The Texans are working to finalize deals with veteran defensive tackle Maliek Collins and cornerback Desmond King and are also expected to retain safety Terrence Brooks, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly.
The Texans have held discussions with linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill and defensive end Jacob Martin with no deals imminent at this time, according to sources.
The Texans have re-signed blocking tight end Antony Auclair, according to a source.
Signed to a one-year, $5 million contract last offseason, Collins emerged as a key figure on the Houston Texans’ defensive line. The former Dallas Cowboys starter regularly penetrated the backfield and made a lot of plays, recording a career-high 29 tackles (9 for loss), 7 quarterback hits, and 2.5 sacks, revitalizing his career after a down year with the Las Vegas Raiders two seasons ago.
The Texans are intent on bringing Collins back.
Having an athletic, strong 3-technique defensive tackle is a critical element of any Lovie Smith defense. And Collins is regarded as a pivotal part of his traditional 4-3 scheme.
“You look at some of the things that Maliek was able to do, he’s an excellent football player,” said Smith, the Texans’ coach who was promoted from associate head coach and defensive coordinator and still runs the defense. “He fits the profile. He’s athletic. And I’ll talk about the engine, the brain trust of the defense, but if you say one position where it all starts, it’s our three-technique, under tackle position.
“So, if we can get Maliek back, most of these guys we’re talking about, they know how we feel about them. I think Maliek was just at the tip of the iceberg on what we can be. There’s so much more that he’ll be able to do going forward.”
A former Nebraska standout and high school wrestler, Collins has 17 career sacks, 29 tackles for loss, and 48 quarterback hits. Collins did have some issues with penalties last season, including 8 overall and 2 declined with 4 roughing the passer calls. One of them was a questionable call when diminutive Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray ducked his head in a collision with Collins.
“I can move a little bit,” Collins said in a classic understatement. “That’s my game: penetrate and get off the ball, redirect.”
Signed to a deal negotiated by agent Drew Rosenhaus that includes a $2 million base salary, $2 million signing bonus, and up to $1 million in per-game active roster bonuses with $58,823 per game active along with a $1 million playtime incentive clause, Collins embraced his new surroundings after a quiet year with the Raiders.
Collins recorded 15 tackles and no sacks last season in a dozen games for the Raiders. Before that, he had 14.5 sacks in four seasons with the Cowboys, including 4 sacks in 2019 in his final season in Dallas.
Collins made no excuses about dropping to 1 quarterback hit and no sacks in 2020 for the Raiders after recording 40 QB hits for the Cowboys in four seasons.
“I just didn’t put out no numbers,” Collins said. “It just wasn’t a big statistical year for me.”
A former high school heavyweight wrestling champion in Kansas City, Missouri, who had a perfect 48-0 record as a senior, Collins has run the 40-yard dash in 5.03 seconds. On film, it’s obvious that Collins’ aggressive style of play and long-arm move frequently opens up pass-rushing lanes for his teammates.
“It’s different to help create for other guys rather than help create for yourself,” Collins said. “Sometimes, you have to create for yourself. That’s what I’m going to do.”
The work with Jordan and the camaraderie with his teammates are significant to Collins. He’s worked with Jordan for the past three seasons. Jordan is now the defensive ends coach and pass-rushing coach at Michigan State.
“I’m going to always locate my dog wherever he’s at, get with him and get right,” Collins said. “He’s special because he’s going to get you moving. He’s going to make you do unpredictable athletic movements, which is the game. You never know where you’ve got to step.”
The Texans are working to retain King, according to sources.
King was shifted from his typical slot role to outside corner in 2021. However, he could return to the more natural nickel spot this season if he works out his contract. Additionally, King could operate as a kick returner. He is well-suited for Lovie Smith’s trademark Cover 2 scheme and intercepted 3 passes last year.
The former Los Angeles Chargers All-Pro selection and Iowa standout has 7 career interceptions. He has also played for the Tennessee Titans and joined the Texans on a one-year, $5 million contract last year.
“You’re talking about a guy who hasn’t played [outside] corner since college,” Texans cornerbacks coach Dino Vasso said. “He took the move pretty well. Obviously, it’s not an easy transition, and I think if you polled everyone in this room and you asked what is Des’ optimal position, most would say nickel.
“But he was encouraged by that. He embraced it, and he did what was best for the team, and not necessarily what was best for Desmond King, and you win with football players like that.”
King intercepted his third pass of the season during a 23-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
“It is just simple,” King said after the 49ers game. “This defense is like a machine. Everybody has a job, everybody has what they need to do, and as long as they do that and take care of it, this defense can be unstoppable. We have seen it a couple games before just shutting people out and getting turnovers, and that is simply because guys are doing their jobs and being in the right place.”
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and analyst and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.