FRISCO - The Dallas Cowboys' No. 1 offseason priority is to make peace with their quarterback. The Houston Texans' No. 1 offseason priority is the same.
But what if they can't?
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith is the latest pundit to suggest that the Cowboys and Texans should simply swap quarterback, Dak Prescott for Deshaun Watson. To wit ...
We've had a lot of fun over the years taking playful pokes at Stephen A. Smith, both he and we knowing full-well his unique on-air bit ha him laughing all the way to the bank. We respect that in his unguarded moments, he's admitted it's all a "bit.''
But for this moment, while strongly suggesting, politely, that Stephen A. Smith wouldn't know the difference between Dak and Deshaun if the two of them walked into his studio together ...
Let's treat the idea with some serious analysis.
Texans owner Cal McNair and his pulpit henchman Jack Easterby have made a mess of things with Watson, in short by lying to him. He wants out.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, meanwhile, recently went public with the observation that QB Dak Prescott has all "the leverage'' in contract negotiations as the two sides hope to end a two-year dance, avoid another pricy franchise tag, and agree to a long-term deal. And then the Cowboys get back to building.
And there is no indication that Dak wants out.
But what if unhappy Deshaun stays unhappy? And what if unsigned (long-term) Dak stays unsigned (long-term)?
That brings up priority No. 2, for any NFL team: Talent evaluation. Cover every base. Look under every stone.
READ MORE: Deshaun Replacing Dak? What Are The Odds?
While some find it outrageous to learn that inside NRG Stadium, the Texans are actually fielding trade inquiries, it is in fact - now that they've put themselves in this pinch - somebody's job to answer the phone. Similarly, in Dallas, while the Jones family continues to insist that Dak is the hub of the wheel at The Star, it is somebody's job to contemplate ...
So we'll do the same here, without trying to be too incendiary about it all. ... and quite frankly, with more knowledge and understanding of both circumstances than Stephen A. would ever bother with.
In the coming weeks, assume the Texans' chasm with Watson remains wide. They will get trade offers featuring picks; they will likely not get a trade offer featuring a player who is actually comparable to, and who plays the same "most important position of QB'' as, Watson.
That would be Dak Prescott.
At the same time, assume the Cowboys' negotiations with Dak do not progress. A long-term solution to employing Prescott - or a Prescott-level QB - must be found.
That could be Deshaun Watson.
For all of this to work, Dallas would have to get Dak to sign the franchise tag (so he's under contract) with the understanding that he would be traded to the Texans, who would make it clear that they'd pay Prescott the contract ($40 million APY?) he desires.
Meanwhile, Watson would have to agree to waive his no-trade clause (likely not a problem to move to Dallas) and would become the Cowboys' "hub.''
That's a lot of hoops to jump through. But there's more: What about the finances involved?
Taking on Watson would not be burdensome for his new team. The Texans are responsible for his $27 million in prorated signing bonus (from last fall's extension) so the new team gets a 25-year-old superstar under contract for five more years with salary-cap figures of about $16 million, $40 million, $42 million $37 million and $32 million.
This would represent a bonanza for Dallas, which would be getting an arguably superior player to Dak, a comparable person and leader of character ... for far less money.
Any trade of Watson is not such a bonanza for Houston, however. One, a deal would carry a charge of $5.6 million in dead money for the Texans. That's not a killer. But two, they'd have to budget for the new $40 mil QB in Prescott. That's tougher - though as with Watson's deal, the Texans can construct, say, a four-year, $160 million deal for Prescott with money spread out in such a way as to leave them some cap elbow room in 2021.
Houston will have other options, should it go down this road. Will a team offer three first-rounders? That's tempting, and more financially affordable than the Dak idea. But it still leaves the Texans without an established standout QB. Discuss a Miami deal that delivers Tua Tagovailova to Houston, or a Jets deal that delivers Sam Darnold? Maybe. But are they "established standout QB's''?
Again, the easiest dual path includes none of the above. Houston, quit betraying your QB. Dallas, consummate the relationship with yours. Move on together. It's also the most sensible path, especially from Dallas' perspective, because Prescott would have to sign on to the idea of going to a Houston Texans team where, quite frankly, players don't want to be.
Dak-for-Deshaun deserves to be discussed, reasonably and soberly, maybe by the teams involved, and certainly by observers and analysts with calm, sober insight.
Oh, and by Stephen A. Smith, too. He's allowed to play along as well.