Texans looking to bolster offensive and defensive lines

DeMeco Ryans’ scouting report on the Texans and his philosophy toward building a competitive roster intersect when it comes to the greatest need of the franchise along with a deep supply in free agency and the draft.

The Texans have prioritized both sides of the line of scrimmage and are actively looking to fortify the interior offensive line and the defensive line during free agency, according to multiple league sources.

“That’s everything,” the first-year Texans coach and former Pro Bowl linebacker said during the NFL scouting combine when asked about the importance of being strong in the trenches. “To me, everything starts up front. It’s definitely a priority to address the offensive line and the defensive. line. The teams that are successful are the teams you see, Philly, Kansas City, their fronts were outstanding, offensively and defensively. If we want to play in February, we have to make sure our front is dominant on both sides.”

While the Texans have already retained starting center Scott Quessenberry, the replacement for Justin Britt last season, on a one-year deal with a maximum value of $3 million, they’re not done addressing the interior line.

The Texans have interest in multiple centers, per sources, including San Francisco 49ers free agent Jake Brendel, Detroit Lions center Evan Brown, Cleveland Browns center Ethan Pocic and Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury, according to league sources.

Brendel, 30, is a former Dallas Cowboys undrafted free agent who played 98 percent of the 49ers’ offensive snaps last season as he started every game.

Brendel and Brown are expected to be in a more affordable category than Pocic, Bradbury and New York Jets center Connor McGovern.

The Texans need to fortify their defensive line after struggling against the run last season. They are not expected to explore the higher end of the defensive tackle market, though, per sources, which is headlined by Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, Denver Broncos 3-4 defensive end Dre’Mont Jones, Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson.

The Texans have interest in New York Jets free agent defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, a disruptive interior pass rusher, along with New Orleans Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata, according to league sources.

Rankins, 28, is a former Saints first-round draft pick who has recorded 19 career tackles, 23 1/2 sacks, four forced fumbles and one interception.

Onyemata, 30, a native Nigerian who played collegiately at Manitoba in Canada, has 214 career tackles, 19 1/2 sacks and one interception. He was suspended six games last season after testing positive for a banned substance.

Tomlinson, 29, is a 6-foot-3, 325-pound former New York Giants second-round draft pick from Alabama. He has recorded 288 career tackles, 13 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Texans veteran pass rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is expected to leave the team as an unrestricted free agent after recording five sacks and 36 pressures last season in eight starts, per a league source.

Bringing back defensive end Rasheem Green is an option for the Texans, as is looking for other edge rusher help.

Among the better defensive end options available: Frank Clark, Samson Ekuban, Leonard Floyd, Yannick Ngakoeu, Jadeveon Clowney and Larry Ogunjobi. A reunion with 49ers free agent Charles Omenihu, a former Texans fifth-round draft pick traded to San Francisco two years ago, is regarded as an unlikely scenario.

The Texans need to get better at linebacker where Christian Harris is the most talented player at the position.

They could save $5.2 million against the salary cap by potentially releasing veteran middle linebacker and defensive team captain Christian Kirksey. They have already informed linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin they plan to cut him on Wednesday, the first official day of the league year, at a savings of $2.2 million, per a league source.

The Texans are expected to have interest in 49ers free agent linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, according to a source.

“Azeez Al-Shaair, an undrafted free agent, seeing a physical guy, smart player and being able to help him thrive and develop,” Ryans said. “Those are the guys I truly get excited about late in the draft.”

Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans

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