HOUSTON -- Since the start of the offseason, the Houston Texans have made moves to create a stable environment for what they hope is their quarterback of the future.
Plans can change, but all signs point to the Texans using the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback in the draft (April 27 on ABC, ESPN and ESPN+).
Last week, Texans coach DeMeco Ryans told NFL Network what he envisions to do to fill the void at the position.
"We have a really good, to a couple of good, quarterback prospects at the top of the draft," Ryans said, "and we want to add a young quarterback to our team. We think that will be the right thing to do for our team. We feel like we have a good nucleus of players. I still want to add some competition to that quarterback position, and this year, there's two good guys at the top that we've looked at and that we value pretty highly. So we're excited about the draft to be at that No. 2 spot."
Texans general manager Nick Caserio hired Ryans in January, and since then, the two have constantly preached about building an adequate offensive unit around whoever the quarterback would be.
"How do you build around that quarterback," Ryans said. "Yes, we want a great quarterback, but no, we need a great offensive line to protect the quarterback. We need great running backs, great tight ends, great receivers."
Caserio's first words at the NFL scouting combine in February when asked about the quarterback position were "We’re really looking at the entire team building process."
A supporting cast for a young quarterback can make or break their development, and the Texans' objective was to improve the infrastructure around the quarterback. And during free agency, they added pieces to the offense that could help the development of a rookie.
The organization signed former Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz to a one-year, $6.25 million deal. In the past three seasons, Schultz emerged as one of the league's top tight ends. In that span, he's totaled 2,000 receiving yards (seventh best) and 17 touchdowns (fifth best). He’s also known as a capable blocker, a requirement in new offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik’s West Coast offense.
"I think Dalton has shown that he can make some plays in the passing game, in the vertical passing game, so I'm excited to add him," Ryans said at the NFL's annual league meetings last week. "I think tight end is a very quarterback-friendly position, easy completions. Dalton has done a really good job of expanding his game, becoming a better blocker, as well. I think all around we've got a quality starting tight end in Dalton.”
The Texans added a complementary piece to their rushing attack when they signed running back Devin Singletary to a one-year deal, who finished with 819 rushing yards last season, to pair with Dameon Pierce to create a "one-two punch to balance each other out."
Pierce had a standout rookie season before landing on injured reserve with an ankle injury. He rushed for 939 yards through Week 14, which ranked seventh at the time of the injury.
“I think he did what he had to do," Ryans said of Pierce. "He showed some toughness, he showed some competitive fight in him. I love the way he runs, I love his style, and it's a style that I really want to continue to feed him. I think that style of running is just -- it excites the entire team.
"He runs with an attitude that I really like and want to see him continue to build his game off of that, but I'm excited to see where Dameon – his growth from Year 1 to Year 2.”
From a pass-catcher standpoint, there were musical chairs at the receiver position. They signed Robert Woods after the Tennessee Titans released him to a two-year, $15.25 million deal and another former Cowboy in Noah Brown to a one-year contract.
Woods caught 53 passes for 527 yards with two touchdowns last season, and Brown set career highs in catches (43), receiving yards (555) and touchdowns (3).
They then traded the organization's leading receiver, Brandin Cooks, to the Cowboys for a fifth-round pick in 2023 and a sixth-round pick in 2024.
But as things currently stand, the Texans' receiving corps could use more additions. On paper, the Texans' production at receiver ranks toward the bottom. Last season, the Texans ranked 26th in catches (176), 28th in yards (2,154), 28th in passing touchdowns (9) and 23rd in yards after the catch (727).
A staple of Slowik's offense will center around pass catchers being able to create yards after the catch. So the Texans could bolster the receiving corps in the draft, where they also have the No. 12 pick and three others in the top 75 alone.
In the trenches, the organization added a what they feel like is a vital piece to the offensive line. They traded a sixth- and seventh-round pick for right guard Shaq Mason. Last season's starter, A.J. Cann, had a pass block win rate of 92.6%, 36th among guards, while Mason’s win rate was 94.2%, 27th, per ESPN Stats & Information. Also, Cann allowed nine sacks, tied for fourth-most, while Mason allowed just three.
Mason joins an offensive line anchored by a tackles Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard. Tunsil became the highest-paid offensive lineman after agreeing to a three-year, $75 million extension in March. The duo only had 12 sacks attributed to them, tied for the second-fewest in the NFL.
Coming into the free agency, Caserio and Ryans sought to build a better unit for the quarterback. Heading into the draft, it seems like they have done so, and with premium draft capital, the potential to build is there for the taking.