Best and Worst Contracts 2016: Houston Texans

Kicking off our look around the AFC South with the Texans…

Best: JJ Watt, 6 years, $100 million, $20.9M guaranteed

The Texans have a few good deals on their team, but the way they handled JJ Watt’s negotiation makes it very hard to select any other player. I don’t think there was any question that Watt, when he signed his new contract, was the best defensive player in the NFL. The only question, which seems silly in hindsight, is what kind of value could you give a 34 defensive end which had not been a high priced position at that time.

Watt’s contract was handled perfectly in 2014.  The Texans made sure to pick up his 5th year option to lock in a salary of just under $7 million in 2015 and then went to extend him in short order. Not only did that lock in another low salary but it pushed his contract years with the Texans even further. 2014 was a pivotal year for many teams when it came to contracts because it was the first year in which there was significant cap growth since the 2009 NFL season. That allowed teams to still argue that the cap growth was uncertain and they couldn’t spend too much because of those considerations. It also got a contract in before the pending free agency of Ndamukong Suh which everyone knew for two years was likely going to get ridiculous. It also, for the Texans, meant getting in ahead of a number of 34 defensive ends who were going to sign new deals in 2015.

When it was all said and done Watt essentially agreed to a contract that would pay him similar to the overvalued Mario Williams but without the nonsensical signing and option bonuses. Even after a roster bonus conversion in 2015, Watt has just $20 million in bonus proration to consider, giving the Texans all the leverage late in the contract.. Somehow the Texans convinced him to take a 6 year extension, likely because they exploited his need to be a “$100 million” player, which plants him firmly in the new CBA when its time for an extension and because of certain cap rules limits his ability to grab a great extension before hand if the NFL and NFLPA drag their feet on a new agreement.

Essentially Watt gave up the prime of his career on a contract that was surpassed in short order not just by Suh but by Justin Houston, Fletcher Cox, and Olivier Vernon. Those players don’t hold a candle to Watt. As things stand for the majority of his contract he’ll never have a cap hit much above $15 million. This was highway robbery by the Texans.

Worst: Brock Osweiler, 4 years, $72 million, $37 million guaranteed

The Texans I think have a few reaches on the team and historically they have sometimes been a bit blinded by a name, but I don’t think I can justify going anywhere else but Osweiler even if he has never taken a snap for the team as I write this. Maybe this is simply a byproduct of the way the NFL treats the position but historically these are the type of players you want to be cautious with. The Eagles signed Sam Bradford to what was essentially a one year deal. The Redskins used the tag on Kirk Cousins. The Jets won’t sign Ryan Fitzpatrick. Yet somehow the Texans saw fit to guarantee $37 million, the 10th highest guarantee at signing for quarterbacks, for Osweiler.

The Texans handling of their quarterback situation has been nothing short of awful. They traded away the best quarterback on the team because of the perception and then took on two failures to replace him. When those players not surprisingly failed in Houston they were then forced to go to Osweiler for help.

Osweiler was benched last year for a player who couldn’t throw the ball as well as some college quarterbacks. The Broncos, one of the better front offices in the NFL, wanted nothing to do with him at this price and turned instead to Mark Sanchez to lead the team. $37 million guaranteed to a player who was replaced by a broken down Peyton Manning and Sanchez. Im not sure how that makes any sense whatsoever. Maybe Osweiler will be great and this selection will look terrible but at the least if you are willing to make this financial commitment you should get a fifth contract year. On a per year basis for his guarantee package he got either a superstar or first round pick concession and he is neither. A desperation contract.

  • McGeorge

    Jason,
    I may be misremembering but I seem to remember you were critical of the Texans when they signed this contract. You wrote something like they had leverage and didn’t use it.
    Who was able to forsee the cap would rise this quickly? And who knew that the Dolphins would overpay Suh like they did. Had they not, then the crazy contracts may have been delayed 1 year and Watts contract would look fine.

    Hindsight is 20-20 but I don’t think Watt made a mistake.

    • Glycoproteins
      • David Kubik

        McGoerge had an interesting comment about wilkerson in that thread…

        • Looking that over the three comments about Wikerson by McGeorge, myself and Jim are all more or less spot on. Its amazing all of this was said over two years ago and the Jets still have no solution to the problem. McGeorge hit on what the Jets did except for the letting walk part as the Jets cant seem to come to grips with that. Jim hit on where the market was headed by waiting and I hit on the wasted time aspect. As a fan of the team its frustrating to see the way they handled this. No matter what happens this week, barring a trade for a 1st round pick, the Jets are going to look bad.

          • McGeorge

            As a fan of a team it’s frustrating when a player won’t “take a home team discount”. If a player turns down contracts and refuses to sign early, the team will most likely eventually lose them. The team gets no surplus value, and is constantly having to use draft picks to replace players. Full credit to teams that can lock in players early. The Colts got let of easy by Andrew Luck.

            What disappoints me most about the handling of Wilkerson is the Jets would have been much better off trading him. They aren’t going anywhere this year and will get an end of the 3rd round compensatory pick. I’d rather they have traded Wilkerson right after the season, for a mid 2nd round pick.

    • I dont recall that (and the link glycoproteins added would seem to say the same) but its possible I could have maybe said something on a podcast a little negative. Im sure I did mention at the time maybe Watt becoming a position buster since he was a 34DE and there were few highly compensated 34DEs then. My projections all along for Watt were to take nothing longer than four years which may have driven his APY lower but given him a second shot at mega free agency. I do think that Houston made a small mistake in converting his roster bonus when they really didnt need to, but in the grand scheme of things thats a tiny criticism.

      Watts was really the contract that got the ball moving for the rest of the defensive players IMO. I expect Von Miller to play that same role now. Both should be able to build off an outlier to hit certain metrics because they are so valuable.

  • Bill Huddleston

    If what the sports radio personalities in Denver say is true, the coaches didn’t bench Osweiler in that game, Peyton went in and the coaching staff wasn’t going to call security to remove him. That is one reason that Osweiler wasn’t going to stay in Denver unless there were no other suitors. Denver offered him almost the same amount as Houston and they have salary cap issues already. If you go back and look at the game he was pulled from, he was not playing bad football. You cant blame a quarterback when he hits a receiver in the hands and it goes through and is intercepted. You also cant blame him if he is hit on the blindside by a guy who wasn’t touched and the throw he was in the middle of is errant. Denver wanted him back or they wouldn’t have offered him almost as large a contract as Houston. According to the radio guys in Denver (I realize some are connected and know what is going on and some are not) The Broncos stopped pursuing him when he quit responding to their offers, they knew he was not going to sign with Denver, he was pissed that he was told “this is your team now that Peyton’s arm is shot” and Peyton goes in on his own and nobody stops him. The Broncos won and they hobbled on with Peyton who did not look very good in the super bowl. They also told a story that when Denver got beat in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago, the game was over because they needed too many points with only a couple of minutes left, coach wanted Osweiler to get in a few plays in a Super Bowl (possibly a once in a lifetime chance) and Peyton said no, put on his helmet and went into the game. Once again the team allowed Peyton to have his selfish way.

    • eddiea

      I thought when i heard the SB story it was a lie and i hea4d it from Michael Robinson,a Seahawks player. Now that you’ve basically repeated it there has to be some truth to it. Anyway,that in its sself woukd make anyone think the coaches woukd let anyone do as they pleased. But not answering calls does call into question Osweilers maturity. Maybe he’ll be worth his contract, but it’s still IMHO to much for 6-7 games worth if experience