The running joke in Houston, where Texans fans had insult added to injury after watching former Texans Jacoby Jones, Vonta Leach and Bernard Pollard all make major contributions in the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII victory, is who will be the next to jump ship for Baltimore?
Could it be free-agent OLB Connor Barwin?
Perhaps, but we continue to hear Houston will do everything it can (within reason) to re-sign Barwin, despite his disappointing 2012 production. One thing is assured: the offer from the Texans that Barwin rejected last offseason has shrunk.
After FS Glover Quin, a candidate to be the first Texan slapped with the franchise tag since Dunta Robinson if the two sides can’t reach a long-term agreement, Barwin remains the top priority to re-sign. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips needs at least three outside rushers and, even with Whitney Mercilus showing real flashes in the second half of his rookie season, Barwin plays the run well and is a great presence in the locker room.
Expect the Texans again to be quiet on the free-agent market — outside of trying to lock up a few of their own core players. Finding a playmaking wideout again ranks as the No. 1 offseason priority, but there simply aren’t the resources to go after someone like Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace or Green Bay’s Greg Jennings. Instead, the Texans are likely to target a wideout to pair with Andre Johnson early in the draft.
If Barwin signs elsewhere, adding an outside linebacker in the draft will be the highest priority after receiver. If the Texans find a way to re-sign Barwin, backup nose tackle — veteran Shaun Cody is likely on the way out — will be an area the team looks to bolster.
We also hear the Texans should fare well in terms of compensatory draft picks, what with Mario Williams and Joel Dreesen both producing in Buffalo and Denver, respectively, and the Texans not depending a lot on free agents this past season. It shouldn't come as a surprise to see the Texans awarded the highest compensatory pick possible (a third-rounder), we hear.