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2022 NFL Salary Cap: Houston’s Dead Money Problem

Poor decisions will limit Houston’s cap space next season.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Mark Lane over at Texans Wire Texansran an interesting piece the other day on eleven players no longer on the Texans’ roster that will count for a total of $35 million against the upcoming salary cap in 2022. For those keeping score at home, this makes the Texans tops in the league in dead money spending, by far.

Mark Lane:

[Zach] Cunningham will cost the Texans $12,832,500.

[Whitney] Mercilus... will cost the Texans $7,000,000.

[Shaq] Lawson didn’t even play a regular season down for the Texans in 2021, but he will count $5,275,500 in 2022.

[Bradley Roby] will cost the Texans $4,790,078.

[Randall Cobb] will cost Houston $3,500,000 in 2022.

That’s $33,398,078 worth of spent cap space wrapped up in just five players no longer on the team.

Experts predict the 2022 NFL cap will sit at a whopping $208.2 million. For the Texans, it’s more like $174,801,922. That’s quite the financial handicap for a team in desperate need of quality players at every single position on the field. And that isn’t even taking into account any potential dead money fallout from a likely Deshaun Watson trade (although Houston would create cap space by trading Watson).

While some of these moves were clearly Nick Caserio trying to clean up the mess Jack Easterby and Bill O’Brien created, ol’ Nick has to own the Shaq Lawson debacle, as that happened solely on his watch. Throwing away Bradley Roby, albeit for a third round draft pick, falls on Caserio too. Mercilus and Cunningham should never have had the contracts they signed, and cutting bait makes sense - although the latter of the two is still a major SMH moment in recent Texans history.

Over The Cap:

2022 Projected Franchise and Transition Tenders:

With the price of star players at key positions expected to take yet another jump in 2022, it’s only getting more and more expensive to field a competitive NFL team. If Caserio can somehow manage to offload Watson’s contract and not absorb a huge salary hit in 2022, he has the opportunity to start the 2023 league year with a fairly clean slate. That is, if he doesn’t do any more Shaq Lawson deals. This also likely means the Texans are not poised to do any better in 2022 than they’re doing in 2021.

Houston Texans 2021 Salary Cap Space

According to Over The Cap, the Texans currently have $5,575,678 in salary cap space. With the sheer volume of players on one or two year deals, that number should jump significantly once the new league year begins on March 16th, 2022. However, all those short deals also means the roster will look like Swiss cheese and Caserio will have a lot of jobs to fill.

Houston Texans 2022 Salary Cap Space

OTC has Houston currently projected to sit on $39,037,652 in cap space when the new league year begins. However, the ‘effective cap space’, the number the team is projected to land on once they sign 51 players, is only $17,949,264, which puts the Texans in the bottom half of the league in cap space heading into the off-season.

Smart minds understand the best way to rebuild a franchise is by signing a foundation of young, inexpensive players to build on, as recently echoed by former Texans great Johnathan Joseph. That didn’t happen in 2021. Easterby and Caserio not only signed the oldest head coach, they also fielded the oldest roster. With that in mind, it’s really hard to see how this is a process anyone should trust to bring winning football back to Houston. In fact, all of this simply looks like:


...yet another stupid move in a long line of stupid moves by the Texans stupid, stupid leadership team.