"Around the League" is taking a look at each team's salary-cap situation heading into training camp. Next up: The Houston Texans.
Adjusted Cap Number: $122.898 million
Cap Room Remaining: $4.053 million
Best Bargain: Connor Barwin. A 2009 second-round draft pick out of Cincinnati, Barwin came off the bench to notch 4.5 sacks as a rookie before spending all but a handful of plays of the 2010 season on injured reserve. The Texans' move to a 3-4 defense was beneficial to Barwin, who led the team with 11.5 sacks and 28 hits on opposing quarterbacks. Barwin also had seven passes defensed, including five at the line of scrimmage, as noted in the recently released Football Outsiders Almanac 2012.
Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Barwin is scheduled to earn the NFL minimum base salary which counts less than $1 million against the Texans' salary cap. For a player that logged over 90 percent of the defensive snaps last season, and gets to the quarterback with frequency, that's a good deal for the Texans.
Potential Camp Casualty: Pressed against the cap earlier this offseason, the Texans cleared space with the releases of Eric Winston and Jacoby Jones, trade of DeMeco Ryans and got No. 2 receiver Kevin Walter to take a $1.5 million pay cut.
Contact Issue Looming In 2013: Matt Schaubisn't sweating it, but the 31-year-old is entering the final year of his contract. When healthy, Schaub has been productive, completing over 65 percent of 2,118 pass attempts for 16,903 yards and 92 touchdowns in his 64 games in five seasons with the Texans. The problem is Schaub has missed what amounts to a full season with injuries, including the last six regular season games and the first two playoff games in franchise history with a Lisfranc foot injury last season. Schaub is not among the elite NFL quarterbacks, but staying healthy and productive in leading the Texans back to the playoffs in 2012 could help him get another big contract.
In addition to Schaub, the Texans will also have to sign left tackle Duane Brown or use the franchise tag him, as Brown's quietly developed into one of the league's top tackles. The franchise tender for an offensive lineman in 2013 is projected to be worth around $9.3 million, which is over $5 million less than the projected amount of the non-exclusive tender for a quarterback. It might be less painful from a financial perspective to lock up Schaub and keep the franchise tag available for Brown.
With pass rushers are a valued commodity, Barwin can be added to this list, as well. That said, the Texans let Mario Williams walk and have guarded against the possibility of losing Barwin to free agency with the selections of edge rushers Whitney Mercilus in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft and Brooks Reed in the second round of the 2011 draft.