Houston Texans General Manager Nick Caserio has finessed a noteworthy offseason thus far. His only blemish? Failing to sign his new rookie quarterback to a contract.
C.J. Stroud is one of only 25 rookies to enter into training camp without a signed contract according to NFL Trade Rumors. He’s also the only Texan draft choice yet to put pen to paper.
The second overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft is set to make just under $40 million. While the contract has yet to be signed, rookie contracts are fairly confined due to positional and draft pick data every year clearly defining the market. Even so, rookies exhibit their due diligence to ensure they’re set up properly for the next four to five years.
Notably, none of the first round QBs in this class have signed their rookie deals. Each of Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson, and Stroud are extremely aware that their contract terms and conditions will directly affect one another. Whichever player’s camp flinches first and signs their deal will set the proceedings for the other negotiations.
A premeditated standoff does not bode well for the Texans as Stroud has chosen David Mulugheta from Athletes First to be his agent. Mulugheta is infamous for his influence in the proceedings of contract talks; his players regularly hold out from camp or take to the press to spin the narrative against the organization. His clients range from Micah Parsons to Michael Thomas... and most notably Deshaun Watson.
Mulugheta’s strained relationship with GM Nick Caserio was a topic of conversation leading up to the drafting of Stroud. Whether it was a smoke screen or not, the lasting impact of Deshaun Watson’s prolonged and arduous contract negotiations and hold out possibly weighed heavily inside the Texans front office.
Texans’ GM Nick Caserio said whether or not Houston drafts C.J. Stroud has nothing to do with the fact that the Ohio State QB is represented by David Mulugheta, the agent who represents Deshaun Watson. “Not a factor at all,” he said.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 27, 2023
Thankfully, Caserio followed through and prioritized the player over the agent. Stroud was absolutely the right choice given the circumstances of the second overall pick. Now Caserio needs to buckle down before training camp and finalize this deal before it becomes a bigger story.
If Stroud’s contract negotiations continue through the start of training camp, he will immediately fall behind in his development within the offense. Considering the entire offense will be starting at ground zero, not having him in camp would be a disaster to say the least.
This contract is crucial. Not only getting it done, but how it’s formulated. Each of the last six Super Bowls have had a QB on their rookie contract. Houston’s front office must adeptly design a deal that’ll avoid contract renegotiations in three years while buffering enough flexibility to bolster a fledgling roster.