Sarah Barshop of ESPN posted an article detailing the ramifications of Deshaun Watson getting a contract extension before Patrick Mahomes. Much has been discussed and examined over the payday Watson will inevitably receive, but Barshop presents some concerns about the situation that your Houston Texans could possibly find themselves in after a DW4 extension.
As we know, there is a very good chance that the Texans get a deal done with Watson before Mahomes. It’s understood that Watson’s contract will reset the market until Mahomes gets his next mind-boggling contract. Barshop has an idea of what Watson’s contract might look like:
“A hypothetical Watson deal would project to be just below the $40 million a year Mahomes could command, perhaps a contract extension of four years and $152 million. With the last two years from his rookie contract tacked on, that could make the deal about six years and $172 million.”
That’s reasonable. Even though Mahomes has an MVP and a Super Bowl ring to his name, Watson deserves to be the second-highest paid quarterback in the NFL. The Texans simply don’t have the opportunities they do without him at the helm. Instead of talking about Watson’s next contract, we’d be examining our chances of landing Trevor Lawrence (like the Patriots are now that Tom Brady has left for Tampa).
There is, however, potential for concern about the length of Watson’s contract. Star players are now looking at short-term extensions like a hungry dog looks at a steak. Back in March, Kirk Cousins signed a two-year extension for $66 million, with $61 million guaranteed. If Watson were to sign to something similar, a large chunk of Watson’s new contract would almost surely be guaranteed. Barshop suggests some solutions in allocating the sizable amount of money Watson will receive:
“The Texans could backload the contract with large base salaries in future seasons that could be reworked down the road. Teams often keep base salaries on the lower side earlier in the contract because most of the early money is paid out in a signing bonus...If the Texans seek to alleviate some of the pressure on the 2021 cap, they could allot most of Watson’s signing bonus in 2020 to go with the current low base salary of the fourth year of his rookie deal.”
This ties into the necessity of getting a deal done sooner rather than later. By doing so, the Texans can plan out something along these lines. Get most of the money out the door through a signing bonus, sell their soul to get a longer-term extension, and stretch out the remaining dollars over a few years. The Texans are facing a tough cap situation going forward as there will be many mouths to feed. Odds are tough decisions will need to be made. Barshop mentioned some prospects for the current chopping block:
“Given that the Texans currently have $18.6 million in salary-cap space, they would still need to do some work on other contracts...One way to do that is by cutting players who would not have a dead money charge. Guard Zach Fulton and Stills are candidates. Fulton is owed $7 million in 2020 and another $7 million in 2021. Stills is owed $7 million in 2020 and is a free agent after the season. Houston also could try to trade Stills to a receiver-needy team late in training camp...The Texans also will have to make decisions after the season about Cooks (no guaranteed money) and running back Johnson (owed $9 million in 2021, $2.1 million guaranteed). It also looks unlikely Houston could afford to re-sign wide receiver Will Fuller even if he has an excellent — and healthy — 2020 season. He is currently playing on his $10.1 million fifth-year option.
This is the price to pay for not totally capitalizing on a quarterback’s rookie contract. Now that the team must pay the piper, there will be casualties. Normally, losing position players like this could be remedied through the NFL Draft. Of course, draft picks are far from surefire replacements, but a rookie contract goes a long way in remedying a team’s cap situation. Yet the Texans currently have no first or second round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Things are going to get rough in the coming years, so it seems that the team has devoted themselves to going “all in”. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, as the chance to contend is better than having no chance at all.
One saving grace is that the cap typically grows year over year. On average, the cap has increased around $10 million each season for at least the last four years. With the current pandemic gripping the sports world, many have expressed concern that the cap could shrink instead of expand in the coming years. Barshop has some great insight into what could keep the cap afloat in these trying times:
“While the cap could certainly decrease next season, one longtime agent says he believes because the NFL has 10 more years of labor peace after the 2020 season, that the league will borrow from the future, “and at worst, the 2021 cap will be flat...That doesn’t mean that teams won’t have cash issues due to lost revenue, but the agent suggests that “from a cap standpoint, it may go up a little bit, it may be completely the same, but it won’t go backwards.”
Regardless of how the Texans look two to three years from now, Deshaun Watson will be a Houston Texan. Sadly, the prime opportunity to take advantage of Deshaun’s rookie contract has passed. Money will be tight. The pandemic will make Janice McNair’s pockets hurt. Players won’t be retained, and some difficult crossroads are in the team’s future.
Yet even with what seems to be a darkening horizon approaching, Watson inspires hope for this team. No matter what position the team is put in by a new deal for their franchise quarterback, Deshaun deserves the contract that's coming to him.