The Jets were in desperate need for a pass rusher following the injury to Carl Lawson and found one in Shaq Lawson, acquiring him from the Texans for a 6th round draft pick. This is the second time this year that Lawson has been traded making his journey and contract to be one of the oddest in recent memory in the NFL. The trade will again bring into the spotlight the way the Texans have run their organization this offseason with seemingly seat of your pants decision making that has cost millions along the way.
Lawson signed a surprising three year, $30 million contract with the Dolphins in March of 2020 that had $21 million in guaranteed salary. The Dolphins, who also seemed to have a short term focus on their free agent signings in 2020, turned around and traded Lawson to the Texans after paying Lawson $13 million of the contract in 2020.
The Texans acquired Lawson and a 6th round pick in March of 2021 by trading away veteran linebacker Benardrick McKinney and a 7th round pick . The move was essentially a salary dump for the Dolphins who were able to get out of $8 million in guaranteed salary for Lawson by taking on McKinney’s non-guaranteed contract which the Dolphins negotiated down to $3 million after the trade. The Texans could have cut McKinney for the same amount on the cap as in a trade and not taken on the Lawson contract.
The Texans continued to be bullish on the Lawson deal by renegotiating the contract for salary cap relief soon after they made the trade. The team prepaid $7.01 million of Lawson’s salary for the year and added two void years to the contract to reduce the cap hit from $8.6 million to $3.25 million. The Texans also would pay Lawson a $100,000 workout bonus this year.
While converting salary to a bonus to facilitate a trade is common it usually is part of the negotiation of the trade. By being so bullish on the player they already took care of that for the Jets and still only received a 6th round pick in return for that $7 million. Had the team focused on using another player for cap relief and kept Lawson’s contract as is they may not have had to pay anything on the trade and certainly no more than $3.5 million.
For the Jets this is a big win. They get a player who was seen as a $10 million a year player just one year ago for a base value of $990,000 in 2021. Lawson can earn up to $2 million in additional incentives this through sacks. $500,000 count on the cap this year since Lawson had 4 sacks last season. Per a league source he triggers an additional $750,000 if he has 8 sacks and another $750,000 if he has 12 sacks. His cap number for the Jets this year will be $1.49 million. In 2022 Lawson has a $9 million salary, none of which is guaranteed. Releasing him would cost nothing.
The Lawson payment breakdown will wind up being $13.5 million from the Dolphins for one season of play in 2020 and $7.11 million from the Texans for taking part in their offseason program and training camp while the Jets just pay him $990,000. Lawson will count for $2.67 million in dead money for Miami in 2021, $1.85 million in dead money for Houston in 2021, and $5.28 million in dead money for Houston in 2022.
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.