Sarah Barshop, ESPN Staff Writer 278d

Texans should focus on Malcolm Butler in free agency

Here are the moves the Houston Texans should consider when free agency opens at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday, March 14:

Upgrade the offensive line: The Texans have three spots open on the offensive line entering next season: left and right tackle and left guard. Although Houston could bring back Chris Clark or Breno Giacomini to compete for a tackle spot next season, it’s likely that the team will spend a significant portion of the nearly $64 million they have in available cap space on filling holes on the line. There are several free-agent options, including Justin Pugh, who played both tackle and guard for the New York Giants. The Texans will likely be looking for a tackle, and former Patriots Cameron Fleming and Nate Solder could be good fits as well.

Sign an established cornerback: Even if the Texans re-sign Johnathan Joseph, the team should try to add another proven cornerback. One option is former New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, who is one of the top free-agent corners available. Houston needs a playmaker at the position after losing A.J. Bouye a year ago in free agency to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The secondary went from allowing the second-fewest passing yards in 2016 to finishing 24th. General manager Brian Gaine should be looking for a veteran cornerback, with Butler and Trumaine Johnson at the top of the list, followed by veteran Prince Amukamara and former first-round pick Kyle Fuller.

Sign veteran backup quarterback: The Texans have their franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson, but -- as they discovered midway through a rookie season in which he tore his ACL -- they do not have a capable backup. Signing a veteran quarterback would benefit Watson as he continues to grow in Bill O’Brien’s offense and would provide a reliable option if the second-year quarterback cannot stay healthy. There are a few veterans on the free-agent market who have spent time in Houston in O’Brien’s offense, but Ryan Fitzpatrick might be the best choice. Fitzpatrick played in six games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in place of an injured Jameis Winston last season and completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 1,103 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. He threw for 275 or more yards in all but one of his three starts.

Add depth at wide receiver: The Texans have one of the best receivers in the NFL in DeAndre Hopkins and a solid No. 2 in Will Fuller when he is healthy. But for the past two seasons, the Texans' locker room has gone through quite a few receivers due to injury. The already young group hasn’t had much of a veteran presence besides Hopkins, 25, and could use another option for Watson. Beyond Hopkins, Fuller and 2016 third-round pick Braxton Miller, who has struggled in his first two NFL seasons, the Texans have three receivers on their roster: DeAndrew White, Chris Thompson and Cobi Hamilton. Last season, three combined for seven catches for 116 yards. Gaine mentioned adding a vertical threat to the receiving corps, and a player such as free agent Mike Wallace would fit the bill.

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