Last offseason, I never would have guessed that your Houston Texans would have cut a positive-contributing starter, let alone someone popular and beloved in the City of Houston, for cap relief. Yet Eric Winston packed his bags and headed north for Kansas City after being released. One year later, it's now easier to believe that defensive end, and ninja assassin, Antonio Smith finds himself in a very similar situation.

Smith is in the final year of a five-year, $35.5 million contract and is scheduled to be a cap hit of $9.5 million. According to Spotrac.com, the Texans would save $6 million by cutting the Ninja Cowboy. This is double the relief Houston could gain from any other single player move. Pro Bowl guard Wade Smith offers $3 million in cap relief, for those wondering who was second.

Moving back to Smith, the Texans would be foolish to cut him and let him join other castaways in Baltimore. Unlike Winston, Smith hasn't plateaued on the field. The Ninja Assassin is coming off a career season with seven sacks, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and a truck-load of gaps penetrated. Nor do the Texans have any serviceable options to replace him as a starter, a tall order considering Smith has only missed one game in his four-year Texan career. Given all of that, the Texans should extend him. Yet the leverage isn't completely in Smith's corner.

There is that huge cap relief number of $6 million, combined with the fact that Smith's going to turn 32 during the season. For a guy whose game comes chiefly from his off-the-snap quickness,his age may get more attention. If the Texans draft a defensive end in round one, like UCLA's Datone Jones, that would signal an end to the Era of the Ninja.