HOUSTON -- A year ago, Kevin Walter was set up to be a desirable free agent and the Texans did well to keep their own guy with a five-year, $21.5 million contract with $11 million guaranteed.
Now, many of the same fans who wanted him back look at the offensive depth chart and, seeing no major holes, figure No. 2 receiver is a spot where the Texans can upgrade.
The team did, after all, really use both Walter and Jacoby Jones ooposite Andre Johnson, to the point that coach Gary Kubiak combines their numbers when accounting for his No. 2 wideout production last season.
Walter’s share: 51 catches for 621 yards and five touchdowns.
And a lot of stuff that does not show up in statistics.
“Everybody would love to have Kevin Walter as a second if they really knew what he was,” receivers coach Larry Kirksey said.
Walter prides himself on taking care of every small element of the job. He’s not as big or fast or dynamic as Johnson, widely regarded as the best receiver in the game. And Walter doesn’t pretend to be stuff he’s not.
“Playing in this offense as a receiver, you need to block,” Walter said. “That’s No. 1. You need to know your role on this football team and you need to do a heck of a job of it… I’ve been hearing that (upgrade stuff) since I’ve been playing in the league. I take that as motivation."
It’s unreasonable to imagine a second receiver in Houston having a real impact on the way Johnson is covered.
“People say, ‘Oh, we need another receiver,’” Walter said. “They’ve been saying that since Andre’s been here. It doesn’t matter if you bring in a clone of Andre Johnson, a guy who’s better than Andre Johnson, they’re still going to double Andre Johnson on the other side.”
There may be misgivings outside the building or Walter may not be well known around the league. But Gary Kubiak said Walter is fully appreciated inside team headquarters.
“I guarantee he gets respect from his teammates,” Kubiak said the day before I caught up to the team. “He’s just a warrior. He goes all day long.
“…It’s just what he stands for all the time. You get your money’s worth out of Kevin Walter every day.”
Kirksey said the team will continue to use both Walter and Jones as the second receiver, leaning toward the hotter hand. A healthy Owen Daniels should really be the second option for Matt Schaub, with Walter and Jones coming next.
If it’s a long time between balls thrown Walter's way, you won’t hear him complain. He’ll be looking for another way to contribute.