'Bulls on Parade' in danger of slipping following losses of Barwin and Quin

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Detroit and Philadelphia must have got into the spirit of Rodeo Houston, coming in and buying out a few of the “Bulls on Parade” from the Houston Texans defense. Outside linebacker Connor Barwin, who helped create the nickname, signed a six-year, $36 million contract with the Eagles, and Detroit picked up safety Glover Quin on a five-year deal worth $23.5 million. Defensive tackle Shaun Cody and safety Quintin Demps are also up for new contracts, and could potentially end up on other teams.
 
So are the Bulls on Parade finished?
 
Well as long as the literal name didn’t end up in an obscure clause in Barwin’s contract with the Eagles, the Texans defense can produce the same success, or better, in the upcoming season.
 
The main elements of the defense are still intact: J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, and Johnathan Joseph. But those players need to be healthy. The Texans dealt with an incomplete defensive roster with the loss of Cushing to a torn ACL in week 5 and struggled against top offenses.
 
Cushing’s absence was immediately noticed when Houston was pounded 42-24 in primetime on NBC's Sunday Night Football by the Packers. Wade Phillips kept trying to fill Cushing’s hole with different players. Tim Dobbins, Darryl Sharpton, and Barrett Ruud would alternate at the position, creating a mismatch in the middle of the field. Cushing’s return would help strengthen a rushing defense that gave up 114 yards a game in the last four games of the season.
 
Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed haven proven capable to overcome Barwin’s departure, but the loss of Quin poses a problem.
 
Although it’s hard to think of Quin without thinking of the Hail Mary bat-down disaster, he had become a key player in the secondary after switching from corner to safety in Wade Philips’ defense. Although he never made a Pro Bowl roster, he made a significant impact in the 2012 season with 14 passes deflected and two interceptions. The Lions thought he was worth $23.5 million.
 
The Texans apparently did not.
 
That hole has yet been replaced. The charade with Ed Reed continues, but recent reports say that the Texans' offer was too low for the future Hall of Famer to sign right away.
 
Reed would be a perfect short-term solution to the secondary issue for Houston. He brings leadership, experience, and after one of his better seasons seems to still have some left in the tank. He has won a Super Bowl. That helps. The Texans want an elite defense and Ed Reed would put them one step closer. Also, the “Bulls on Parade” gave up 83 points in two games to the Patriots. Baltimore held New England to 13 points in the AFC Championship in large part to play in the secondary.
 
General Manager Rick Smith would not have picked up Reed in a private jet in Baltimore if he wasn’t interested. But at age 34 and heading towards the end of his career, Reed most likely wants job security and a multi-year deal. With the reports of a low contract offer, it seems the Texans don’t want to overstep and risk overpaying for a player who is past his time.
 
If the deal with Reed does not work out, safeties Quintin Mikell and Michael Huff are also available in free agency, or perhaps the Texans will draft Matt Elam out of Florida or take a chance on Tyrann Mathieu in the later rounds. Either way, Quin needs to be replaced and Shiloh Keo has little experience as Quin’s backup and cannot be the only option.
 
The Texans have been mostly losing players this offseason, also losing tight end James Casey to the Eagles and running back Justin Forsett to the Jaguars. No major acquisitions have yet been made. But with draft day 37 days away there is still much time for Rick Smith and the rest of the Houston front office to keep the “Bulls on Parade” from becoming the “Bulls on Downgrade.”