HOUSTON -- For the first time in his four-year tenure as the Houston Texans general manager, Nick Caserio has aggressively spent in free agency.

He heavily invested on the defensive side of the ball, which accounted for a majority of the $89.3 million spent in guaranteed money through the first two days of free agency -- the fourth most in the league. It far exceeds the Texans' 2023 offseason, when they dished out $58.2 million in guarantees, ranking 12th in the NFL.

"The big thing [coach] DeMeco [Ryans] and I have talked about on a consistent basis is just trying to build as deep and consistent a roster top to bottom," Caserio said at the combine last month. "We're just trying to optimize our opportunities, try to take advantage of our opportunities to add players to our team.

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"It's just finding the right people with the right mindset and the right mentality that fit the program that we're trying to build."

The Texans signed former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter to a two-year, $49 million deal that includes $48 million guaranteed. Hunter, who received his fourth Pro Bowl nod in 2023, had a career-high 16.5 sacks and tied for league high in tackles for loss (23). They also added defensive lineman Denico Autry, who had 11.5 sacks last season for the Tennessee Titans, on a two-year, $20 million contract and his teammate, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, on a three-year, $34 million contract after finishing fifth in the league in tackles (163).

The Texans didn't retain their biggest free agent defensive end Jonathan Greenard, who signed a four-year, $76 million deal with the Vikings. Linebacker Blake Cashman, who led the team in tackles (104), also joined Minnesota. According to a league source, the Texans offered 2023 second-team All-Pro linebacker Patrick Queen $10 million, but Queen wanted more and ultimately landed with the Pittsburgh Steelers on a three-year, $41 million deal.

Denico Autry had 11.5 sacks last season with the Tennessee Titans. George Walker IV/USA TODAY Sports

Just hours ahead of the official 4 p.m. ET start time for the new league year (where deals can be signed and become official), the Texans agreed to trade defensive tackle Maliek Collins to the San Francisco 49ers as well.

On offense, Houston re-signed tight end Dalton Schultz to a three-year, $36 million deal and also pursued former New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley in an attempt to upgrade its rushing attack, which ranked 28th in yards per game (92.7) last season. The Texans offered Barkley a multiyear contract worth north of $10 million per year over three years, per source, but the Philadelphia Eagles were able to land him at three years for $37.75 million.

The Texans also re-signed wide receiver Noah Brown, who was fourth in receiving yards (567), to a one-year, $5 million deal to further continuity in the receiver room.

Houston didn't sign a running back to replace the loss of Devin Singletary, but Caserio was able to bring in 2021 Pro Bowl running back Joe Mixon. The Texans traded a seventh-round pick for Mixon, who was reported to be released by the Cincinnati Bengals, on Tuesday.

Heading into his second season as a head coach, Ryans said he wanted to build the Texans properly and find players looking to compete as they prepare to "earn it again" -- referring to the team's AFC South title and win in the first round of the playoffs, both firsts since 2019.

"Guys who have that relentless mindset, guys who want to go out and play for each other, guys who want to hunt, guys who want to play with relentless effort and finish," Ryans said. "That's what I'm looking to build as we start this offseason."