With only a week left before the start of the season, we have conflicting information on the extension negotiations between Texans and franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler stated on SportsCenter that the two parties are “not particularly close right now” to a new deal, with potential controversy being the length of said deal.
“Expect some pressure to apply around Week 1. This should get done, but there’s not been a lot of momentum just yet.”
Yesterday, however, Twitter bubbled with different news on Watson’s extension. Ian Rapoport and a nameless horde of others all made the same sort of announcement.
The #Texans are working hard with QB Deshaun Watson on a new extension, sources say, and my understanding is it’s likely to be more in line with Russell Wilson’s or Aaron Rodgers’ deal as opposed to that of #Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 3, 2020
Now Houston and Watson were allegedly working hard on an extension; Watson would end up getting less than Patrick Mahomes. This is the latest.
It was all the way back in June that we heard of Watson’s interest in signing a three-year deal, much shorter than most of us (including the organization) were expecting, especially after Patrick Mahomes got a ten-year deal with the Chiefs. After the contract extension for Zach Cunningham, it looks like Houston has rightly directed their focus on getting an extension done with Watson.
If these reports of the length of an extension for Watson are true, it would hardly be surprising given recent trends in quarterback deals. Many quarterbacks the past few years have embraced shorter contracts that allow them to either enter free agency earlier or welcome another lucrative agreement several times during their peak years. Vikings signal caller Kirk Cousins is a perfect example, first signing a three-year, $84 million (fully guaranteed!) contract to wear purple in 2018 and then signing a two-year, $66 million contract this past March to stay purple. As of right now, with one year of his first deal left and his extension coming in, Cousins will have an average salary of over $33 million over the next three years, making him the third highest paid quarterback on a per year basis in the NFL, directly behind Aaron Rodgers and Jared Goff and directly in front of Carson Wentz. Captain Kirk certainly isn’t an elite quarterback, but he’s been making money like one for the past few years and will continue to do so for the next several.
Ryan Tannehill has also taken note of this method, accepting a deal with the Titans that can provide up to $118 million (!!!) over four years. Both Cousins and Tannehill have defined acceptable quarterbacking during their tenures in the league, but because of the demand of their position, a short, guarantee-laden deal is quickly becoming a very effective (and lucrative) angle of negotiation. The reality that both Cousins and Tannehill cannot realize the high expectations that their teams have placed on them is very real, which is why Cousins made sure his contract is fully guaranteed and Tannehill secured $62 million as well. Win or lose, the team is still deep in the black.
Watson is certainly a level above both Cousins and Tannehill (although Tannehill did play one of the best statistical seasons by a quarterback EVER last year), so DW4 and his agent surely see a window to wring out even more guaranteed cash in a similar three-four year deal. At the end of a four-year extension, Watson will only be 29 and likely still an elite level player, if not even better than he is now. With an opportunity to sign two or even three contracts all worth around $100+ million in guaranteed cash and the ability to pick from a selection of suitors desperate for his talent, Watson will be able to structure his lucrative NFL career to his liking.
While Mahomes’ incomprehensibly gargantuan 10-year, $503 million deal with the Chiefs makes him appear like a Goliath next to Watson’s curtailed extensions, it’s important to notice that Mahomes’ contract is actually very team friendly for the next few years. Kansas City was able to pay him, Travis Kelce, and Chris Jones via massive extensions because Mahomes will not see a tsunami of cash until much later into his contract. Watson, however, would rather take a fully guaranteed approach and could potentially end up making nearly as much as Mahomes (if not more) without having to worry about clauses, bonuses, or playing out a decade-long contract. With quarterback demand always rising to new extremes, short contracts should become the norm for those who seek to benefit.
This may be the opposite of what the Texans are seeking with an extension. They should want to attach Watson to the franchise for as long as possible with a negligible cap hit in the immediate future if at all possible. Houston is in win-now territory; having space to bring in free agents and pay other important players is vital to getting over the hump. But, if the reports are true, Watson is focused on getting his money now, not later. This creates another layer of difficulty in the onion of the Texans’ 2020 season.
What do you think? Are these recent reports about contract stagnation signs of Deshaun Watson trying to follow the trend of short, guaranteed deals? Is it something more sinister, like diminishing trust in the Texans organization to win? Or is it something entirely different? Let us know in the comments.
UPDATE: The speculation can end. Deshaun Watson and the Texans have agreed to a four-year extension.