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Houston Texans 2021 free-agency outlook

While Deshaun Watson’s trade demand hangs over the Texans, other major hurdles await the franchise this offseason.

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Even before superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson requested a trade, the Houston Texans entered the 2021 offseason with one of the least enviable outlooks in the NFL. Years of poor management left the team without key players such as wideout DeAndre Hopkins or much young talent to fill the void. Even more talent appears likely to head out the door in the coming months, as the Texans’ lack of salary-cap space gives them little way of retaining deep threat Will Fuller.

Of course, all of those considerations pale in comparison to the ongoing saga between Houston’s management and Watson. The 25-year-old signal-caller performed at an MVP level through much of the 2020 season. No player like him has ever hit the trade market, and Watson’s no-trade clause provides him with considerable leverage. The situation has no precedent and could unfold in any number of ways. Until it reaches a conclusion, the Texans remain unable to proceed forward in any meaningful way.

Lost revenue due to COVID-19 will impact every team. However, with so many free agents, the league-wide drop in salary-cap space could make things difficult. The 2020 number came in around $198 million with the 2021 number potentially falling to $180.5 million, according to Over The Cap, but is subject to change.

Options for franchise/transition tags

Though the Texans have a long list of free agents, only one makes a compelling case for a tag: Fuller. In Hopkins’ absence, Fuller put together his finest season, averaging a hair under 80 receiving yards per game and recording a career-best eight touchdown receptions. Other than Watson, Fuller made the largest impact on the Houston offense.

However, the NFL suspended Fuller six games for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy. That suspension wiped out the final five weeks of his season as well as the first contest of 2021. That shouldn’t affect the Texans’ approach to Fuller as much as their cap situation, but it doesn’t help his cause.

Salary cap

Estimated 2021 cap space (Jan. 28): -$17,914,930

2021 transactions

Free-agent signings


Free-agent departures




Notable unrestricted free agents

Texans Free Agents 2021

Pos Player 2020 Team 2021 Team
Pos Player 2020 Team 2021 Team
QB A.J. McCarron Texans
RB Buddy Howell* Texans
RB Dontrell Hilliard* Texans
WR Will Fuller Texans
TE Pharaoh Brown* Texans
RT Brent Qvale Texans
LT Roderick Johnson Texans
EDGE Brennan Scarlett Texans
DT P.J. Hall* Texans
IDL Carlos Watkins Texans
LB Tyrell Adams Texans
LB Dylan Cole Texans
LB Kyle Emanuel Texans
CB A.J. Moore* Texans
CB Cornell Armstrong* Texans
CB Vernon Hargreaves Texans
CB Phillip Gaines Texans
CB Gareon Conley Texans
S Michael Thomas Texans
LS Jon Weeks Texans

* Denotes Restricted Free Agent (RFA)