As a diehard Houston Texans fan, it’s hard not to get caught up emotionally in the media-driven frenzy of a potential Deshaun Watson trade. Many fans have pulled off crazy trades in Madden or had far-fetched trade ‘what-if’ conversations with friends, co-workers, and other football minded acquaintances. But the reality of making such a thing happen is far different.
The Texans currently project at $17,914,930 over the 2021 salary cap according to OverTheCap.com. With big roster needs all over the place, general manager Nick Caserio and his staff of cap wizards are working overtime to solve that riddle all on its own. If the Texans trade Deshaun Watson, the cap will absorb another $21.6 million in dead money spread out over the next several years, hitting Houston for $5.6 mil in 2021 (which would put Houston at $23.5 mil OVER the cap, for those following along at home). Maybe, just maybe, we can thank Bill O’Brien for screwing salary cap things up so bad that Houston is saved from themselves.
Sure, the Texans can offshore guys like David Johnson, trade J.J. Watt, and (maybe) restructure a few other contracts, but after trading Watson, there’s still little chance the team could get right with the cap to the point that they have available surplus to add key pieces to the defense. Let’s add in the theoretical return on a Watson trade. It seems the “opening bid” is three 1st round picks, two 2nd rounders, and two top flight players (presumably with hefty contracts now or hefty deals coming soon).
The Rams-Lions trade will have nothing to do with a Watson trade if the Texans do it. They'll want 2 ones, 2 twos and 2 young defensive starters, at the least. Watson, 25, under contract, great QB, team leader, beloved by fans, pillar of the community. Start with the Jets.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) January 31, 2021
That’s not enough to trade Deshaun Watson.
However, for the sake of argument, let’s start with that. Houston will have to find the cap space for those all those draft picks, plus absorbing the salaries of both players received in the trade. Oh, and Houston will need another quarterback. As of this time last year, the average NFL quarterback makes $15,750,000 a year. Add that to the $23.5 mil and we’re at a whopping $39.25 mil over the cap. You can cut all the David Johnsons you want, but you’re not getting that number back in black.
If Watson should decide to go the Le’Veon Bell route and sit out in 2021, the Texans can go full-rebuild, re-sign and start backup AJ McCarron, and recoup a hefty amount of cash from Watson.
Here's Houston's leverage, if used:— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 28, 2021
*Can fine Deshaun Watson $95,877 for missing minicamp.
*Can fine him $50,000 per day for each day of training camp missed, plus one week salary -- $620,000 -- for each preseason game missed.
*If he retires, Texans can collect $21.6 million.
Unless a team like the New York Jets is willing to take Watson, Whitney Mercilus, and Randall Cobb, and then send back all the draft picks, multiple star players, and compensate Houston for the $21.6 mil cap hit, a trade of Deshaun simply won’t happen. Now, this is the NFL and stranger things have taken place, particularly when people who aren't the best and brightest get to call the shots. In the immortal words of Super Bowl Champion quarterback Joe Theismann, “Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.”
Trades like the infamous Ricky Williams heist willingly self-inflicted by Mike Ditka and the New Orleans Saints, the fleecing of the Minnesota Vikings for Herschel Walker, and last year’s nightmare that sent the best receiver in the league in DeAndre Hopkins,to the Arizona Cardinals for a giant salary cap hole are all examples of NFL “genius” in action. Sending Watson out of Houston would top them all. If it should happen, everyone involved in the trade on Houston’s end should be removed from their jobs and committed to The Harris Center for Mental Health, if not Arkham Asylum.
Thankfully, it seems cooler heads are prevailing with Nick Caserio in the building. One can only hope he and new head coach David Culley can keep the nightmare of Cal McNair and Jack Easterby away from all things Deshaun Watson and repair the relationship. Per a recent article from Bleacher Report, Houston isn’t interested in entertaining any trade talks for Watson.
According to two high-level executives from different teams in the quarterback market, Texans brass have told interested teams that they will not be having any conversations about trading Watson.
“We’ve been told ‘no’ from them directly,” one of the executives said.
Interested teams are putting plans together, he continued. “But I don’t think the Texans are listening.”
The second executive said he isn’t sure what to make of Houston not wanting to talk about a Watson trade. There’s new leadership in town, but the organization has been such a mess.
“It’s Houston right now,” he said. “They don’t have any rhyme or reason on what they have done over the last year-and-a-half.”
While the media fans the flames of fear and suffering over the funeral pyre that was once the Houston Texans, rest assured that trading Deshaun Watson is far harder to accomplish than it is to speculate on.