Despite deal, Wade Smith not sure starter

HOUSTON -- Four years and $12 million isn’t a monumental NFL deal. But when a team that’s struggled on the interior line gives that contract to its one significant veteran addition, you'd assume he’d be plugged right into the lineup.


SmithIt’s not been so for Wade Smith, the center/guard the Houston Texans brought in as a free agent from Kansas City.

The Texans sold him on opportunity and he bought the pitch. Now as the Texans near the end of their organized team activities, he’s been getting about half his snaps with the first team, playing at both guard spots and center, he said. Smith, left guard Kasey Studdard, center Chris Myers and right guard Antoine Caldwell and guard Mike Brisiel appear to be in a five-way battle for three spots.

“Wade is super athletic, the guy can really move around,” right tackle Eric Winston said. “You can really understand why [offensive coordinator Rick] Dennison and [Gary] Kubiak really like him. He’s not super big, but I think he plays with good leverage. I think he really hits a lot bigger than he is and moves people well enough where he can be a force in all sort of different runs.”

Smith is not at all disappointed to not be running exclusively with the first team at this point, as he was never told he’d be installed as a starter right away.

“It just depends on what day it is,” he said of whether he is with the ones or twos. “From what I’ve been told it’s three spots that are open, nobody is set in stone and everybody is competing to try to get a job. … They told me before I signed that they are not going to give me anything, that I could come in and have a legit chance to win a spot. They don’t give anybody anything, you’ve got to work for what you get in life, so I was all for it.”

I like Smith’s attitude about the openings, and I like the fact that the Texans don’t feel they need to establish a starting interior in June. The group needs to work as one, so a determination will have to come by about halfway through camp for the ultimate five to work together enough to be in sync for the start of the season.

I would think they’d like Smith to win a spot based on their investment in him, though Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. has said Smith would be a great insurance guy as a sixth lineman.

When Brisiel and Chester Pitts, a free agent they won’t bring back, went down for the year early last season, the Texans weren’t left with great depth. Myers played with a bad ankle for much of the year.

I think the worst thing that can happen is an offensive line gets riddled with injuries during the season,” Winston said. “I think the best thing that can happen the next year is that your offensive line got injury-riddled the year before.

“Because now we’ve got so much competition, we’ve got so many backups who’ve started so many games. I think our experience is going to help us.”