Patriots ties in Houston bear watching

The NFL, particularly the coaching fraternity, represents a relationships business.

That point was echoed upon the official announcement of Bill O'Brien's coaching staff in Houston, which took place on Wednesday.

Though many of the hires had been previously reported, the full release included several with Patriots ties: defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, linebackers coach Mike Vrabel, quarterbacks coach George Godsey and assistant defensive line coach Anthony Pleasant.

While O'Brien had not previously coached with Crennel, the two share extensive connections from their respective times in New England. O'Brien was an offensive coach while Vrabel was still a Patriot, while Godsey landed in New England in part due to his relationship with O'Brien from other coaching stops. Pleasant, meanwhile, played under Crennel and then coached with him in Kansas City.

O'Brien isn't the first former Patriots assistant to take over as the head man elsewhere, as Josh McDaniels, Crennel, Eric Mangini and others have similarly moved on for a promotion with a different team.

Among the former Patriots who wound up with the Browns under Crennel was linebacker Willie McGinest, while several free agents, including receiver Jabar Gaffney and long-snapper Lonie Paxton, joined McDaniels in Denver.

So while free agency is still over a month away, one team to keep an eye on for relating to pending Patriots free agents is the Texans, as it's not uncommon for coaches or executives to have interest in players they previously coached. Of all the Patriots' unrestricted free agents, receiver Julian Edelman projects, from this viewpoint, as the top possible fit in Houston. O'Brien understands the value of a slot receiver and Houston needs to find one to play alongside standout Andre Johnson and 2013 first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins.