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Azeez Al-Shaair, Denico Autry, and Jeff Okudah Headline Day 1 Splashes for the Texans in Free Agency

Many Texans fans were left less than pleased after the first day of free agency, hoping there would be a little more splash out of a top-five cap space team. Notably, they did not bring any new talent into the offensive side of the ball (they did bring one player back).

I do not hate their trajectory, bringing in high-upside talent while still having options for the next couple of days at the running back, offensive line, and edge rushing positions. Ultimately, the Texans still have work to do to consider this a successful free agency, but thus far, their moves have been good.

Denico Autry, Defensive Line

Deal: 2 years, $20 million, $10.5 million guaranteed

Autry serves as a utility piece on the defensive line, capable of playing all four spots. At 6'5, 285 lbs, he has enough size to play in the interior on downs where you want to get after the quarterback but still maintains the athleticism to come off the edge. While Autry probably isn't Jonathan Greenard's replacement at defensive end, he will be a quality role player in Houston. 

Azeez Al-Shaair, Linebacker

Deal: 3 years, $34 million

After Blake Cashman inked a deal to join the Minnesota Vikings, the Texans had to bring in a linebacker, and they took one of the best available from their rival Tennessee Titans. Al-Shaair will fit right into the system as he reunites with Demeco Ryans after playing for the then-defensive coordinator in San Francisco. 

Al-Shaair had a fantastic year, recording 163 tackles (5th in the NFL), nine tackles for losses, and four pass breakups last season in Nashville. Houston hopes to see similar levels of production in the coming years. 

Mike Ford, Cornerback

Deal: 2 years, $4.5 million

Ford will be a depth player for the Texans, likely primarily in a special teams role. He has proven himself in Cleveland and has also had stints in Atlanta, Denver, and Detroit.

Lonnie Johnson, Cornerback

Deal: 1 year, $2.5 million

The Houston Texans are bringing back corner Lonnie Johnson after formerly drafting him 54th overall in 2019. His career stats are 192 tackles, four interceptions, and 15 passes defended over his five years in the league.

Jeff Okudah, Cornerback

Deal: 1 year, $4.25 million (worth up to $6 million), $2.5 million guaranteed

The once-third-overall pick by the Detroit Lions in 2020 has signed to join Houston. It is not 100% clear what Houston's intentions are for Okudah. They have been known to turn around once-forgotten defensive players such as Blake Cashman and Sheldon Rankins last season, but will they add a better starter next to Derek Stingley Jr.?

This is sneakily a fantastic deal for a high-ceiling player who could even be moved to safety, another position the Texans need help at.

Tommy Townsend, Punter

Deal: 2 years, $6 million

Some would consider it a lateral move after losing Cameron Johnston, but Tommy Townsend is a solid punter who earned a first-team all-pro nod in 2022. He will help pin defenses deep throughout the next two seasons in Houston. 

Noah Brown, Wide Receiver

Deal: 1 year, $5 million

In their last move of the day, Houston brought back Noah Brown, who had a very up-and-down season for the Texans. At one point, he was on top of the world with back-to-back games of over 150 receiving yards, but after some minor injuries, Brown finished the regular and postseason out with 46 yards over the final three games. If the Texans can bring Brown back to his Week 4 and 5 production levels, this will be a worthwhile deal. 

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