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Should Houston Texans release Kevin Walter?

The Houston Texans view finding a better No. 2 wide receiver opposite of star Andre Johnson as one of their top priorities this offseason, and that message comes down from owner Bob McNair. The Texans best bet to find a true No. 2 receiver to finally pair up with Johnson lies in the 2013 NFL Draft, which is stocked with talent at the wide receiver position. If one of either Keenan Allen, Cordarrelle Patterson, or Tavon Austin (in that order of best to worst) falls to the Texans at pick number 27, then I think the Texans need to make a move and pick one of those guys.

ESPN’s excellent AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky brought up an interesting argument, and that is whether or not long-time Texans No. 2 wideout Kevin Walter should be released. Walter is one of the best blocking wide receivers in the NFL and does a decent job of moving the chains, but he offers up very little in terms of playmaking ability and has never shown that he should be a No. 2 wide receiver in this league. I mean, why else would the Texans owner repeatedly state that the Texans will be looking for a No. 2 guy?

Walter, 31, caught at least 40 passes for the first time since 2010 this past season, and that’s simply not getting it done as a No. 2 wideout. Even though Walter is known for his hands and possession skills, 41 receptions isn’t getting it done. While the increased use of the more proficient tight ends in guys like Owen Daniels is a reason for this, Kevin Walter has seen his receptions drop each year from 2007-2011 with 65 catches in 2007. Since then, Walter’s reception totals have fallen to 60, 53, 51, 39, and 38 before slightly climbing up to 41 last year.

Kuharsky notes that by cutting Walter, the Houston Texans would save $2.5 million in cap space which is a solid chunk of coin. Walter has two years left on his contract and is slated to make $3.5 million next season.

But the question is, are the Texans better off keeping that money and releasing somebody who would be a quality No. 3 wide receiver? The Texans will still most likely take a wide receiver in the first-round of the draft to replace Walter, and drafting a receiver like DeAndre Hopkins, Justin Hunter, or the three stars listed above has little bearing on the Texans available cap space. In order to release Walter, the Texans need to feel good about their depth at the wide receiver position on the depth chart, and that’s not something I feel good about.

However, the Texans have an excellent trio of tight ends in Daniels, James Casey, and Garrett Graham, so that depth at TE alleviates concerns about depth at wide receiver. Releasing Kevin Walter would free up some cap space for the Texans to make upgrades at other positions, and I don’t see the problem with releasing Walter if the Texans feel like they can use that money somewhere else.

Whether or not the Houston Texans choose to release Kevin Walter, this team still needs an upgrade at the No. 2 slot. There are several great options available in this draft class, and the real question on Walter is whether or not he is worth keeping around as a No. 3 receiver. In all honesty, it’s all up to the Texans, and cutting Walter would make sense if the Texans are able to find some better use for that money. If they can’t, then I don’t see the problem with keeping Walter around as the No. 3 wideout. But again, the Texans really need to draft one of those talented wide receivers and give Matt Schaub some more options in the passing game besides Johnson and the tight ends. He has good weapons, but a playmaking receiver could be a real game-changer for the Texans in 2013 and beyond.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter for more NFL updates and analysis @SorianoJoe.

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