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Texans face dilemma with Arian Foster

Divisional Playoffs - Houston Texans v Baltimore Ravens

BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 15: Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texans scores a touchdown during the second quarter of the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on January 15, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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The Texans are expected to make free agent pass rusher Mario Williams their top priority this offseason, but they aren’t expected to use the franchise tag to keep him.

Houston would have to spend almost $23 million to keep Williams via the tag, and that would be nearly impossible considering how tight they are to the cap.

Perhaps that will open up the use of the franchise tag for another big name player: Arian Foster.

Foster is a restricted free agent, but the new CBA makes it easier for other teams to go after him. Interested teams “only” have to give up a first round pick and a contract to sign Foster. The Steelers are in a very similar situation with Mike Wallace, and they are considering using the tag on Wallace.

The Texans want to sign Foster long-term, but what if a deal isn’t worked out by March 5?

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle wrote earlier this offseason the team’s plan is to tender Foster at the highest level and match any possible competing offer. That’s a risky move. A team like the Patriots or Bengals could try to sign Foster to a front-loaded contract that is difficult to match.

Ultimately, Houston may have to choose between Williams and Foster. (And we don’t think Houston will let Foster get away.) Getting a long-term contract done quickly with Foster looks a lot more realistic. The Texans could use the tag -- expected to be around $8 million -- as a way to buy time while they work on a contract with Foster.

In the meantime, Williams may become the highest paid defensive player in the league for another team.