The Houston Texans are taking their first significant step forward in the aftermath of the Bill O'Brien era.
According to multiple reports, the Texans have hired Nick Caserio as their next general manager. The director of player personnel for the New England Patriots since 2008, he fills one of the posts vacated when O'Brien, also Houston's head coach for six-plus seasons, who was fired in October after an 0-4 start.
The Texans have wanted to hire Caserio, 45, multiple times over the years, but the Patriots were unwilling to let him leave. He previously served in New England's scouting department and as an assistant coach.
New Texans GM Nick Caserio previously spent nearly two decades in New England. (Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)
In Houston, he will inherit a team full of holes.
The Texans need a head coach and plenty of personnel upgrades on the heels of a 4-12 season. Prior to 2020, O'Brien, who also formerly worked for New England, had led Houston to four AFC South crowns in five years.
However he made several questionable moves in his GM role. His trade of star wideout DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona last March was widely panned. The Texans do not currently own a first- or second-round pick in the upcoming draft as they continuing paying off a 2019 trade to Miami that brought left tackle Laremy Tunsil. Caserio must also trim about $20 million in salaries before the NFL's new league year this March to simply be compliant with the salary cap.
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One major decision could be the future of longtime star pass rusher J.J. Watt, 31, who is owed no more guaranteed money but is due a base salary of $17.5 million in 2021, the final year of his contract. Watt's five sacks in 2020 were his lowest total over a full season.
Caserio will also have to make a determination on free agent receiver Will Fuller V, who had a breakout 2020 campaign (53 catches, 879 yards, 8 TDs). But the speedster's season ended prematurely due to a six-game PED suspension which he won't complete until Week 1 of the 2021 season.
On the plus side, the Texans are set under center, Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson, 25, coming off his best statistical season, including a league-best 4,823 passing yards.
It is unclear when or how New England will replace Caserio. Longtime coach Bill Belichick has final say over personnel issues for the six-time champions.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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