The NFL Trade Deadline is on Tuesday, November 3rd. Although general manager Deshaun Watson said no one is going anywhere, the fact of the manner is that the Texans are 1-5, set to be close to $6 million over the cap next offseason, and without their first and second round picks in 2021 because of the Laremy Tunsil trade.
What’s your favorite realistic hypothetical trade the Texans can make this year to improve the 2021 Houston Texans? This is the question I asked the masthead. These are their answers:
There is no hope for this season. The playoffs are over. Done with. Sure, watching week to week will be a joy in this Bill O’Brienless time of Texans football, but the piss pot of win and lose ramifications has been dumped out the window. The Dolphins have Houston’s 2021 first and second round picks. Again, at 1-5, the NFL Playoffs are an impossibility. Because of this, the Texans should look to move who they can.
J.J. Watt, Kenny Stills, and Duke Johnson have a guaranteed salary of $0. All three players could be traded without having to take on dead money for moving them before their guaranteed salaries are paid. Will Fuller’s is a little more than $10 million, but he’s a free agent after this season. Brandin Cooks and Benardrick McKinney also have a guaranteed salary of $0 next season. David Johnson’s is $2.1 million. These players are the likeliest trade candidates.
The trade that makes the most sense for the Texans is moving on from Watt. Watt is healthy, for now, and who knows how long that will last? He’s due $17.5 million next season. Who knows what Houston’s contention window is? Yannick Ngakoue was traded for a third round pick, but Ngakoue is a free agent after this year; he’s a rental for this season. Watt is under contract for one more year, and if he was traded, his new team could renegotiate his salary as well. Could Houston get a second rounder for him? If so, that’s the best move available to them. Could Houston get a third for him? If so, that feels too light.
I’d also look into moving Stills. There are no strings attached, and there are plenty of teams that could use some wide receiver help. Even a fourth round pick would provide more value than the four targets he gets each game for a 1-5 team.
Fuller is a perfect Nightwing wide receiver. He’s an incredible WR2. He’s been fairly healthy this season. He’s the best receiver on this roster. I’d spend the rest of the season trying to determine if extending him is worthwhile instead of trying to get a third round pick for him.
Houston would be better off trying to use the next ten weeks to prove to teams that the beginning part of the season was a fluke. Try to coax value out of Cooks and David Johnson. Neither player will probably be part of the next great Texans team. They have expensive contracts in 2021. They can be moved with scant repercussions. Give them as many touches as possible over the next several weeks to convince someone they are just a Cooks away from taking that next step. If that fails, hopefully Bill O’Brien gets another NFL head coaching job so Houston can trade either player to O’Brien for similar value.
The NFL’s trade market makes zero sense. I have no idea what anyone is worth. No one does. O’Brien screwed the whole game up. That being said, Houston should make phone calls and see what teams would be willing to offer for Watt, Stills, Cooks, and Da.Johnson. No one should be safe. The Texans are over the cap entering next season. They need picks. The team has to get better, and with limited resources, they don’t have the means to do so.
Don’t listen to Deshaun Watson. Add resources for the future. At this point, that’s the only thing that matters.
I can’t visualize much that is realistic.
Nobody is going to trade for Zach Cunningham, Whitney Mercilus, Randall Cobb, Nick Martin, or David Johnson. J.J. Watt might fetch value, but kitten, that’d be a tough pill to swallow.
Brandin Cooks, Kenny Stills, and Darren Fells might fetch fourth round picks. Bradley Roby for a third if we are lucky. Jacob Martin for a third?
It’s still shocking how badly Bill O’Brien mishandled this team.
There is an old truism in poker: “When you sit down at the table, look for the sucker. If it’s been 20 minutes and you can’t find him, you’re it.” For the past season and a half, the NFL equivalent of that sucker at the general manager poker table was BO’B. The deals he struck and the contracts he signed did not strike the desired pay dirt. Given how 2020 has played out, O’Brien left the Texans with one of the worst short stacks in the NFL, with few quality draft picks, a bloated payroll, and few tradeable assets. .
To figure out a mutually quality deal with this team requires an advanced degree in NFL general managing. Players and contracts that Texans would probably love to off-load (Eric Murray, anyone?), no team will take. Other players that may offer some value to teams (Cunningham, Mercilus) have contracts that few would be willing to take on, especially with the uncertainty of the salary cap for 2021 due to the pandemic-inspired revenue loss. Then there is the strategic outlook for the team (I guess you can have those...kinda alien around here). Is the team priming for a major rebuild or a re-tooling? Without any semblance of defining philosophy, it is hard to know just what the team will do. We won’t get that until we get a new GM/HC and/or purge Jack Easterby.
That being said, the most likely tradeable assets for the team are the wide receivers. With Watson finally able to spread the ball around to various pass-catchers, the loss of one or two would probably not completely derail this team. Randall Cobb could definitely help a team, but carries a contract that teams may not want. Will Fuller and/or Kenny Stills might want to keep their bags packed. They are both free agents after this season, their current contracts are not too burdensome, and they can be significant contributors. What could we get for them? Ideally a couple of mid to low round picks, but we might be in a buyer’s market, and with our limited draft capital, we must take what we can.
Then there is the nuclear option: Trading Franchise icon J.J. Watt. Even with him, the Texans’ defense is somewhere historically bad and historically suck. Still, he is perhaps the one player who might yield a higher-level pick or actual multiple picks. Still, if I was Cal McNair or any other Texans executive, you couldn’t get me to announce that at a press conference for all the beer in Belgium. I would be curious to see what happens in the hours after the Packers depart Houston. A packaged deal that sends Watt home, along with a needed receiver in Stills, may yield the best harvest of picks we can hope for as a team.
As asked in the piece on trades/free agents posted earlier today, where’s the upside in trading off talented players for late round draft picks or other players that aren’t good enough to stay off the trade table with their current team?
Answer: There isn’t one.
The 2020 Houston Texans are far removed from a Super Bowl contention, so adding one or two players isn’t going to make any huge impact this year. Additionally, casting off, say, Kenny Stills for a fourth or later round draft pick doesn’t add value to the future either. The odds of getting a player of Stills or Cobb’s caliber late in the draft are like playing Russian Roulette with an automatic—sure, it might jam and you’ll be okay, but chances are you’re going to lose that one.
Shipping off J.J. Watt for anything less than a first or second rounder would likely create the same fanbase backlash the DeAndre Hopkins trade created, and no team in their right mind is giving up anything more than a fourth rounder for Watt at this stage in his career. Not even the Pittsburgh Steelers or Green Bay Packers. Watt is a Houston icon and his value to the fanbase is far greater than his value anywhere else. The smart move would be allowing the new general manager to re-sign Watt to a more team friendly, retire-a-Texan contract and hope the new coach can get Watt that elusive Lombardi Trophy before he has to ride off into the Hall of Fame sunset.
Bill O’Brien made the bed and unfortunately Romeo Crennel, Jack Easterby, and the rest of the organization need to lie in it until Cal McNair hires a new general manager, who then will hire a new coach. Those two people can reshape the roster around the new system(s) they’ll bring to the team. Doing anything now is just premature at best and digging a deeper hole at worst.
If I’m being honest, I don’t think the Texans should look to move anyone at the deadline. The players that could net us a decent return are all crazy expensive and it wouldn’t be beneficial for anyone to move them. The rest are just table scraps that wouldn’t net much of a return at all.
I love all of the hypothetical J.J. Watt trades, mainly because it’s to the extremes of “get anything you can for him” or “only if we get a king’s ransom for him”. Realistically, Watt falls somewhere in the middle. Setting aside all of the sentimental feelings of his time in Houston and the wonderful things he’s done for the community, J.J. is very pricey and really starting to show some wear and tear. Sure, there’s the occasional bang play like the sack-fumble from last week. However, it’s not the norm. He’s not doing so hot when defending the run, so it might be time for him to become a bullpen guy. Real contenders would love to have him as a passing down specialist that can maybe net you a big play or two per game. That being said, I could see maybe a second or third coming our way for him. I don’t see a first. So maybe it’s better to just keep him on?
All I know is that if this front office did trade J.J., there would be rioting in the streets.
At this point, it’s all about making the empty seats in the front office look as attractive as possible for any prospective coaches and general managers. Best way to do that is to open up as much cap space as possible and load up on draft picks. Unfortunately, the Texans have such a dearth of talent that it’s going to be extremely difficult to find any team willing to pick up a player and absorb their awful contract.
The only players I can think of that could fetch some value (and are tradeable) are J.J. Watt, Laremy Tunsil, Bradley Roby, Darren Fells, and Brandin Cooks. J. J. Watt is an almost must trade because we can still demand a high draft pick for him, though he is already well past his half-life. The longer wait to trade Watt, the worse it gets. I’m still not sure if trading him is the best move since he’s the biggest player in Houston Texans history, but it should certainly be on the table.
Both Tunsil and Cooks are players that I have a very hard time justifying putting on the trading block but could be necessary in order to dump big contracts and accumulate picks for the new bosses. Tunsil I’d have a very hard time getting rid of since we won’t be able to replace the hole he’ll leave open for a few years, but it would net us (probably) and first rounder and open up cap space. Brandin Cooks is still clearly a top receiver in the NFL, and I’m sure there’s some salivating offensive coordinators that would give up a second rounder or more for his speed (Chicago, Seattle).
Roby and Fells both play positions that should be easily replaced by their backups or a good third or fourth round pick, so both are prime trade candidates right now. Both are average to above average players at their position, so they can be traded to a team trying to make a Super Bowl push for third or fourth round picks.
Players like Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney, David Johnson, and Randall Cobb aren’t going to get any trade attention and thus should be released by the end of this year. If the Texans follow this plan and it works out perfectly, our roster will be worse but with tons of cap space and at least one first rounder, at least one second rounder, a few third rounders, and a few fourth rounders. That, coupled with Deshaun Watson, should be enticing for potential coaches or general managers.