General Manager Charley Casserly and Head Coach Dom Capers
February 13, 2002
MODERATOR: Thank you for
joining us today for the conference call for the Houston
Texans. The expansion draft is next Monday at 3:00 eastern,
2:00 central. Joining us on the call today from the Houston Texans
are head coach Dom Capers and general manager Charley
Casserly. Before we ask any questions, I'll turn it over to Mr.
Casserly for a few opening remarks.
CHARLEY CASSERLY: Thank
you very much, Dan. Good afternoon, everybody. What I just
wanted to do is kind of give you a couple of bullets on this before we
start which might answer a lot of basic questions that you might have.
The first thing, so we all
understand the rules, as to where we're coming from on this thing and what
our strategy will be at this point, first of all, we have to take either
30 players or 38% of the cap. The 38% of the cap is $27.2 million. Now,
those 30 players, or the $27.2 million, 38% of the cap, have to be on our
roster on July 15th.
Another important rule to
know is on June 1, all minimum salaries of these players are guaranteed.
If a player makes $500,000 and his minimum salary is $375,000, on June 1,
375 is guaranteed. You have 30 players on June 1, to get to July 15th,
and if you were to cut half of them, you still have to pay half of them
the minimum salaries.
In the history of the
expansion drafts, in modern times, the other three teams all took 30 to 35
players, average of 17 made their club. In Cleveland's
case, they paid off $5 million worth of salary.
We took the list and
analyzed it. If we took the same strategy, taking 30 to 35 players with
the idea we would save our money in cap room for free agency. We
estimated our dead money would be $10 million this year, which is more
than 10% of the cap.
So analyzing this, we came
up with the decision to go with 38%, which is less players. We're not
going to be taking 30 to 35 players. We will take anywhere from 15 to
25. And that depends on pull‑backs and some physicals we still have to
do. It could be under 20 players very easily that we end up going into
That's kind of an overview
of where we are right now on this. The last thing, Dom and
I have talked, we're not going to say who we are going to take, so if you
ask us if we're going to take a player, we're not going to comment on that
today. I think you can appreciate that. There's a strategy involved at
this point. How small it is, there still is some, so we don't feel that
it's right for us, for what's best for the Texans, to tell
everybody who we're taking at this point in time.
Q. Charley, can you
cover your strategy in general and your philosophy, philosophical approach
to this thing?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: To the
expansion draft, well, I thought I kind of answered a basic part of it
right there as opposed to the first part between 30 and 35, 30 or 38%.
However, in looking at it,
you have to combine the expansion draft with free agency. In other words,
the whole objective is to get football players, get good football
players. Free agency is very weak this year. This is the thinnest free
agent group there's ever been. So you only have so many slots to work
with with your big‑money players, so to speak. So in looking at it, you
have to combine the expansion draft and combine free agency in formulating
The majority of our
big‑money signings are going to come in the expansion draft as opposed to
free agency. We will be taking some players on Monday that are going to
be starters. The feeling there is, when you go to free agency, you have
to bid for players you don't know you're going to get. This is a bird in
Q. I guess I wanted you
to talk about concentration of position. Is this the place where you
could stock up on the defensive side, that sort of thing?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: Well, a
couple things there. One is, any player that was over 30 years old we
eliminated from our thinking. Remember, we assume their contracts in this
draft. The one thing you don't want to do, you hope, is to take a player
that's not going to play his contract so you're going to have dead money
on your cap. So that was the first thing. Any player over 30 we
eliminated from our thinking in this. That's where the age factor came
Then we looked at
players. Do we think they can play the length of their contract? If we
feel they can, we put them on a list to take.
As far as positions go,
there's a couple of different things here. We did a mock expansion draft
a year ago, where I was the general manager for 31 teams and came up with
the lists, then the scouts went ahead and picked them, and I did the
pull‑backs, okay? And that was more of a traditional one like the other
The interesting thing that
came out of that, and the scouts just took the best players regardless of
position, well, at the end of the day, the toughest positions to fill are
corner, offensive line, especially tackle, defensive line, and
quarterback. In every analysis we've done, and as we go to find players,
that's not a revelation, but it's true. Those are the toughest positions
Realizing that, those are
the toughest positions to find, so if you can help yourselves in the
expansion draft or free agency in those positions before you get to the
draft, that certainly is going to be a priority.
The other point is that
you have to combine the expansion draft with free agency. Free agency is
very thin. We only have so many big‑money slots. Most of our big‑money
slots will come in the expansion draft, but we will still be active in
Q. I heard you say you
didn't want to talk about players that you would take. Maybe you could
tell us a little bit about a guy like Rob Johnson here in
Buffalo, maybe something about him, as well as Coach Capers, do
you like what he has, could he possibly be somebody would you look at?
Dom, you want to answer that.
DOM CAPERS: Well,
Rob Johnson, we think is a fine player. The thing
that we've got to do, what we've been doing, is make a comparison in terms
of taking a veteran player that's in the expansion draft as compared to
what might be available in the college draft, make a decision, you know,
in terms of whether we want to go with a young quarterback as opposed to a
Those are the things we're
discussing and will continue to discuss.
Q. Dom, compared to
this time before your first season in Carolina where you dealt
quickly with free agents, Charley says it's a very thin class, but
the overall mix of players that will be available to you, is it
comparable? Are you comfortable you'll be able to build a pretty good
DOM CAPERS: I think the
biggest difference, you don't have to look at the expansion list very long
to see that there are more talented players on this expansion list than
what there were back in '95. But along with that, you take a look at the
cap numbers and the salaries that go along with those players, and that's
where you have to fit the pieces of the puzzle together.
I do think that free
agency was in its infancy stages back then. Clubs were not protecting
their own free agents nearly as much as they are now. There were a lot
more quality free agents available to you. When you look at the
composition of your team back then, it would probably be a lot different
than what it is now in terms of what you get from the expansion draft and
what's available with free agency.
Q. Dom, with
regards to Tony Boselli, are you satisfied enough with what
you saw in the physical, with his medical status, that really the only
issue is his cap figure?
DOM CAPERS: Well, I think
Charley mentioned that we really didn't want to comment on
players, all right, who we are or not are going to take.
Q. I'm not going to say
whether you're going take them. Is the physical part at least a non‑issue
where now you're only dealing with whether you want to take on that cap
DOM CAPERS: Well, I think
it's all part of the equation. When you take a look at a player like
Tony Boselli, I think we all know what type of
player he is when he's healthy. We've had him in. He's had his
physical. Then it becomes a matter of putting that together with his
ability, where he is in his career, and what he would offer the
Texans in terms of not only on the field but off the field.
Q. Charley, I know
you mentioned you wouldn't take anyone over 30. You didn't mention anyone
over 40 like Bruce Matthews. Would you consider taking a
guy like that into coming back to Houston where he's well-known?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: You
caught me on that one now (laughter). You caught me, see.
Well, no, Bruce
Matthews certainly was a great player for the Oilers,
then later for the Titans. He's going to the Hall of
Fame. He's indicated he's going to retire. So I would expect
Bruce Matthews to retire and probably buy some
season tickets to the Texans, come and see us play.
Q. Charley, a lot
of the veterans that have been exposed inevitably will be cut in June
anyway. From your perspective, is it worth it to in essence wait for them
to be cut and maybe you can get them at a lower price later on?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: That's
a good question. It's one certainly you have to think about and debate.
Again, there is a potential some of these players could be cut. There's
clearly a potential they couldn't be and just have their contracts
restructured and they stay where they are. You don't know in some of
Teams don't like to lose
good football players. If they are cut, does that mean you get them? No,
you're not guaranteed to get them. They're a free agent. Now you'll
compete with 31 other teams to get them. That weighs into the equation.
If you are in the benefit
of a doubt, it gets back to the bird in the hand. You take them, you know
what the price is, and you have them, as opposed to letting somebody else
control the destiny.
Q. How do you look at
special teams players like kick returners?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: Well,
they're important. I mean, depending upon the ability of the player, if
he is a game‑breaker or close to a game‑breaker, certainly that's a
valuable part of the game. If you have somebody that can score from
anyplace on the field, that's a weapon. Starting out, you know, we're
going to be short in some areas. A weapon like that could be a tremendous
asset for you.
Q. I'd like to ask Dom,
you have Chris Palmer there who went through a very short
time frame to prepare for his expansion draft. You've now been in two
where you were on hand the whole year before the draft. Please tell me
what the advantages are in having a whole year to prepare.
DOM CAPERS: Well, I think
it is a significant advantage. Number one, the biggest advantage, is it
gives you an opportunity. Charley has done a great job of
putting together not only an outstanding pro personnel department but a
college department. As a coach, many times you come in, and if you don't
have that extra time, all your focus is on putting your staff together,
trying to get the X and O part of the game together, planning for
practices, all that. So you probably don't have the amount of time to
communicate and sit in with the personnel meetings, really develop good
lines of communication in that area.
I think it's a tremendous
advantage. It certainly has helped me in terms of getting to know our pro
and college departments, working with Charley at a time
where I've been able to focus on personnel more than I have scheme and
what we're going to do on the field because we didn't have a coaching
staff together for the last year.
Q. It's no secret that the
Jaguars have the worst salary cap situation in the league. They
need your help in this process because their cap numbers would come
immediately off the books. Is there any thought at all in your thinking,
because this is a future division rival, to maybe not give them any help,
or are you just thinking in terms of how can you help yourselves and not
worry whether you're giving cap relief to a division rival?
DOM CAPERS: I think this
is like coaching. If you start to concern yourself too much about the
people you're going to be competing against, you make a big mistake.
We've got to focus number
one on what we think is going to be best for the Houston
Texans, to try to strengthen this team as much as we can from
the very beginning. This is a very important step for us, it's going to
be one that will have a tremendous impact on the foundation of our team.
Really our focus is more on trying to acquire good football players and
how it's going to impact our cap situation more so than our opponents'.
Q. Could you say at least
whether you've had a visit with Charlie Batch of Detroit or
James Stewart? Have you looked at either one of them?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: We have
not brought them in for physicals.
Q. Guys with the large
salaries, the teams are putting them out there because you would inherit
the entire amount. Would you expect and are you allowed to renegotiate
some of these contracts once you get them on board?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: Yes, we
are. The player can accept or reject it. But, yes, we are allowed to
renegotiate the contracts.
Q. Would you expect to do
CHARLEY CASSERLY: I would
not comment on that.
Q. You mentioned
about the dead money. You inherit the entire cap number. If you go ahead
and cut the player, you get the acceleration on the bonus money even
though you haven't paid it?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: That's
Q. About how many
starters would you expect to realistically pull out of this expansion
CHARLEY CASSERLY: That
gets into how many players we might take, specifics on who we're going to
take. You know, we are going to get some starters out of the expansion
draft. We'll just leave it at that.
Q. Knowing what you knew
about free agency, that it was going to be a thin class, when this
expansion list came out, did you go, "Thank God some good players came
CHARLEY CASSERLY: We had
an idea that some of these players were going to be on there. But
certainly, you know, it's helped us. It's an asset for us. We're going
to take advantage of it.
Q. Would you consider
taking a guy who has not taken a physical yet?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: We
would consider taking players that haven't taken physicals.
We had access to all their medical records. We've been in communication
with teams about their players. If the medical record was clean and we
had a good conversation with their trainer, then we would not have ‑‑
there are players we have not brought in that we are going to take.
Q. Do you guys plan on
taking some linebackers? Is that a priority for you guys?
DOM CAPERS: Linebackers
in this defense are always a priority. It just becomes a matter of do we
feel that the guys that are on the list can come in and fit into the
scheme and be productive players for us. You know, you're going to try to
look to find guys that you feel can come in and make your football team if
you take them off this list.
Q. Charley, you
mentioned earlier you kind of basically were ruling out players over 30
for this draft. Did you consider at all making some exceptions to that
rule with positions like offensive line, a position people regard on the
average you can play deeper, play at an older age? Did you consider
making exceptions, or was that an across-the-board rule?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: Pretty
much it's across the board. You know, we did look at it. Again, you get
down to the contract: Can the player play the contract? I agree with you
about, you know, offensive linemen that can play pretty good football
after the age of 30. Looking at the contracts, we just didn't feel
comfortable with it. We think there's some other players available to us
that can help us as opposed trying to gamble a little bit on the age.
Q. Charley, you
mentioned about the physicals. How many guys did you bring in for
physicals? Also, how many players were over 30 that got eliminated? You
talked about it being the weakest free agent class in history, if you
will. Can you give reasons as to why, teams are doing a better job of
protecting their players, or whatever is happening in the league that
makes this a weaker free agency class?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: I have
to add up how many we brought in for physicals. It would be 15 to 20 that
we brought in, which is a pretty accurate estimate.
In regards to how many
players are over 30 on the list, I have no idea.
Then on why it's a weak
free agent class, I think what you have is this. The trend at the
beginning of free agency was to let your players go into free agency, tell
them if they got an offer, to come back to you before they did anything.
Clearly what happened early on is players didn't come back. Players got
the offers that they wanted in free agency and signed them, so teams lost
players. The tendency early in free agency was to overpay free agents.
Now we've come full
circle. Teams will overpay their own players to keep them. I'm not being
critical because certainly, you know, when we were in Washington,
we weren't different than anybody else. So that's where we are right
now. Teams put an emphasis on resigning their own players. That's why
you have so many teams in the salary cap position they're in.
Q. Talk about wanting
players who are able to play out the entire contract. What about players
who are in the final year of their contract coming up in the 2002 season,
entering the final year of their contract, are you opposed to taking guys
who might only be there for one year?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: No,
we're not opposed to that because I think you have a couple of things.
One, you'd have to look at the player. Do you think that player would
want to stay here in Houston? That's one question. That's
hard to answer, but I think you can make some suppositions.
The second thing is, you
have a franchise move a year from now, so that can help you keep a
player. We're not opposed to taking a player in the last year of his
Q. Considering a lot of
teams put players out there because they want to lose their cap number,
would you anticipate after the team was picked, there wouldn't be
CHARLEY CASSERLY: I think
in some cases there will and I think in some cases there won't be any
Q. Considering Chris
Palmer went through this two years ago, has he contributed at all
to your strategy?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: Well,
before I took this job, I had talked to Chris. I had talked
to Dom. I had talked to Tom Coughlin. In
addition to many other people that worked with the previous three
expansion teams to pick their brains.
I think one of the fun
things here is that personally I have a question about what happened with
an expansion team in the past, I don't have to pick up the phone, I just
walk down the hall. Dom, who was in Carolina,
you have Chris in Cleveland, and they both
worked in Jacksonville.
There's no question, you
know, I've asked them a million questions. They've been great. That has
certainly helped us formulate our plans there.
Q. Looking back on it now,
you went to the NFC Championship game pretty quickly with a young
quarterback. Are you still comfortable with the idea of going right away
with a rookie or are you more comfortable with taking a veteran?
DOM CAPERS: Well, I think
it depends on the individual. You know, I think it takes a lot to play
the game at the quarterback position. But you look at recent history,
there have been players that have come in and taken their teams and had a
lot of success early.
I think you look at
Cleveland, Tim Couch I think has grown over the time
he's played, the three years he's played. You look at Peyton
Manning. Peyton Manning started basically from day
one. I think they won 13 games the second year with him.
So it totally comes down
to who the person is, I think. Obviously, we've got to fill every
position because we don't have a team. You know, it's who you surround
the guy with and what his capabilities are, how mature he is, and how fast
you think he can progress.
Q. Many of us haven't been
in Houston in a while. Can you give us a sense of how the city is
reacting? Do you see any tangible signs of them getting excited about it,
DOM CAPERS: One of the
great things for me being in the community, not coaching, it's given me a
chance to get out in the community and speak, make a lot of appearances.
There's no question about the excitement about having the NFL
back here. It doesn't take you long to figure out that this is football
country. All the way from high school through college and the NFL,
the people love football down here. They're excited about having the team
Q. You took a lot of
30-year-old players in the first draft. What makes you feel like you need
to make a change in that philosophy at this time?
DOM CAPERS: I think in
many ways we all learn from our experience. In many ways, I think the
success that we had early at Carolina, we won 20 games the
first two years, ended up hurting us in the long run. We were going into
the third year, we were picking 27th in the draft, we were playing the
first place schedule. When you go to the championship game, the natural
progression is that people expect you to be in the Super Bowl
the next year. So the expectation level was tremendous.
We came back to probably
where we were as a team that third year around a .500 football team. When
you have older players, they play great the first couple years, but as
they descended, we didn't have the youth there to pick it up. It actually
worked against us.
So hopefully, you know,
the blueprint that we have here will enable us ‑‑ it might take a little
longer, we'll have to be more patient, have the courage to stick with it,
but hopefully it's a blueprint to eventually win a championship.
Q. Has the success of the
Patriots in terms of building their team with free agents, is that
going to change the way teams look at building their teams?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: That's
a good question. I think in a lot of cases necessity is the mother of
invention. There's a number of teams in the league that have no other
option but to look at players in that category.
The other interesting
thing this year is the change in the minimum salary rules where the
minimum salary for a ten‑year player has moved up to $750,000. If he
only receives a $25,000 signing bonus or less, his cap number will be
$450,000-475,000. That's an interesting dynamic as we go forward in this.
You're right. When
somebody wins, people tend to copy it. You might see a little bit more of
that, but I don't think that's going to deter the good players from
getting their money in the beginning of March.
Q. Have you been able
to kind of piece together at least a ‑‑ try to come up with a simulation
on what kind of a free agency pool you're going to have of guys that are
going to get cut in the next month or so, what the quality will be?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: We have
a list of what we project to be salary cap cuts. It certainly is a list.
The interesting thing about it in doing the research and talking to the
league about the expansion plan, last year, and don't hold me to these
exactly, last year there were approximately 300 salary cap cuts. Of
those, only I believe 11 got signing bonuses of $1 million or more. What
does that tell you? Most of those players were not premiere players,
number one. Number two, the average age was 31 years old. So basically
the cap casualties are older players who can still play but they're
probably short‑term solutions.
You can't build a team
around them because you won't have a team next year. But certainly they
can fill a role for a year for us and a lot of other people. We're not
going to stock our team with them, though.
Q. Dwight Clark
said the expectations for your team should be seven and nine or better.
CHARLEY CASSERLY: I only
try to general manage one team; I don't try to general manage other teams.
Q. Charley, you
just said you simulated being the general manager of all 31 teams a year
ago. That's not a legitimate answer. Come on.
CHARLEY CASSERLY: Last
year we weren't playing. We're playing this year. You don't coach
somebody else's team; just coach your own.
Q. What will you be doing
this weekend? Are you for the most part studying? Do you still have to
hunker down for a while? Will you go out to eat, I guess?
DOM CAPERS: Charley,
do you want to answer that?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: I
thought he was asking you. Dom, did you tell them you were
on the golf course and you had to interrupt? Wake up, you guys.
DOM CAPERS: Obviously,
we've met more on this expansion draft from the standpoint of having mock
expansion drafts before the list has come out and continue to work on it
because there's so many factors that go into it with the financial
implications of it, building your team, how it's going to affect your team
three, four years down the road.
We'll continue to work
through the weekend and discuss things. Hopefully we have things pretty
much solidified by the time the weekend gets here. But we continue to
talk and finalize all the decisions we'll make.
Q. Dom or
Charley, in reality, isn't pretty much your work for all this done
from the standpoint you don't have to worry about competing against other
teams or worrying about who they're going to draft ahead of you?
Basically what you have is 10, 15, 30 number one picks. You have the
number one picks every time. All this secretiveness that we're hearing
today, is all of that really necessary?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: I'll
answer that. To a degree, you're right. The day the list came out for 27
teams, we met on the next day and did the expansion draft. I would say
there haven't been too many changes since that initial meeting.
Your biggest thing here is
just balancing the financial part of it. How much money do you want to
spend in the expansion draft? How much money do you want to save for free
agency? Of course, you have to get the physicals on the players. That's
really what takes your time right here to make the decision.
But we just don't think
it's professional at this point to announce to the world who we're taking
before the time comes. I think for our fans in Houston, I
think we'd like to wait till Monday. I think we'd like to have the
players come in here, too, and talk to them before they hear it from
Q. Some of those
additions come from the Patriots and Rams players who came
CHARLEY CASSERLY: Plus
the Eagles and the Steelers, yes. There's
some of the time spent on that. I have to be honest with you now. We met
the first day on this, and we've spent a lot of time going over the tapes
and everything, but we're doing other things, too. If you had to finish
this thing in 24 hours, yeah, you could. You don't have to, so we're
working on other things, too, preparing for the college graft draft and
free agency. Dom has the coaches in here. He's trying to
get them organized and get them ready to go coach. Since you don't have
to ‑‑ since you have till the 18th, you can spread your time around a
little bit, too.
Q. What should be read
into the 15 to 20 players who had physicals? Obviously, those are players
you're very interested in from the start.
CHARLEY CASSERLY: Clearly
we're interested in them, otherwise they would not have come in, otherwise
we would not have brought them in. So, yes, you can read that into it.
Does that mean we're taking every one of them? No. I already answered
the question, if a guy didn't come in, we might still take them.
Q. Was Richard Newsome
given a physical, and the two guys from the Saints?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: No,
they were not.
Q. Is the symbolism of
your first pick the kind of a guy you're going to build your team around?
CHARLEY CASSERLY: Well,
Dom, you want to answer that?
DOM CAPERS: Well, I think
probably the first pick of every phase is a little bit symbolic of the
type of player that we want to have. I think it's that way in the
expansion draft and it's that way in the college draft, so I think, yes,
that's hard to avoid. I think it sends a message of the type of
individual we want to have on this football team, what we want the
identity of this football team to be.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We
appreciate it. We'll see you Monday.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports...