In March the Texans shocked the NFL when they signed Brock Osweiler to a four year, $72 million contract with $37 million guaranteed. Osweiler had started all of 7 games in his career before being benched for the playoffs by the Broncos in favor of Peyton Manning, whose arm had retired about 20 games before Manning himself officially hung it up. Somehow the Texans, who had been desperately searching for a quarterback, deemed him the answer and made the bold signing that paid Osweiler $21 million this year, including a $12 million signing bonus. 14 games into the season the Texans benched him in favor of Tom Savage and his $600,000 salary. The question now is can the Texans do anything to get out of this contract?
The short answer to that question is no. Here is what Osweiler’s contract with the Texans looks like over the next three years:
Osweiler’s $16 million salary is fully guaranteed for next season, which would leave the Texans with a $25 million cap hit if they cut him. The NFL does not allow the June 1 cut to aid in the acceleration of guaranteed money so even a June 1 cut would result in a cap charge of $19 million in 2017 with $6 million being pushed to 2018. That would be the identical scenario to him remaining on the team in 2017 and then being cut in 2018. Considering the Texans will rank in the bottom 3rd of the NFL in cap space in 2018 taking an added $6 million cap charge may not be the best decision.
About the only realistic way for the Texans to get rid of Osweiler would be to prepay a large portion of his salary as a signing bonus in March and then trade him away. Basically what the Texans would have to do is work out a trade with another team in which the team determines the price point at which it becomes an acceptable contract. My guess would be that a team would be willing to pay him between $3 and $4 million which would be the going rate for a decent backup QB. Could they convince a team with a bad QB situation like the Jets to take on a $5-6 million salary? Its possible but not likely.
To make that work what would happen is that Osweiler would agree to a new contract with the Texans that would pay him around $13 million as a signing bonus while reducing his salary for the year to $3 million. Once the contract is accepted by the NFL the Texans would then turn around and trade him. The Texans would take on a cap charge of $22 million in that scenario but save themelves $3 million over a two year period. It also gets him off the roster. The Texans would likely have to include a draft pick in any such trade and/or potentially bring back a bad contract.
This is a situation that the Texans should have seen coming. Its very difficult to take limited upside players, hand them a big contract, and see things go well. Even more established players like Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, and Andy Dalton have come under heavy criticism in large part because of the big expectations such contracts bring and the fact that none have the skills needed to carry a team the way the contract implies. So this was pretty much a disaster waiting to happen.
It’s one of the problems with the QB position right now around the NFL. It takes a backbone to not go crazy on these contracts and few, if any teams, have shown that backbone. In the current NFL only the Redskins have shown any resolve on the position opting to franchise Kirk Cousins rather than handing him a massive contract off a smaller sampling. Ironically he is the one QB that has worked out and is in line to receive a huge contract this offseason. Other teams like the Jets, Bills, and Vikings simply went off the rails like the Texans when it came to QB decisions.
For Houston it would be surprising if this somehow didnt cost someone a job or at least some power within the organization. The problems began in 2012 when they decided to give Matt Schaub an extension that put the weight of the world on his shoulders and he imploded, which cost the coach his job and moved the team into the Bill O’Brien era.
O’Brien’s track record with the QBs has been terrible. They went with journeyman Ryan Fitpatrick in 2014 for the first 9 games before benching him in favor of Ryan Mallett. Mallett was generally ineffective and was injured which led to the return of Fitzpatrick who also ended up injured which paved the way for Case Keenum. The following year they went with another reset and decided they would trade Fitzpatrick and Keenum and sign Brian Hoyer to compete with Mallett. It was a bizarre year with them seemingly picking a new QB weekly before putting Hoyer in which led to a situation where Mallett basically quit on the team and was released. Injuries saw TJ Yates and Brandon Weeden also get starts before Hoyer had one of the worst playoff games of all time. It was another reset this year which culminated with the contract for Osweiler and eventual replacement by Savage. Somewhere in all of this they could have drafted Derek Carr but decided they could get by without a draft pick.
I dont think its likely that Osweiler is traded next year. He is damaged goods and anyone that trades for him, even at a reduced price, will likely have to deal with a good deal of criticism. I’d imagine that the end result will be an open competition that will involve Osweiler, Savage and either a 1st or 2nd round draft pick or some random veterans like RG3 or Matt Barkley. If its not a first rounder involved thats probably not a very exciting option for the Texans but they are probably boxed in with Brock and his massive salary until 2018.
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.