Deshaun Watson Traded
It's done. Deshaun Watson headed to the Cleveland Browns via trade from the Houston Texans
That is the amount of time from the day Deshaun Watson officially requested a trade from the Houston Texans to when Watson’s wish was granted in a trade to the Cleveland Browns. As a Houston fan this process felt like 1,000 days. The burden & weight of the situation has been lifted off the city of Houston.
Straight from Adam Schefter, the tweet that caused the Twitter-verse to flip over on it’s proverbial head.
Deshaun Watson shocked the world with a massive turn of events in opting to go to the Cleveland Browns. Less than 24 hours ago, Watson’s camp had informed Cleveland they were out of the running.
All reports this morning indicated Houston and the Atlanta Falcons were nearing a trade. Fans were speculating what the trade package could be. Multiple reports indicated All-Pro cornerback A.J. Terrell would be included in the massive package.
Reports subsided and things were near silent on social media for a good three hours leading many to believe Watson would extend his decision well into the weekend. Little did we know that a historic contract was in the works with Cleveland.
History has been reset with the largest fully guaranteed contract. Reportedly Cleveland and Watson agreed to a five year contract worth $230 million. Watson has cemented his “legendary” status with this new contract, at least so in the world of football business.
Cleveland structured the contract with a minimum salary in 2022 to limit the amount of money Watson would lose if (when) he is suspended by the league. Watson reportedly will earn a ~$44 million signing bonus with the new contract. Giving him a $10 million raise for 2022 versus what he was scheduled to earn. Cleveland is likely going to employ a double option bonus structure to manage the cash flows. The cap charge in 2025 & 2026 will be amazingly high, even with an exploding salary cap.
Fully guaranteed contracts have long been a discussion point among fans, media, and players. Kirk Cousins got the ball rolling with near fully guaranteed contracts in Minnesota in previous years, but with a much lower APY. This contract with Watson is truly historic.
How the other 31 general managers view this contract will be intriguing. With Lamar Jackson due a contract extension in the near future, followed by Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow in 2023.
Watson was scheduled to earn $136 million in years 2022 through 2025 on his previous extension signed with Houston. That contract has been traded to Cleveland and then torn apart. Watson’s agent has negotiated a near $100 million raise through 2026 compared to money previously scheduled to be earned.
A dramatic raise, even after missing a year of football, just to earn the right to trade for Watson. I am not even sure how we are going to value this contract on Overthecap.
Houston is set to receive the following draft picks from Cleveland:
2022 1st round (pick #13)
2023 1st round
2024 1st round
2023 3rd round
2024 4th round
Houston is sending their 2024 5th round back to Cleveland with Watson.
At first glance this appears to be lower than expected return on the Watson trade. Houston’s GM Nick Caserio was likely hamstrung a bit on what Cleveland would trade for Watson. Watson’s camp could have pushed to limit the draft capital Cleveland sent to Houston in hopes of not completely dismantling the team’s future.
Houston, reportedly, was asking for three 1s, players/draft picks for a total asset count of six. Houston ended up with a net asset count of four. That will be viewed as a disappointment by most, at least locally.
The feedback on the national level is Houston got what they could from the deal and should be content with such a strong return.
Caserio not obtaining any proven young players is disappointing. I suspect that Caserio wanted to focus on draft picks only as to better assist him in rebuilding the Houston Texans roster as he sees fit.
My mentor Jason Fitzgerald dropped this bomb to further deflate Houston fans on the result of this trade. Houston netting just ~300 points more than Seattle is the equivalent to a 6th round draft pick. Yet Seattle was able to return 3 players including a solid tight end in Noah Fans who was a former 1st round draft selection.
This tweet should help illustrate the constraints which Caserio was working under. The trade package would have been much more lucrative in an open bidding war situation.
Houston and Caserio will have near 25% of the 2022 salary cap allocated to dead money after accounting for Deshaun Watson’s $16.2 million dead money charge. The deck has been cleared for 2023 and beyond. Draft picks, available cap, available cash…Caserio has all the assets available to remake this roster as he sees fit. The clock on his tenure starts now.
Caserio is scheduled to meet with the media tomorrow (Saturday) at 11am CST.
Cap Space Update
I am still awaiting details on a few free agent contracts. Expect Houston to settle in around the ~$28 million mark on available cap space once the trade and last remaining contracts are signed. Houston will have 68 players under contract. I suspect the team is near finished with free agency spending.
The draft and undrafted class will fill out the remainder of the roster when the team works to building the 90 man roster.
I wanted to leave my personal opinion at the end of this newsletter. I am sorry for the women who are going through this difficult situation, only to see Watson get rewarded with a new contract. I am disappointed the situation came to this. I am disappointed Watson put himself in this situation to begin with. I am sorry for the fans of the Houston Texans who waited years for a true franchise quarterback only to see the rug pulled out from underneath them yet again.
The task of finding the next franchise quarterback will be difficult. My expectation for Davis Mills turning into a franchise type quarterback is extremely low. I am excited to see what he can do for 2022, but my expectations are set pretty low regardless.
Personally I do wonder how things would have been managed between Watson and Houston had none of this occurred. I question if Watson would have been asking for yearly raises to get a similar contract from Houston. We will never know. Time will tell in Cleveland.
The goal to relevant should be 2024. I feel that 2023 is a long shot. The team may continually improve in 2022 and 2023, as compared to 2021, but it will take some time.
Fans, undoubtedly, will have a different timeline. Rightly so. We are in this together.
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