The other week I touched on the reasons why the Texans would likely not consider releasing Matt Schaub in 2014, but yesterday Schaub had a complete meltdown in a big game and his head coach gave him a mercy killing and pulled him from the game in favor of TJ Yates. The fall of Schaub has been stunning. He played well most of last season but it would seem an entire offseason of people discussing how Schaub would never win a big game has mentally broken him as he looks like a completely different QB in 2013.
It is very difficult for a team to pull a starter for the backup and then go back to the starter. The fanbase has already decided the problem with the team is Schaub and I would imagine that there are some players who privately believe the same. Going back to Schaub just opens the floodgates of negativity unless the team is sure he can handle the pressure and thrive in the situation.
From Houston’s point of view benching Schaub might be in the best long term interest of the team. Most squads in the NFL have short windows of opportunity unless they have the elite QB leading the team, of which there are very few in the NFL. Houston has been a very good team the last two years with the 2011 team arguably being at the top of the AFC before an injury to Schaub put them behind some other teams.
If the window is closing they need this season to determine if TJ Yates or Case Keenum can be an answer for the longer term or if it is time to turn the page and rebuild. It does the team no good to trot Schaub out there and finish 7-9 or 8-8 and then go into next season with an open competition between the three. You need to know at the end of 2013 if your QB is on the roster for next season or not.
The cost of releasing Schaub in 2014 results in a $10.5 million dead money salary cap charge, which represents $4 million in savings for the Texans. Houston might consider moving Schaub in the next few weeks to try to offset some of that cost. Schaub makes a fully guaranteed $7.25 million in 2013 of which just $5.1 million remains to be paid. If the Texans hold off two weeks to find a suitor that team would only be responsible for $4.3 million in salary which a fringe playoff team might be willing to take on with hopes of a change of scenery fixing the player. All of this money would carry over to help offset the cost of cutting Schaub in 2014. If there was a market for Josh Freeman outside of Minnesota the Texans should be calling those same teams to see if there is interest in Schaub, far more accomplished and likely coming at the same cost.
Another option open to Houston would be what I call the “waiver wire dump” in which you release a veteran player after the trade deadline in the hope that he is claimed to relieve yourself of the salary obligations. While veterans normally become free agents upon release the rules change following the trade deadline and they are then exposed to waivers. If Schaub is claimed the remaining salary and guarantee transfers to the acquiring team. That scenario allows the Texans to see what happens over the next few weeks if they decide to go with Schaub at the helm and deal with the potential backlash of the move.
At that point Schaub’s salary for 2013 would be less than $4 million which I would imagine a team would pick up considering no compensation would need to be given to Houston. The team picking up Schaub in such a scenario would have no financial obligation to Schaub if released beyond the 2013 season. His cap charge for that team would be $11 million in 2014 with the possibility to restructure to make the cap charge lower. Teams may consider that reasonable for a player with talent that could restart his career with a change of scenery.
It will be an interesting few weeks for Houston who have a difficult decision ahead of them and finding ways to make the best out of a bad situation.
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.