At 1-6, the 2020 NFL season is over for the Houston Texans. The team doesn’t have a pulse. They’re gray and lifeless. Deshaun Watson is the only thing that matters, especially since Houston has no desire to play their young players and get them the live reps to continue their development.
At the trade deadline, the following players could be traded with zero cap consequences for next year: Will Fuller, Duke Johnson, Kenny Stills, P.J. Hall, Brandin Cooks, and David Johnson (though he has zero trade value), and yes, even J.J. Watt. Whitney Mercilus would have a dead cap hit of $4.5 million while saving $7.5 million if he was traded. Randall Cobb would have a dead cap hit of $4 million while saving $6.625 million if he was shipped out.
The Texans are projected to be $7 million over the cap next year. They are missing their first and second round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. This team is Bill O’Brien’s grand master plan come to life, the roster he constructed to build around the final year of Deshaun Watson’s rookie contract, yet he still somehow died even while playing on God mode.
Houston would be wise to trade players who are free agents next year. Players like Stills, Fuller—unless Fuller is part of Houston’s long-term plans—and others who can be sent away for additional picks should be shown the door. The Texans are up against the cap and they need pick volume, lottery tickets that can be used to add cost-effective talent to the roster.
Of course, the Texans aren’t operating with that goal in mind. They are living in their own illusion once again. It’s no different than last offseason when they claimed to have a lot of exciting things going on for the upcoming season after they traded DeAndre Hopkins. This isn’t a roster that’s a head coach away. It’s a bad roster with a great quarterback. It’s a roster that needs to rebuild the entirety of its defense, reconfigure its skill players, and hope better coaching can fix continuous offensive line errors.
This team isn’t like the 2013 Houston Texans. That was a talented team that fell apart along with Matt Schaub’s flaccid arm, suffered injuries at key spots, had black cat one-possession game luck, and sported a league-worst turnover differential. That team was a quarterback away from bouncing back to the NFL Playoffs. That team wasn’t rebuilt in the span of a single offseason; it was merely a team that had a bad year and then continued using a talented roster. This 2020 team needs far more than the 2-14 2013 Texans did.
“You’ll see some little things that happened over the weekend. But no big moves. We like our players. We like our team. We have a lot of season left, a lot to play for. There’s an extra wildcard game this year and so you don’t know what’s going to happen. One thing you know about me, Marc, other people don’t know, is that I’m extremely optimistic and I don’t believe in giving up. And we won’t. Our team won’t. Our ownership won’t. Our coaches won’t. We’re going to go out there and believe in each other, win one game at a time and see where this season is. This story on the season is not written yet. So we want to go out and give our guys a chance and we’re going to see what happens. It’s going to be fun.
The tough thing about the postseason is when you’re 1-6, you have to go on the road if you make the Playoffs. Seriously, please hang me from the AFC South Division Championship banners at NRG Stadium. This team isn’t going to jolt back to life even though the schedule gets easier. They aren’t going 7-1 to finish the season. They won’t overtake the Raiders, Colts, Ravens, or even the Browns to sneak into the #7 seed or a possible new #8 seed (more on that later today). What happened in September and October happened. It’s time to stop waiting, start moving on, and doing what they can this season to prepare the team for 2021.
As McNair indicated, Houston will probably make a small move or two at the hands of Jack Easterby, but they won’t make substantial trades that can actually improve the team. The problem is the Texans don’t know what fair value is. After making the moves they’ve already made, they’re probably waiting for someone to offer a third for David Johnson, or a second for Kenny Stills, or a first for Whitney Mercilus. These offers aren’t going to happen. Instead it’s about adding fourth round picks or later, picks that can be packaged to move up in the draft. It’s about buying more lottery tickets and random chances to add cheap talent to the roster.
Romeo Crennel's trade deadline update: "We will trade, but, I told you before, I'm not trading for peanuts. If they want to make a substantial offer, then we will consider it." pic.twitter.com/LA9ncIXa23— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) November 2, 2020
The Texans should strip and rebuild at the trade deadline. They shouldn’t hold onto their players if opportunity comes knocking because of some idea like, ‘We like our players’, or ‘We have a lot to play for’. The talent is bad. The team is bad. Getting young players snaps to assist with their development and Watson operating out of empty sets are the only things this team has to play for in 2020.
Don’t expect much from the trade deadline. The Texans have fooled themselves again.