The Houston Texans entered the offseason with $37 million dollars in cap space. However, as most cap experts would tell you, they will not be able to spend all of that. Some of that has to be earmarked for the rookie class coming in. So, the reality is that independent of any moves, the Texans have between $25 and $30 million to spend.
As we noted on Tuesday, there could be close to $25 million added if they follow through with cuts to all of their eligible defenders. Obviously, that would have a dramatic impact on their spending and their strategy with free agency. Most of what Nick Caserio has done has prepared the Texans for this moment when they can add significant players to their core.
That involved signing veterans to short-term contracts so that their impact on the cap would be miniscule. Sure enough, on the offensive side, virtually all of the players on free agent deals are now unrestricted free agents. So, we won’t have quite the list we had on Tuesday, but the names on the list are significant.
The Easy Cut
There is only one easy cut on the offensive end. In fact, most of you probably forgot about this player. Yet, every little bit helps and when you need to add rotational players all over the field, there is no amount of money that can be seen as insignificant. So, we can likely tack this onto the potential $20 million that could be added on the defensive side of the ball.
Justin Britt— Center
I don’t even know if we should consider this one a cut. The best way to describe Britt’s 2022 season is soft retirement. He is scheduled to make a shade over $4 million if he stays on the roster and the Texans will get four of that back when they cut him or he officially retires. That may not sound like much, but $4 million is $4 million.
The Hard Decisions
Teams can do three different things with players in order to recuperate money under the cap. They can cut a player outright. When they do that there will be a certain amount of dead money attached. Dead money ends up being the signing bonus protracted over the full length of the contract. So, the cash you get back is essentially the amount of their base salary minus the prorated annual amount of the signing bonus.
Players can also be traded, but when they are traded you are essentially doing the same thing in terms of cap savings. Obviously, the difference is that teams can come to any terms they want. So, a receiving team could ask for additional relief if the base salary is seen as overly constrictive.
Finally, you could extend the player. When you do that, monies often get converted into salary bonus which is automatically parceled out over the life of the contract. So, a guy set to earn $25 to $30 million in base salary can see that number plummet by as much as $10 to $15 million dollars for cap purposes without sacrificing any actual dollars to the player.
Brandin Cooks— Wide Receiver
He starts his new deal this year which means his cap hit comes in at over $26 million. The Texans will not extend him, so they have three choices. They can keep him at that amount. They can cut him immediately and incur the entire signing bonus this season so they can be free and clear in 2024 or they can label him as a post June 1 cut and split that amount in half over the next two seasons.
Trading him seems like the biggest possibility at this point. It’s complicated though. Not only do you have to agree on compensation (likely something between a third and fifth round selection) but teams may want some salary relief. The likeliest scenario has the pick coming back become more appealing with the more money leaving from the Texans side. The upshot is that they may be able to apply up to $8 million additional to their cap, but that is a rough guess based on if the Texans must pick up a portion of that contract. It could end up being a net zero.
Laremy Tunsil— Offensive Tackle
This has extension written all over it. I suppose the Texans could conceivably trade Tunsil and get maybe a late first rounder or second round pick back. Still, a Pro Bowl left tackle is probably worth more to you than anyone else at that price. Tunsil will count $35 million against the cap if nothing changes. They could easily give him a deal making him the highest paid tackle and still lower their 2023 cap hit to somewhere between $20 and $25 million.
Tunsil is his own agent and he knows what he is worth on the open market. If you bite the bullet now then you are keeping him for the long haul. Then, you have the eventual Tytus Howard extension to consider following the 2023 season. You could be paying your tackles somewhere between $40 and $50 million annually. Still. a well-timed and executed extension could net you between $10 and $15 million in cap savings.
A.J. Cann— Right Guard
Old narratives die hard. Ask any casual Texans fan or fan of another team and they will tell you the offensive line sucks. It’s just the default position. Don’t draft the quarterback until you fix the line. Except the line doesn’t really need fixing. Most observers will tell you the Texans can do better than Cann. He won’t make anyone forget Bruce Matthews or Mike Munchak.
Still, he’s costing you a little over $6 million and you would get $4 million back if you cut him right now. Are you finding a considerably better guard for that much? I seriously doubt it. So, you accept Cann as a flawed, but absolutely reasonable starter and fix the center position. If you do that then you have an above average line at worst. If Kenyon Green has a strong sophomore season then you could have one of the top ten lines in the league.
The Final Verdict
So, the very worst the Texans will do is gain Britt’s $4 million back. Combine that with the defensive side of the ball and that is close to $25 million additional spending money. A Brandin Cooks trade and Laremy Tunsil could net you an additional $15 million combined depending on the circumstances.
So, let’s assume you gain $19 million combined between those three players. You are looking at close to $40 million of additional spending money. That’s how you afford that veteran quarterback a lot of people crave. Still, you could forgo the expensive veteran and really outfit a very strong team around the rookie you will pick. Either way, it sets up to be a lot more exciting than the past few offseasons.