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BRB GroupThink: Nick Caserio’s Trade Deadline

The masthead joins together to discuss the Texans’ general manager’s offseason and trade deadline moves.

New England Patriots v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Houston Texans turned Charles Omenihu into a 2023 6th round pick and Mark Ingram into a 2024 7th round pick. Nick Caserio was only able to move one veteran that he signed this offseason. So much for the strategy to sign veterans Houston could flip for picks.

What grade do you give Caserio at the trade deadline? Has your opinion of his offseason changed at all?

These are the questions I asked the masthead. These are their responses:

DIEHARD CHRIS:

My opinion of his offseason hasn’t changed. I’ll take quality over quantity, and while I don’t think he had a horrible offseason, I also don’t think it was “good”. It seems many Texans fans and some in the Houston media want to throw Nick Caserio a parade because he did what was the obvious thing to do. He sat on Deshaun Watson until a later date when draft order will be known, and when there (hopefully/potentially) could be more teams added to the mix since Deshaun thinks so highly of Miami (another poorly-run franchise).

I’ll give him a... C? Didn’t get enough for Omenihu, in my opinion. The Ingram trade was just plain silly and the explanation for it was laughable. I would love to have seen some others moved, but considering some of the names thrown around as potential outgoing trades? I mean, truly—what is the trade value of Jordan Akins, a 30 year old tight end who can’t block and is good for at least one dumb penalty every week? A guy who could not beat out Darren Fells or Pharoah Brown. And Lonnie Johnson Jr.? Tradeable? LOL, no. You can say he has all this potential and has shown flashes as much as you want, but Lonnie has been brutally bad. Zach Cunningham’s contract likely prevented him from being dealt, and even if Laremy Tunsil was on the block, his contract, I believe, would also prevent that.

MATT ROBINSON:

If one had to put a hard letter grade on the deadline itself, I would give Caserio a solid C. The NFL trade deadline by nature is one that typically features far more rumors than actual trades. Honestly, the fact that Caserio was even able to convince another general manager that somebody from this single win roster was worth taking a gamble on is semi-noteworthy.

While Jeremy Fowler reported a laundry list of *available* candidates, including names like Lonnie Johnson, Jordan Akins, Phillip Lindsay, Zach Cunningham, and of course Deshaun Watson, it’s not exactly a list filled with intrigue or bargains, no matter how hard to squint your eyes based on what we’ve seen this season.

The biggest takeaway for me was the mental image of Nick talking down Cal McNair and/or Jack Easterby off the ledge of trying to pull the plug too soon on a Watson trade simply for the sake of not worrying about it anymore. Several sane, logical people would agree with that being the right move, but the fact that it was at least a possibility is frightening in how believable it seems.

In regards to Caserio’s offseason, my opinion has evolved only to reach the same conclusion—confused. At first I bought in as an optimist, just like most did with the former New England personnel exec. He was walking into a turbulent roster with disgruntled semi-young talent who had bad tastes in their mouths from an abysmal previous season in which they saw the three star pillars of the team (DeAndre Hopkins, J.J. Watt, and Watson) move on in varying ways. Clearly, morale was down, from the disgruntled staff all the way to the players and fan base, so the notion of another down season to rebuild was gonna be a tough sell.

However, it really seems like Caserio did not need to make half of the moves he ended up making. Need some experienced veterans who will be motivated to earn their next deal to displace the complacent roster who essentially cruise controlled through last season? Sure, I totally can buy that. Restructuring deals on guys like Zach Cunningham and David Johnson (who Caserio very much had tape on and definitely saw the same poor play we did) just to burn cap space on a record breaking number of tryout invites? That is a head-scratcher. Trading for Marcus Cannon, who at the time was the fifth (fifth!!!) tackle on the roster, insisting he would have a chance to displace two young recent draft choices (Tytus Howard and Charlie Heck) all while shedding an early Day Three draft pick? Baffling, especially considering tackle was considered one of this team’s few bright spots entering the 2021 season, with a myriad of other holes needing to be filled.

After this offseason spending spree and pushing cap into future years on bad contracts (outside of maybe the Brandin Cooks deal), to shift as of a few days ago (as reported by Charles Robinson) wanting to “clear salary, not add” is the biggest shooting oneself in the foot red flag I have seen on the Caserio general manager tracker. That’s the reason he gets an average grade for me. Every sensible move he makes feels like it’s just a tad too late. Yes, he is a lot better than an egotistical Bill O’Brien holding the cards, but Caserio could and should have reached a lot of these conclusions a lot sooner.

L4BLITZER:

It can be hard to give a full grade value on trades until you see how they play out. That being said, that Nick Caserio could only get a few low round draft picks for two to three years into the future is not the greatest look. I thought that perhaps more players would be moved; perhaps Caserio and the front office were burning up cell phone/FaceTime minutes on making deals. Perhaps that is a testament to how poor the talent is on the roster and the onerousness of the contracts of some of the players on this team. Yet, at the end of the day, only two players got traded. It’s good to have draft picks at any point, I suppose, but the emphasis should have been on the 2022 NFL Draft. A 2024 pick is something, but it will not be anywhere near as helpful.

The whiplash of the team going from loading up on veterans to now a delayed start of a youth movement (sorta) is a bit disconcerting, but perhaps not surprising, given how this season has played out. It does really make you further question the strategic vision of the team. What exactly was the endgame with bringing in all of these veterans? Granted, they were on relatively low-cost deals that won’t significantly affect the cap. However, given how poorly the Texans have played, hindsight suggests that the team probably should have gone with a massive purge in the offseason and/or make moves necessary to open up maximum cap space for a rebuild to start in 2022.

I guess a “soft” grade for Caserio is still in the C-D range. He is definitely superior to what came before him, but that ain’t saying much. He is also still under the McEasterby regime, so that is another handicap that needs consideration. This team is looking at a rough couple of years, and the rebuild will be that much more painful, especially with the strategy of the team and how that has not paid off like Caserio and the front office hoped.

MIKE BULLOCK:

I just keep hearing BFD’s “shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic” comment and really cannot disagree with it. Caserio traded a draft pick for a backup quarterback he then cut. He hired one of the worst head coaches in modern history and then signed a team of players that looks like the roster for the Washington Sentinels of The Replacements fame.

Once we hit the trade deadline, getting anything at all for Mark Ingram was a plus, although a seventh round pick years down the road is nearly worthless. But it’s something. Getting a sixth rounder for Charles Omenihu seems low for a young guy who still hasn’t hit his ceiling in a league that overvalues pass rushers. Again, better than nothing. Hard to fathom there weren’t offers of substance for Brandin Cooks, Laremy Tunsil, Zach Cunningham, and Justin Reid, unless the rest of the league still perceives Houston as the loser in all trade scenarios, which is a major condemnation of Caserio’s skills.

I’ve yet to see Caserio do anything that makes me truly believe he’s going to be a great general manager for this franchise. Kudos for not getting pantsed on a Deshaun Watson deal, but that doesn’t seem to offset all the smaller blunders that are piling up.

Sure he inherited a mess, but every great leader does. Do you think Bill Belichick took over a New England Patriots team that was poised to dominate the league for decades whether he was there or not? Al Davis, who greatly influenced Belichick, took over a Raiders franchise that was as bad as the current Detroit Lions and promptly turned them into the winningest franchise in professional sports. Caserio isn’t remotely close to either of those men.

In Caserio’s defense, trying to turn Rohan back from an orc-infested wasteland into a contender while Cal McNair still sits on the gaming-chair-turned-throne with Jack Wormtongue whispering sweet nothings in his ear is a nigh impossible task.

Still, Caserio willingly took the job and has not done that great with it so far. At this point, the smartest move Caserio could make would be turning in his resignation and heading back to New England, where he might get a shot at being heir apparent to Belichick. Robert Kraft seems totally morally bankrupt, but at least he knows how to let smart football minds run his franchise instead of an out-of-work student pastor.

BIGFATDRUNK:

I keep seeing on the Twitter machine that Nick Caserio has done a fantastic job. Doing what, exactly?

Is the bar so low post Bill O’Brien that merely being slightly competent deserves heaps of praise? Apparently so!

That said, I am old enough to remember how signing all those old dudes was going to net us a ton of picks at the deadline, yet only Mark Ingram was turned into a 3023 seventh round pick. I don’t care if I got the year wrong; it doesn’t matter one lick.

Caserio inherited a terrible situation, but unless you are infatuated with making a billionaire slightly richer, he has not made this team any better for 2021 or into the future aside from the 2021 NFL Draft. The Texans are still old and talentless, which is no way to go through the NFL, son.

I’ll give him a D for now. He’s showing up in class, but he spends the entire time eating glue with Cal.