It is now being reported in multiple places that Texans franchise QB Deshaun Watson is unhappy with the Texans organization which has led to trade speculation. Trading Watson would seem like insanity but the questions are coming so I may has well tackle the main ones here.
What is the cost to trade Watson?
The salary cap cost for the Texans if they were to trade Watson would be $21.6 million. This would cause the Texans to lose $5.66 million in cap space in 2021.
What is the salary cap cost to acquire Watson?
Because the Texans paid Watson a $27 million signing bonus last year the cost is very affordable. A team would be on the hook for $10.54 million in 2021, $35 million in 2022, $37 million in 2023, and $32 million in 2024 and in 2025. The average cost would be just $29.3 million per year which is way under the market for quarterbacks so it would be a bargain bin contract compared to Watson’s talent level.
Why would the Texans trade Watson?
I have no idea. Watson is the lone reason to want to be the GM and coach of the Texans. If you get rid of Watson you are left with nothing. You have an older declining defense, you traded your best wide receiver away and your second best wide receiver is a free agent, and you lose salary cap space to boot. On top of that the Texans as part of their extension paid Watson $27 million than he was already scheduled to earn on his rookie contract. Usually you don’t sink $27 million into a player to go 4-12 and turn around and trade him when he was never the problem in the first place.
How much would the Texans want for Watson?
It would have to be a lot. I’ve seen some people say the first pick in the draft but that would not be even close to enough. The first thing to consider is that Watson is a sure bet. He is a top 5 QB in the NFL. I don’t care what the supposed upside is of Trevor Lawrence- it’s still a gamble and it would be an expensive gamble as well.
While we can look at the rookie contract as cheap (Lawrence’s contract will average about $9 million a year) once we look at that $27M prepaid on Watson its basically sinking about $16 million per year over the next 4 years into Lawrence in a straight up trade. That’s still affordable but who would you rather be? The team holding Watson for under $30 million a year for the next five years or the team with Lawrence for $16 million over the next 4?
The franchise because of their prior trade is basically in shambles. They effectively have no draft picks this year to build around so you would be throwing the rookie into a not great situation by any means. Your cap situation gets worse in 2021 via trade so you cant go out and just buy some guys this year to put around him and without those 2021 picks you are pushing draft pick help (for the most part) into 2023 when their 2022 draft class has a year of experience under their belt. . Realistically that gives the Texans a two year window with Lawrence in 22 and 23 before he looks for a massive extension, assuming he is as good as Watson.
I just cant see any motivation for the Texans to make this trade so they would need to be blown away for the trade.
As a frame of reference Jared Goff cost the Rams two first round picks, two second round picks, and two third round picks back in 2016. RGIII cost the Football Team three first round picks and a second round pick in 2012. Watson for a first round pick would be robbery considering hes a stud and teams were willing to give this up for a chance to draft someone as good Watson.
The cost for veteran players has also gone way up recently. Jalen Ramsey cost the Rams two first round picks. Jamal Adams cost two first round picks for Seattle. Laremy Tunsil cost the Texans two firsts and a second. These were non only for non-QB’s but were for players who had no long term contract. The Texans already paid Watson $27M of his contract.
The only way you can make this trade if you are Houston is if you get enough to recover from their prior trades and rebuild their entire team. At a minimum I think you would be looking at three first round picks and two second round picks to acquire Watson. Possibly more than that.
What teams would they trade with?
There are only two teams that I think make sense and that’s the Jaguars and the Jets. They have the top two picks in the draft which gives you a viable path to a QB prospect. Both have additional first round picks this year. Both have tons of cap space to take on a bad contract like Whitney Mercilus who has $10.5 million in guaranteed salary. Both have bad rosters and even with a great QB might still not make the playoffs.
I know some might include Miami but I dont see that. Dropping to 3 is a much bigger perceived drop and Miami is likely a lock for the playoffs with Watson so your 2022 upside isnt as high. Plus what are you really doing? Getting back what you gave up for Tunsil? That would look terrible.
The Jaguars being in division might make it less likely than the Jets but Lawrence is the guy you really want to get in this trade. The Jets would likely have to have a better package to make up for that.
Will Watson be traded?
Well if you made it this far I think you would already know my answer on this being no. It just doesn’t make sense for Houston to trade away a top QB like Watson who is in his prime. It is Houston so you can never say never, but it just would make such little sense. My guess is this is a situation with some hurt feelings on Watson’s side for feeling as if the Texans didn’t look to him for advice and its something that will go away after everyone talks things out and gets on the same page for 2021.
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Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.