The 2012 NFL offseason overall could be considered one to forget for the Houston Texans.
Gary Kubiak lamented last month in the team’s inability to retain its star talent and veteran leaders from its strong 2006 draft, as former first overall pick Mario Williams signed with Buffalo, second-round selection DeMeco Ryans was traded to the Eagles and offensive tackle Eric Winston was surprisingly released before signing with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Nevertheless, it was evident Ryans appeared out-of-place last season in Houston’s new-look 3-4 defense.
Mario Williams’ chances of returning to the cap-strapped club were also slim to begin with, especially considering with his sky-high price tag. In addition, he just wasn’t worth the salary since the team got off well enough without him down-the-stretch in 2011.
The loss of Eric Winston and decisions not to release Jacoby Jones and acquire a few replacements were what tipped off many Texans fans.
On Thursday, the team finally addressed one of its new position needs at inside linebacker.
The team also re-signed LB Tim Dobbins on Thursday. Terms of neither deal were disclosed.
Selected in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers, Dobbins appeared in every game in his first two seasons, registering 39 tackles and one forced fumble.
He started eight games in 2008 and appeared in every game and made 57 tackles, one interception and three forced fumbles. Dobbins, 29, went on to have 55 tackles, 1.0 sack, one interception and one forced fumble in 14 games (two starts) in his last season with the team in 2009.
Dobbins started six contests (appeared in all 16 contests) with the Dolphins in 2010 with 47 tackles and 1.0 sack, before joining the Texans in 2011. While the 6-1, 245-pound linebacker played in 15 games, he didn’t have any starts last season and had just 12 tackles and one forced fumble. Nonetheless, he did lead Houston with nine special teams tackles and could create compete for much more playing time in 2012.
James, 31, was picked up in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft out of LSU by the Dallas Cowboys.
Albeit he still started 13 games and appeared in every game, James rotated out more often and seemed to have lost a step last season. The emergence of second-year linebacker Sean Lee didn’t help his chances of sticking around in Dallas, either.
However, for six straight seasons, James never missed a single start and led his team in tackles (2005-2010).
The 6-2, 246-pound linebacker racked up a total of 448 tackles, 13.0 sacks, six forced fumbles and one pick in four years under Wade Phillips. His best season happened in 2008 when he collected a career-high 116 tackles, 8.0 sacks and three forced fumbles.
In addition, he was a team captain and a trusted veteran in the locker room. He even organized weekly team dinners with the defensive players and became the first player in franchise history to lead the team in tackles for four consecutive seasons.
It’s entirely possible James could be on the wrong side of his career trajectory, but there’s no question some system familiarity and a change of scenery could help lead him back to his pre-2011 play.
Brian Cushing will be starting at strongside, but the leftside position will be open this season for Darryl Sharpton and Bradie James to take after the departure of DeMeco Ryans. Sharpton, entering his third season, is recovering from season-ending surgery for a torn quad muscle, but is expected to be 100 percent by the start of the team’s training camp.
These two moves, especially the addition of Bradie James, have the makings of becoming a terrific low-risk, high-reward acquisition.