Back in the August of 2019, a week before the NFL season kicked off, the Texans realized they didn’t have a left tackle, so they turned two first round picks and a second round pick into Laremy Tunsil. After blowing a 24 point lead in the 2019 NFL Divisional Round, the Texans extended Tunsil via a three-year, $66 million contract worth $40 million guaranteed at signing and with a total guarantee of $50 million.
Entering 2021, Tunsil was the Texan with the highest cap hit, around $19 million. After signing a ton of free agents on cost-effective contracts, the Texans found themselves up against the top of the salary cap again. In order to create space to sign the next Phillip Lindsay, Desmond King, or whatever else Nick Caserio has up his sleeves, the Texans have now restructured Laremy Tunsil’s contract. They turned his 2021 contract into a signing bonus to create space for this season, with bills that’ll now come due in 2022 and 2023.
As a result, Tunsil has a cap hit of $9.2 million this year, which then explodes to $26.1 million in 2022 and $26.8 million in 2023. This enormous salary should be offset some by the expected rise in the salary cap that will occur over the next two seasons. Still, eventually, the Texans are going to have to pay Tunsil. Over the Cap has all the details:
There was some speculation that Tunsil should be traded (and he should have been in a Deshaun Watsonless world). Draft capital is the most important resource in a rebuild. Tunsil could have been exchanged for a possible first, and definitely a second, round pick. Just because Bill O’Brien gave up two firsts for Tunsil doesn’t mean another team would give up a single one. Even with Tunsil, the Texans’ offensive line has struggled in pass protection. Last year they blocked for the worst run offense in football by DVOA. An offensive tackle doesn’t make an offensive line. He just ensures someone like Matthew Judon or Yannick Ngakoue doesn’t destroy your day.
The restructure means Tunsil will remain a Texan for 2021. What this means for Deshaun Watson is unknown. The current ongoing allegations complicate an already complicated situation. Caserio’s plan may be to increase cap space to add additional short term free agents in a rebuilding year; then Tunsil can be paired with a young quarterback on a rookie contract after they trade Watson. Or the plan may simply to be to create cap space to build around Watson this year. Whatever it means, no one knows for yet. We’ll all just have to wait and see.