QB Matt Schaub
The only reason the Texans haven’t extended Schaub yet is because they want him to prove he can stay healthy, after missing 5+ games in 3 of the last 5 seasons. If he does that this year, he’ll definitely get the tag. A healthy Schaub could lead this team to the Super Bowl or, at the very least, a strong season. They won’t let him get away if they do that.
Likelihood: Very likely
OT Duane Brown
A 1st round pick in 2008, Brown had an amazing season in 2012, not allowing a sack on the blindside in 18 games, including playoffs. Under normal circumstances, they wouldn’t let him hit the open market, but they can’t tag both him and Schaub. They’re trying to extend Brown before the start of the season, right now, which makes a lot more sense than potentially letting him or Schaub get away after next season.
Connor Barwin is definitely deserving of the franchise tag after a strong season in his first year as a starter, but he’d only get it if Brown and Schaub were extended before free agency starts, or if, for whatever reason, Schaub proved himself not to be worthy of the tag. As with Brown, the Texans are currently trying to do a long term deal with Barwin. If they can’t get one of them signed before free agency, it’ll be very tough for them to keep all three of their important cogs.
Likelihood: Very unlikely