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ESPN Article: Texans in No-Win Situation


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Deshaun Watson's no-trade clause puts Houston Texans in no-win situation

Sarah BarshopESPN Staff Writer 

We covered the basics of why Watson is unhappy with the franchise that drafted him and what his options are going forward, but let's go deeper on what would happen if the Texans trade their star quarterback.

What complicates this for the Texans?

Watson has a no-trade clause in his contract. This means Watson has a significant say in his destination, because he could choose not to waive the clause.

How rare is a no-trade clause?

The clause is not common and is usually done for quarterbacks only, although there are a few exceptions. Among quarterbacks, Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, Jimmy Garoppolo (but only in 2021), Russell Wilson and Tom Brady have no-trade inclusions built into their current contracts. Cardinals wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald, who negotiated their own contracts in Arizona, also have no-trade clauses.

Does this mean Watson has all the leverage?

While it might seem like Watson has leverage because he could essentially choose which team he goes to, ultimately the Texans don't have to trade him. Watson signed a contract extension in September that goes through the 2025 season.

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General manager Nick Caserio could find multiple trade offers he's happy with and present Watson with those options. But if Watson doesn't want to go to those destinations, he could have to stay and play or sit out.

The Texans also could work with Watson and his agent to come up with a list of teams he would agree to be traded to; Caserio could then work off that roll to help avoid problems down the road.

Of course, if it gets to the point where Watson is missing workouts (if those even happen in person) or training camp, the Texans might decide it's better to get something in return for the quarterback.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, the team could choose to fine Watson up to $50,000 for each day he misses during training camp. Unlike the previous agreement, the fines cannot be waived.

And because of the language in Watson's contract -- standard in deals done by the Texans -- if Watson misses mandatory workouts, there's a chance that could play into whether Watson has to pay back his signing bonus.

 

What has changed in the past week?

Since I wrote last week, there have been more reports about how unhappy Watson is, but the quarterback still hasn't said anything.

Most importantly, at least publicly, he hasn't demanded a trade.

On Sunday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported multiple people in and around the organization believe Watson has played his final snap with the team. A source also told ESPN the Texans have had internal conversations about trade partners and what their quarterback position would look like without Watson.

Later in the week, team CEO and chairman Cal McNair told the Houston Chronicle he had "connected over texts" with Watson and said the Texans "want [Watson] in the loop and part of the process" as Houston searches for its next head coach.

Some fans are getting frustrated with McNair, and one person organized a protest, encouraging fans to walk the half-mile from Lefty's, the cheesesteak franchise of which Watson is a minority owner, to NRG Stadium. On Monday, Watson asked fans not to protest on his behalf.

"Although I am humbled I ask that whoever is organizing the march cancel for the sake of public safety," Watson stated in a tweet. "[COVID-19] is spreading at a high rate & I don't want any fans to unnecessarily expose themselves to infection."

A small group did take part.

Watson did tweet a photo of himself in a car on Tuesday with the caption, "I been trying to have some patience, I told my momma she should pray on it."

Would hiring the head coach Watson wants fix this?

McNair did not consult Watson before the Texans hired their general manager, which is where some of Watson's frustration comes from, so there is the hope that including Watson in the process of hiring a head coach would fix this.

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For example, would hiring Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, whom Watson has publicly stated his admiration for, repair this relationship? Remember, the Texans did not request to interview Bieniemy until after the reports came out that Watson was unhappy with the process the Texans took to hire Caserio. It should be noted that Caserio is now running the head-coaching search, and the request to interview Bieniemy was made after he took over.

According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the Texans are taking a hard look at Bieniemy, with Caserio "doing thorough homework on the candidate." According to Fowler, Houston's request is not an empty one, as Bieniemy, who interviewed Monday, will be strongly considered.

Along with Bieniemy, the team has announced it also has interviewed -- since Caserio was hired -- Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Baltimore Ravensassistant head coach David Culley.

While hiring a coach Watson favors certainly would be a step in the right direction, it seems unlikely this one move would repair the quarterback's relationship with the Texans.

If the Texans did attempt to trade Watson, how would that work?

If Watson does demand a trade -- either privately or publicly -- Caserio could begin fielding offers from other teams.

On SportsCenter this week, ESPN's Chris Mortensen said the organizations he has talked to that might be interested in Watson said they expect there to be "double-digit teams" willing to make a trade to acquire the quarterback.

What would a trade mean for the Texans' salary cap?

Any trade of Watson will carry a charge of $5.6 million in dead money for the Texans. Because of the way his contract is structured (he is technically in the final year of his rookie deal, before his four-year contract extension kicks in), his cap charge for 2021 is only $15.94 million. In comparison, that number jumps to $40.4 million in 2022.

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The reason it will be so costly for the Texans is because they paid a significant portion of the deal with Watson's $27 million signing bonus, which gets prorated. Teams do this to help them take advantage of the cap in future years.

If the Texans trade Watson, the yearly proration accelerates against the Texans as a dead money charge. The dead money on the contract is $21.6 million, which is the $5.4 million signing bonus prorated from 2021 to 2024.

This means the team that trades for Watson isn't responsible for the prorated portion of his signing bonus, just his base salary. So, his cap charges from 2021 to 2025 would be $10.54 million, $35 million, $37 million, $32 million and $32 million. The final two years of the contract are not guaranteed, but if Watson is playing this well at that point, a $32 million salary will be considered a bargain for an elite quarterback.

Because the $10.54 million in salary would be paid by the team trading for Watson, trading the quarterback would add only $5.6 million in dead money. Of course, in addition to that dead money charge, the Texans also would have to pay another quarterback, and that won't come cheap.

The dead money is likely only worth taking on for the Texans if they find a team willing to trade them a player (or players via draft picks and players on rookie contracts) that equal the productivity they believe they'll get from Watson.

Otherwise, if you're trying to compete, that's a lot of money to have on the books for someone not playing for the Texans in 2021.

Watson also could offer to return the guaranteed money to the team, which would make it easier for the Texans to facilitate a trade.

Do the Texans have a lot of salary-cap room?

No. Houston is more than $18 million over the projected salary cap for 2021. Of course, it's the cash spent so far that matters more to the Texans right now.

To help, Caserio has several contracts he can work with, such as cutting running David Johnson (which would save $6.9 million), linebacker Benardrick McKinney ($7 million), running back Duke Johnson ($5.1 million) and guard Zach Fulton ($3 million) or restructuring contracts for wide receiver Brandin Cooks or center Nick Martin.

Why can't Watson just demand a trade, similar to NBA players?

Texans fans don't have to look far for an example of a superstar demanding a trade. Just last week, Houston Rockets star James Harden finally got his wish and was traded to the Brooklyn Nets.

The leverage Watson does have, to make a move like Harden, is that he is a top-flight quarterback. But otherwise, the way the two leagues operate with regard to the cap are very different. NBA contracts are generally shorter than most NFL contracts (including Watson's), which allows for more movement. Because Watson signed a four-year contract extension, he lost a lot of leverage.

The biggest difference, of course, is that NBA contracts are fully guaranteed and, for the most part, NFL contracts are not. Often in the NBA, teams are willing to take on unwanted contracts in the short term as a means to free up cap space to add assets in future years. In the NFL, those players are usually cut.

In fact, the closest an NFL team has come to an NBA-style trade is when the Texans traded a second-round pick in 2017 so the Cleveland Browns would take on the remainder of Brock Osweiler's contract.

 

There also are fewer players in the NBA, which means trading for a star player can make an immediate impact. With the roster sizes in the NFL, it's rare that one player (outside of a star quarterback) is so dominant he demands a trade and gets to determine where he goes.

Of course, a player of Watson's caliber could be the exception to the rule.

Is there a similar situation we can compare this to?

Not that I can think of. Jalen Ramsey recently forced a trade -- he has the same agent as Watson -- but (1) Ramsey is not a quarterback, and (2) the Jacksonville Jaguars had not yet signed him to a contract extension.

This is a unique situation in Houston, and there will be a lot of people interested around the NFL as it plays out.

  • HOUSTON -- There are four teams left in the playoffs, and somehow the biggest topic in the NFL is quarterback Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans.

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Just a thought... Caserio comes from New England. Does anyone think that if Bill Belichick were in a situation like this where a player was making demands, that the player wouldn't be out the door as fast as possible?

But also if you think Caserio still carries a Pats culture mindset, there is a 0% chance any trade of a star QB is going to occur with the New York Jets, of all teams in the league. 

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19 minutes ago, JetPotato said:

Just a thought... Caserio comes from New England. Does anyone think that if Bill Belichick were in a situation like this where a player was making demands, that the player wouldn't be out the door as fast as possible?

But also if you think Caserio still carries a Pats culture mindset, there is a 0% chance any trade of a star QB is going to occur with the New York Jets, of all teams in the league. 

Brady:

• Demanded his own personal trainer train, examine, and rehab him in lieu of the Patriots team doctors.

• That branched out to other players (Gronk and Edleman most notably) doing the same.

• Demanded Jimmy Garropolo be traded.

• Demanded the Patriots get Antonio Brown during a scandal.

Yes Brady earned that right by having a Thanos filled glove of rings and then some. Watson clearly isn’t on that level.

But exceptions are often times made for the star player. Parcells used to let LT rape children and do coke off of his murder victims. But he let him start evert Sunday!

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How much (or little) does Nick Caserio hate the Jets since he was previously with New England for about a decade?

It shouldn't matter at all, he should be looking for the best compensation he can get whether it's from the Jets, Miami or someone else.  But... it could play a small part.  In fact, ironically, it might be an interesting way to stick it to Belichick.  Just as he leaves the division he sends a Patriots rival one of the five best QBs in the league. lol

 

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1 hour ago, Adoni Beast said:

Brady:

• Demanded his own personal trainer train, examine, and rehab him in lieu of the Patriots team doctors.

• That branched out to other players (Gronk and Edleman most notably) doing the same.

• Demanded Jimmy Garropolo be traded.

• Demanded the Patriots get Antonio Brown during a scandal.

Yes Brady earned that right by having a Thanos filled glove of rings and then some. Watson clearly isn’t on that level.

But exceptions are often times made for the star player. Parcells used to let LT rape children and do coke off of his murder victims. But he let him start evert Sunday!

Watson isn't LT any more than he is Brady. And I think that miiiigght be a stretch about what Parcells "let" him do.

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2 hours ago, JetPotato said:

Just a thought... Caserio comes from New England. Does anyone think that if Bill Belichick were in a situation like this where a player was making demands, that the player wouldn't be out the door as fast as possible?

But also if you think Caserio still carries a Pats culture mindset, there is a 0% chance any trade of a star QB is going to occur with the New York Jets, of all teams in the league. 

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This whole notion that Deshaun has leverage is laughable. David Mulugheta probably paying people to spread that narrative at this point. 

Only time Deshaun has leverage is when the Texans make the decision to trade him, and they won’t make that decision unless they determine it’s the best move for the franchise moving forward.

If he were to sit out, the Texans can fine him $40,000 a day and withhold game checks — amassing like $15 million dollars for the season, not including the signing bonus money they would go after. 

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5 minutes ago, JoJoTownsell1 said:

I like the part where you think a rookie GM has any control over a star QB and his demands. 

If Watson wants only wants to play for the jets, a big if, that is where he is going. The GM can play chicken until April when the draft happens and now the GM is stuck without the#2 and with a QB that still wants out. This is a horrible position for the GM.

Especially when his agent is trolling the Jet board (which is like no other fan site in the league) seeing the overwhelming excitement of the fans at the thought of landing this stud!!!
 

 

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I think the Texans will ultimately cave to whatever demand Bieniemy has and hire him just to appease Watson.  Will it be enough?  We'll see.  But he's still probably staying.  Texans can't actually hire him until KC's season is over.  But if they were gonna hire someone else you probably would've heard about it by now because time is of the essence to build a staff.

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1 hour ago, football guy said:

This whole notion that Deshaun has leverage is laughable. David Mulugheta probably paying people to spread that narrative at this point. 

Only time Deshaun has leverage is when the Texans make the decision to trade him, and they won’t make that decision unless they determine it’s the best move for the franchise moving forward.

If he were to sit out, the Texans can fine him $40,000 a day and withhold game checks — amassing like $15 million dollars for the season, not including the signing bonus money they would go after. 

Some posters are worth the read 

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7 hours ago, 32EBoozer said:

If a player wants to be a pain in the ass he can slow walk you to death. I manage union employees.... I know! Mystery injuries, COVID “symptoms “ etc
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I understand the reference all too well lol. However in the Texans situation, this also allows the fan base to grow animosity towards the player/make them more OK with him being traded, and the team accomplishes the tank all the while. Multiple angles to view it from, but I don’t see a trade happening; all of this is media driven

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9 hours ago, HighPitch said:

Deshawn watson=fools gold

have ye learned nothing from the past?

build from the draft for once. We are in an amazing position to do that right now

I want Watson but not at the outrageous prices I’m hearing thrown out there — especially when the Jets have all the leverage 

 

Both Seattle picks + Sam gets it done

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7 hours ago, football guy said:

This whole notion that Deshaun has leverage is laughable. David Mulugheta probably paying people to spread that narrative at this point. 

Only time Deshaun has leverage is when the Texans make the decision to trade him, and they won’t make that decision unless they determine it’s the best move for the franchise moving forward.

If he were to sit out, the Texans can fine him $40,000 a day and withhold game checks — amassing like $15 million dollars for the season, not including the signing bonus money they would go after. 

The problem is if Watson shows up to TC and half-tails it and plays poorly now the Texans are stuck with a $30 million a year Jay Cutler or Jeff George

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33 minutes ago, Philc1 said:

The problem is if Watson shows up to TC and half-tails it and plays poorly now the Texans are stuck with a $30 million a year Jay Cutler or Jeff George

I do agree you don't want to fill your team with disgruntled players, but it's pretty clear that Deshaun is better than Jay or Jeff ever were. Personally I would bank on his talent, skill set, intangibles, competitiveness, and leadership and hedge that if he shows up he's going to give full effort for his coaches and teammates if not for the organization. 

My read on it: 

The Texans are going to hire Bieniemy or another minority HC for all the wrong reasons: to appease Deshaun and make him feel heard, to appease the talking heads, to regain credibility among the league... essentially damage control. Then, the ball returns to Deshaun's court. If they hire Bieniemy and Deshaun's still pouting, what becomes the narrative? That he's a diva, and he wants to avoid that. 

Then, the team will try to air the grievances, sell him on the fact that they didn't want to exclude him rather just needed to establish a process, all the while knowing that Deshaun's true grievances are less about the politics and more about getting the hell out of dodge because the Texans status among the NFL (black sheep, dysfunctional, need to rebuild). That's where the new coach is going to have to come in and sell him on the fact that things may be tough, but that they need to work together, embrace being underdogs, and that they can win now because of Deshaun. Typical coach speak. Watson will likely buy in to this, albeit reluctantly, get back to work and put this behind him. 

In 2 years, when Caserio has reset the aging roster and enters 2023 with a trove of draft picks, financial flexibility, and a 27 year old franchise QB, they'll fire the underperforming coaching staff and be in position to hire a top coach and return to contention. Maybe it will be Josh McDaniels, maybe Jerod Mayo. Who knows. But Deshaun will buy-in because there will be a light at the end of the tunnel... and that's what I think this is about, more so than any other narrative out there 

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8 hours ago, football guy said:

This whole notion that Deshaun has leverage is laughable. David Mulugheta probably paying people to spread that narrative at this point. 

Only time Deshaun has leverage is when the Texans make the decision to trade him, and they won’t make that decision unless they determine it’s the best move for the franchise moving forward.

If he were to sit out, the Texans can fine him $40,000 a day and withhold game checks — amassing like $15 million dollars for the season, not including the signing bonus money they would go after. 

He doesn’t want leverage because he wants out... Texans will just say either go to the team that offered us the most or see you in training camp.

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Texans brass are f*cked. There is ZERO path over the next 3 years to respectability for this team. They are cap strapped, have old players fading, JJ Watt, Mercilus, have zero skill position players, the defense is atrocious, and Deshaun Watson knows this. They went 4-12 in a division that just got MUCH TOUGHER with Urban Myer in Jacksonville & young gun Trevor Lawrence joining the party (Jags have more cap space than the Jets). Indy is very good & just need a game manager QB to go 9-7, 10-6. And then you have the Titans who are at a physical level compared to the soft Texans it's night & day. 

So, the Texans are in a complete rebuild, I'm talking the entire thing has to be stripped & burned down. So, do you do that with a disgruntled QB with a Minority head coach hired to appease your star QB & go 3-13, 4-12, while the fans base is calling for his head on a stick, or do you bite the bullet & reset the entire TEAM with cutting high priced players & drafting young players & go 2-14 and pick High in the draft again in 2022 with possibly the #1 pick? 

Talk about ROCK & A HARD PLACE! Bill Obrien torched this team & their playoff run was short. Can you see Deshaun Watson all smiles & fun loving after this offseason & winning 4-6 games over the next 2 years & seeing his new coach fired & starting all over again? 

We as Jet fans have had it pretty bad the last 10 years without a franchise QB. The Texans have a worst dilemma WITH a franchise QB.

Caserio took the worst job in the NFL BY FAR! Watson may be appeased somehow, but he is gonna be a very sad fellow pulling himself off the turf after another sack. At least JD has the assets to fix the Jets problems. Houston? That team will undoubtedly be a bottom dweller for a while! 

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3 hours ago, football guy said:

I understand the reference all too well lol. However in the Texans situation, this also allows the fan base to grow animosity towards the player/make them more OK with him being traded, and the team accomplishes the tank all the while. Multiple angles to view it from, but I don’t see a trade happening; all of this is media driven

That's an interesting take but this team is screwed cap wise and talent wise. It's going to continue to be ugly, clearly Watson reads the tea leaves in Houston.


I get it, it's nonsensical to trade away a franchise qb but it is an opportunity to alleviate the cap stress for 2022 and  onwards if they draft Fields or Wilson plus get some other blue chip draft pieces. The risk of course is that Fields/Wilson might royally suck.

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13 hours ago, JoJoTownsell1 said:

I like the part where you think a rookie GM has any control over a star QB and his demands. 

If Watson wants only wants to play for the jets, a big if, that is where he is going. The GM can play chicken until April when the draft happens and now the GM is stuck without the#2 and with a QB that still wants out. This is a horrible position for the GM.

You couldn't possibly be more wrong. 

I like the part where you ignorantly think being a rookie GM has relevance. You don't get points for time served. You are a GM or you aren't. Additionally, Watson is under contract for several years. If he wants to sit out, have fun with that. The Texans can also fine him for every day of camp he misses.

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