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Salary Cap Implications On The Texans’ Future

The Houston Texans just got more cap space for next season and beyond - but will they use it wisely?

2014 NFL Draft Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFLPA announced the salary cap ceiling for the 2022 season. It looks like it will free up a sizable chunk of space for the Houston Texans’ multi-year rebuild.

For those doing the math at home, that’s a potential $25.7 million increase. Houston general manager Nick Caserio could sign a lot of linebackers with that much scratch. The $25.7 million is not set in stone, however. The cap ceiling means it won’t go higher than this. It can come in lower, though.

Per Over the Cap, the Texans are currently projected to fall in at a healthy cap number of $204 million for 2022. That includes a $40,400,000.00 hit for Deshaun Watson. If Houston can actually pull off a quality trade for Watson, then draft say, Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler, there would be gigantic cap savings, somewhere in the neighborhood of $39 million.

Adding that to the potential $25.7M, and the Texans might have $64.7 million in cap space to play with next year. Factor in a tanked 2021, and the Texans will sit in a near perfect seat for the start of a rebuild in 2022. Massive cap space, a high draft pick (if not the #1 overall), and freedom from most of the Kyle McEasterby contracts handed out in the Bill O’Brien era.

Now, if they had someone other than Kyle McEasterby ready to take advantage of all this, the future would indeed be very, very bright in H-Town. We’ll get to that in a minute. Considering the sheer number of one and two-year deals Caserio has handed out this offseason, assume a number of those will be cost-cut casualties so Houston can get down to the 55-man roster by the end of preseason. That means the available salary cap room should grow.

Even if they all stick it out, the 2023 cap hit for the Texans currently sits at $118,723,271, and that includes a mammoth $42,400,000.00 paycheck for Watson.

Subtract the Watson hit, and the team drives up to the bank with just $76,323,271.00 In cap commitments. Based on the trend of cap increases, the 2023 cap will increase by a bare minimum $5 million. A little more math puts the 2023 cap at roughly $213 million. Subtract Houston’s commitments and they’d have a staggering $136 million-ish in cap space in 2023.

NFL Salary Cap Increase courtesy of Statista
www.statista.com

Knowing the Patriot Way under Caserio was never to pay big money for big-time free agents not named Randy Moss, there’s a good chance this team will lack the sort of high profile player they’ve lost over the last few years. Most likely, gone are the days of the J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, Deshaun Watson superstars on the Texans roster. That leaves a very vanilla Texans team ready for someone to come along and stamp their personality on it.

However, with this much cash, the Texans don’t need to go hunting in the bargain barrel either. In essence, this is resetting the clock back to the 2019 offseason, when Bill O’Brien and Brian Gaine frittered away a treasure trove of cap space and draft capital, resulting in Gaine’s unceremonious dismissal. In fact, if the Texans do indeed tank the 2021 season, they’ll have more draft capital and more cap space than they did in 2019 as they enter 2022.

Unfortunately, it makes sense for the fanbase to have a once bitten, twice shy outlook on all this. Nick Caserio is clearly either handcuffed by Kyle McEasterby in his decision-making, or he may be another in a long line of post-Bill Belichick NFL failures. Could Caserio work wonders with all these assets if McEasterby weren’t in the mix? Quite possibly. Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know.

However, if—and this is a huge “if”—IF someone wanted to say, sell their NFL franchise, clearing the roster of bad contracts, freeing up a ton of cap space, and ensuring the new owners had a raft of draft capital to start with would make the utmost sense. The 2022 Houston Texans franchise could look very, very appealing to a potential buyer. Clearly Janice McNair has no desire to run the team the way her late husband did. Even more clearly Kyle McEasterby is simply incapable of doing what team founder Bob McNair did. Logically speaking, it would make complete sense to use all this to put the team in a perfect posture for a sale. The P&L sheet certainly has the potential to look pretty sweet in the immediate, post-Watson future.

All it would take is one sports-minded billionaire with the right amount of savvy to fleece Kyle McEasterby one last time and all this could belong to the newest NFL owner. There are probably a dozen such possible interested buyers just in the Houston metroplex. According to Patch.com, Texas was home to 56 billionaires in 2019 (the list actually details 13 Houston area billionaires). Of those in Texas, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has expressed interest in owning an NFL team in the past. Janice McNair is also on that list, but...yeah.

With rumors swirling that the Washington Whatevers might be up for sale after current owner Dan Snyder bought out his minority partners recently, could the Texans be far behind? One can only hope.