INDIANAPOLIS -- If Arian Foster's days in Houston are numbered, it won't be due to his salary.
When asked point-blank if Foster would be on the roster at his current salary, Texans general manager Rick Smith said Foster's salary isn't prohibitive.
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"As it relates to all the free agent conversations, I'm never really going to tell you one way or the other what we are doing, but I will tell you this: his salary is not a reason why we would cut Arian," Smith said.
Foster is set to make $6.5 million in the final year of his contract. The Texans would incur $2.3 million in dead money by cutting the running back. Houston will have more than $30 million in salary-cap space.
The qualification is key when discussing Foster's future.
If money truly isn't an issue, we wouldn't expect the Texans to cut bait with the running back prior to the start of free agency. That doesn't mean Foster wouldn't be cut during the offseason or perhaps training camp, if he isn't fully recovered from his latest bevy of soft-tissue injuries.
Smith added that he thinks Foster will "bounce back" in 2016.
"I met with Arian a couple weeks ago, he's doing well," Smith said. "One of the things that I was so disappointed for him for last year is because he worked, he probably had his best offseason last year and to see the injuries occur last year was disappointing primarily because I knew how hard he had worked. He's right back at that, he's got the right mindset. He came in and talked to me a couple weeks ago to make sure that we knew that. And I believe him. He'll bounce back. He'll be fine."
Coach Bill O'Brien was less enthusiastic, lumping the running back in with the rest of the players being evaluated when asked if the running back was in his plans for 2016.
"Everybody that was on the 2015 team, everybody is being evaluated, discussed. So as being in the plans, sure, everybody's in the plans," O'Brien said.
When healthy, Foster is one of the most talented runners in the NFL. Sadly, the 29 year old hasn't been healthy much in his career. He played just four games in 2015 and hasn't played a full 16-game slate since 2012.
Perhaps his salary won't get him cut, but the door is remains open for the Texans to move on from an aging running back that can't stay healthy.
Other things we learned:
"Whatever Mr. McNair says is what we'll do," O'Brien said. "That's always been my mantra."
2. The Texans' brass was asked myriad times about drafting a quarterback, mostly speaking amorphously about what they desire in a signal-caller. O'Brien was asked about Christian Hackenberg, whom he coached at Penn State. The coach praised the young quarterback's arm and intelligence, but added there were also other players he's scouted who own similar characteristics.
3. O'Brien said he liked what receiver Jaelen Strong brought to the table as a rookie, after the wideout dropped weight and got in shape. "We believe he has a really good future for us," O'Brien said. The Texans need Strong to step up opposite DeAndre Hopkins.
4. Smith pointed to injuries, not work ethic or ability, as the reason for Jadeveon Clowney's early career struggles.
"When he's been on the field he's been pretty disruptive, pretty impactful," Smith said. "It's just that he's suffered some injuries ...
"From the standpoint of luck, hopefully the guy has had his share of injury and that he will have an opportunity to play and play for an extended amount of time."