The Texans are reportedly on the verge of trading for Falcons quarterback Matt Schaub. Let's break down what the deal will mean for both teams:
Once final, the Texans' pending acquisition of Schaub will definitively mark the end of the David Carr era in Houston. Look for the Texans to re-start their efforts to trade the first overall pick from the 2002 draft, seeking a fourth-round selection in return. But their market might not be exactly robust, because as everyone around the league will quickly surmise, Houston will likely have little recourse but to release Carr at some point if it can't strike a deal, making him a free agent.
The Texans' best chance to extract some value for Carr will be if there are multiple suitors, meaning no one can just sit and wait for him to come their way without giving up something in return. Here's one potential landing spot that makes some sense for Carr: Oakland. If the Raiders opted to fill their starting quarterback vacancy by landing the former Fresno State standout, they could then use their No. 1 overall pick on much-coveted Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson. Passing on LSU passer JaMarcus Russell would be tough, and it is not known whether the Raiders would view Carr as a viable starting option. But acquiring Johnson would have another benefit: Oakland could then be free to move receiver Randy Moss -- maybe for more quarterback talent.
This much is clear: Texans head coach Gary Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith never had any intention to tie their star to Carr in 2007, but with the Jake Plummer deal failing to materialize, they were briefly left without a better alternative than Houston's embattled fifth-year veteran. Fairly or unfairly, Carr was fated to part ways with Houston this offseason, in part because the Texans seem to require someone to serve as the public scapegoat in order for the franchise to atone for passing on both Reggie Bush and Vince Young in last year's draft. Carr drew that straw.
Schaub has been an intriguing talent while serving as the backup to Michael Vick for the past three years in Atlanta, but the pressure will now shift to his shoulders in Houston. He'll be getting his first shot to start in the NFL behind one of the league's most porous offensive lines, and without the kind of dominating running game that Atlanta featured. His success as a starter likely will be tied to how much offensive talent Kubiak and Smith can surround him with.
By trading Schaub to Houston this year, the Falcons made the decision to get something in return now for their talented backup, rather than run the risk of him leaving via unrestricted free agency next spring and bringing nothing in exchange. That was the smart move for the long term if new head coach Bobby Petrino can resurrect the flagging fortunes of starting quarterback Michael Vick, whose struggles both on and off the field in the past two years have been well chronicled.
But the Schaub trade could look short-sighted in the near future if Vick doesn't turn things around and Atlanta finds itself facing its own starting quarterback decision in early 2008. Will the Falcons some day regret letting go of the guy who would have made a ready-made successor to No. 7?
For now, the Falcons have re-affirmed their commitment to Vick, and will stake their 2007 season around the offense balance that Petrino promises to bring to Atlanta. In Schaub, the Falcons had a prized insurance policy behind Vick for the past three years. But that is no longer the case. Atlanta will be in the market for a backup quarterback, and ex-Bengal, ex-Raven Anthony Wright is reportedly on its radar.
Petrino has said all the right things about Vick thus far, and the two have apparently meshed well in the formative months of their relationship. Then again, so did Vick and ex-Falcons head coach Jim Mora once upon a time. If there is a bottom-line reality to the trade of Schaub, it's that the Falcons remain Vick's team, and Petrino is firmly in his quarterback's corner. At least for 2007.