HOUSTON — With four teams still in the playoffs, the NFL’s biggest problem is one kind of quarterback Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans.
We’ve explained why Watson is unhappy with the franchise that recruited him and what his options are, but let’s take a closer look at what happens when the Texans trade their star quarterback.
What makes it difficult for Texans?
Watson’s contract contains a non-reciprocity clause. This means that Watson has an important voice in the chapter, as she can choose not to waive the clause.
Is the non-intervention clause rare?
This provision is not common and is generally only provided for quarterbacks, with a few exceptions. Among quarterbacks, Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, Jimmy Garoppolo (but not until 2021), Russell Wilson and Tom Brady have no commercial inclusions in their current contracts. Cardinals receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald, who signed their own contracts in Arizona, also have no commercial clauses.
Does this mean that Watson has all the levers?
If Watson seems to have influence because he can choose which team he goes to, it’s not like the Texans should trade him. In September, Watson signed a contract extension for the entire 2025 season.
Managing Director Nick Caserio was able to find several commercial offers he was happy with and presented these options to Watson. But if Watson doesn’t want to go to these places, he should stay and play or sit.
The Texans could also work with Watson and his agent to create a list of teams he would be willing to trade with; Caserio could then play this role to avoid future problems.
Of course, if Watson misses practice (if that happens) or training camp, the Texans might decide they’d rather get something in return for the quarterback.
Under the collective agreement, the team could fine Watson up to $50,000 for each day missed during training camp. Unlike the previous agreement, the sanctions cannot be lifted.
And because of the wording of Watson’s contract – standard in trading with Texans – it will be important to know whether Watson will get his signing bonus back if he misses the mandatory training.
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What has changed in the past week?
Since I wrote last week, there have been more reports about Watson’s accident, but the quarterback still hasn’t said anything.
More importantly, he did not, at least publicly, demand an agreement.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Sunday that many people in and around the organization believe Watson was playing his last fight with the team. The source also told ESPN that the Texans are having internal discussions about trade partners and what their quarterback position would look like without Watson.
Later in the week, general manager and team president Cal McNair told the Houston Chronicle that he had contacted Watson by text message and that the Texans wanted Watson to be involved in the cycle and be part of the process as Houston searches for its next head coach.
Some fans were disappointed by McNair, and one man staged a demonstration, urging fans to walk the half-mile from Lefty’s, a cheesesteak franchise in which Watson owns a minority stake, to NRG Stadium. On Monday, Watson asked his fans not to protest on his behalf.
Although I humbly ask the organizer of the march to cancel it in the interest of public safety, Watson tweeted. COVID-19] spreads at a rapid rate, and I don’t want the fans to be exposed to unnecessary contamination.
A small group participated.
On Tuesday, Watson tweeted a photo of himself in his car with the caption: I tried to be patient and told my mother to pray for her.
Would hiring Head Coach Watson address this problem?
McNair didn’t consult Watson before the Texans hired their director, so some of Watson’s frustrations come from there. As such, it is hoped that Watson’s involvement in the head coach hiring process will help remedy this situation.
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For example, will Kansas City hire offensive coordinator Eric Benimi, who Watson has publicly admired, to repair this relationship? Recall that the Texans only asked to interview Bieniemy after reports that Watson was unhappy with the process the Texans had undertaken to hire Caserio. It should be noted that Caserio is currently looking for mentors and the request for an interview with Bieniemy was made after he took office.
According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, Texans are watching Bieniemy closely and Caserio is doing extensive research on the prospect. According to Fowler, Houston’s request is not in vain because Benimi, who was interviewed Monday, is highly regarded.
In addition to Bieniemy, the team has also announced interviews – since hiring Caserio – with Matt Eberflus, defensive coordinator of Indianapolis Colts, Leslie Frazier, defensive coordinator of Buffalo Bills, and David Calley, assistant head coach of the Baltimore Ravens.
While hiring a favorite coach for Watson is certainly a step in the right direction, it seems unlikely to repair the quarterback’s relationship with the Texans.
If the Texans tried to trade Watson, how would they do it?
If Watson needs a deal – private or public – Caserio could start asking for bids from other teams.
Chris Mortensen of ESPN said this week on SportsCenter that the organizations he spoke to could be interested in Watson, and that they expect double-digit numbers of teams ready to make a deal to get the quarterback.
What would a swap for the Texas wage ceiling mean?
A deal with Watson would cost the Texans $5.6 million. Because of the way his contract is structured (he’s technically in the final year of his entry-level contract before his four-year extension begins), his contract cap for 2021 is only $15.94 million. By comparison, this figure will rise to $40.4 million by 2022.
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The reason it’s going to be so expensive for the Texans is that they paid a significant portion of the deal with Watson’s $27 million bonus, which will be pro-rated. Teams do this to take advantage of the ceiling in future years.
If the Texans trade Watson, the annual bonus against the Texans is accelerated as dead money. The dead money on the policy is $21.6 million, of which $5.4 million is a signing bonus from 2021 to 2024.
This means that the team working for Watson is not responsible for the proportionate share of his signing bonus, but only for his base salary. Thus, the marginal costs from 2021 to 2025 would be $10.54 million, $35 million, $37 million, $32 million, and $32 million, respectively. The final two years of the contract are not guaranteed, but if Watson plays then too, a $32 million salary would be a good deal for the elite quarterback.
Since the team swapping with Watson would pay $10.54 million in salary, the quarterback swap would only add $5.6 million in dead money. Of course, the Texans will have to pay another quarterback on top of that dead money payment, and it won’t be cheap.
Dead money is probably only worth it for the Texans if they can find a team willing to trade them a player (or players via selections and players on rookie contracts) that they think matches the performance they will get from Watson.
Otherwise, it’s a lot of money for someone who doesn’t want to play for the Texans in 2021 if you’re trying to be competitive.
Watson could also offer to return the team’s guaranteed money, which would make the trade easier for the Texans.
Do Texans have a lot of billing rooms?
No. Houston surpasses the 2021 salary cap by more than $18 million. For Texans, the money spent so far is obviously more important at this point.
To help him, Caserio must work with certain contracts, such as eliminating David Johnson (which would save $6.9 million), linebacker Benardrick McKinney ($7 million), replacement Duke Johnson ($5.1 million) and guard Zach Fulton ($3 million) or restructuring the contracts of Receiver General Brandin Cooks or the Nick Martin Center.
Why can’t Watson just demand a similar deal to NBA players?
Fans in Texas need look no further for an example of a superstar demanding a trade. Last week, Houston Rockets star James Harden finally got his wish and was traded to the Brooklyn Nets.
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The leverage Watson has to make a move like Harden’s is that he’s a better quarterback when it counts. But otherwise, the way the two leagues manage the cap is very different. NBA contracts are generally shorter than most NFL contracts (including Watson’s), allowing for greater mobility. Since Watson signed a four-year contract, he has lost a lot of leverage.
The biggest difference, of course, is that NBA contracts are fully guaranteed and NFL contracts, for the most part, are not. In the NBA, teams are often willing to sign unnecessary short-term contracts to create a playing field for new players in the coming years. In the NFL, players of this type are usually cut.
In fact, the closest the NFL came to an NBA-style deal was when the Texans took a second-round pick to the Cleveland Browns in 2017 to assume the remaining term of Brock Osweiler’s contract.
There are also fewer players in the NBA, meaning trading a star player can have an immediate impact. With the size of the NFL team, it’s rare that a player (other than a star quarterback) is dominant enough to demand a trade and have the ability to determine where he goes.
Of course, a player of Watson’s caliber can make an exception to the rule.
Is there a similar situation to which we can compare this situation?
As far as I know. Jalen Ramsey was recently forced into a deal – he has the same agent as Watson – but (1) Ramsey is not a quarterback and (2) the Jacksonville Jaguars have not yet signed him to a contract extension.
It’s a unique situation in Houston, and there will be a lot of people interested in the NFL to see how it goes.