Even if they can't afford to re-sign OLB Mario Williams, the Texans have a lot of talented linebackers returning in 2012. SILB Brian Cushing anchors the unit, with SOLB Connor Barwin looking like a star in the making. Somewhat of a forgotten man last season was WILB DeMeco Ryans, who was coming off a season-ending Achilles injury suffered in 2010 and didn't really come on until the second half of the campaign. Even then, his role was reduced to essentially a one-down player in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' defense. Ryans is one of the leaders of the unit, and the Texans surely would like to have him back next season. But we hear in order for that to happen, he will have to be willing to restructure his contract for the second offseason in a row. Ryans is owed $5.9 million in 2012 — which is more than the Texans can afford to pay a guy who primarily plays on first downs. The defense should get a boost from the return of backup ILB Darryl Sharpton. The Texans were thrilled with his play before he suffered a season-ending quad injury in Week Eight.