three fumbles. While he never snagged more than two interceptions in any of his next five seasons, he earned his keep covering the opposition's top receiver. He suffered a serious right knee injury at Oakland on Nov. 4, 2007 and missed the rest of that season as well as five games in 2008 as he recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. (Robinson also suffered a torn hamstring on the play.) He recovered sufficiently for Houston to give him the franchise tag last February. In response, Robinson sat out of team activities through the offseason, training camp and preseason before signing a one-year contract just before the season opener. Robinson started all 16 games in 2009, notching 64 tackles and defending nine passes. He has 13 career interceptions, but didn't pick off a single pass last season.
Positives: Robinson is a quick, physical cornerback who has held his own against top competition throughout his career. He has made a remarkable recovery from a serious knee injury and has continued to be an effective starter. Earlier in his career, he demonstrated a serious playmaking flair and would fit well in an aggressive, creative defense. He is well-liked by his teammates and would provide leadership to a young secondary. Robinson, who turns 28 in April, is in the prime of his career, and he will be entering his third season removed from his knee injury.
Negatives: Robinson did not play as well as the Texans would have hoped early last season as he readjusted to the NFL game after sitting out the offseason. At 5-10 and 184 pounds, he can be vulnerable against bigger receivers. With six seasons already to his credit, there is some question as to how much better Robinson will get, and that is no small concern, considering the amount of money he will command.
Risk factor: Moderate-to-high. Robinson will be paid handsomely, but he has never made a Pro Bowl, and his injury history is something teams will have to study closely before opening the checkbook. Robinson will be a capable starter for at least several more seasons, but he is going to have a difficult time living up to the expectations of a monster contract. His situation is somewhat reminiscent of that of Nate Clements, whom the 49ers signed to a then-record contract for a defensive player in 2007. Clements has been a solid, not spectacular performer for San Francisco.
Wednesday: Ravens WR Derrick Mason
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