Are Texans Trying To Trade J.J. Watt?

Mike Fisher

The Houston Texans, by virtue of their in-the-basement record, are bringing some of this trade conjecture on themselves.

But that doesn't make the trade conjecture - which according to one national report includes Texans icon J.J. Watt - accurate.

According to this report via CBS, "There has been chatter around the league about (trading) J.J. Watt ... ahead of the deadline.''

Houston is about to enter "never-say-never'' territory; that's part of being 1-5 and facing a 2021 NFL offseason stripped of picks in Rounds 1 and 2. Trying to rebuild by making trades that bring back premium picks is wise ... and not even Watt's heroic position in this community and Hall-of-Fame performance on the field should render him untouchable.

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But ... the holes in the report are as wide as J.J. Watt's shoulders. To wit:

*The CBS story suggests that Watt's salary/contract is prohibitive. In fact, he makes $13 million this year (a relative bargain) and the next year on his deal, $17.5 million, is non-guaranteed. A team could "rent'' Watt if it wishes and probably be pleased with the outcome.

*The CBS story oddly places other names in the headline - "Whitney Mercilus, Zach Cunningham, Bradley Roby and even a receiver could be on the move'' - but buries the inclusion of Watt in this theoretical "fire sale'' way down in the second half of its "sourced'' report.

That's odd; speaking journalistically, and with no disrespect to the likes of, say Bradley Roby, if CBS really has a hint of J.J. Watt being trade bait ... why wouldn't CBS put J.J. Watt's name in the headline?

*By the way: Bradley Roby and Whitney Mercilus are in the first year of new deals and trading them would incur dead money on next year's cap. Zach Cunningham signed a contract extension before the season and would carry small dead money this season and much more next with minimal cap savings. So we wonder if the CBS report that "names names'' is even reporting the right names.

*We're not sure why CBS would bother writing that a Watt deal would occur "ahead of the (NFL trade) deadline.'' Err, when else would it happen?

*Call this an educated guess, but Watt's greatest value to boss Cal McNair might be as a bridge to the rebuild. Watt is just 31, remains as effective as any Texan on either side of the ball (he was by far Houston's most capable defender in Sunday's Week 6 loss at Tennessee), and would offer foundational value for the new coach/GM to everywhere from the locker room to the community.

Not that Texans fans need a reminder of the "character thing'' here, but Watt's post-Tennessee quotes are highly instructive.

"I feel like I had opportunities, took advantage of a few of them and just needed to make one more play to get a win," Watt said. "And I didn't do that. So, I put that on me. I got to go out there and make a play and win the game, and I didn't do that at the end. I got to find ways to make more plays."

In other words, and incredibly, Houston's best defensive player - who performed brilliantly - thinks the loss is his fault.

That's the "character thing.''

Oddly, CBS cites this very point in shooting down the validity of its own report, noting that a Watt trade is not especially "likely ... given his stature with ownership and Hall-of-Fame accomplishments.''

*Houston also has Jack Easterby as their acting general manager. Easterby has just last season and this season as experience in a decision-making role in a front office in football. He was previously a chaplain and character coach for the Patriots and Chiefs. Can he get real value in any trade?

READ MORE: What's Next For Texans? 'Burn It Down'

A "fire sale''? Or, as out Matt Galatzan writes, a "burn it down''? That seems a viable guess at what Houston is about to consider in the next two weeks, on a variety of names, as the trade deadline approaches. Never say never? That's standard-operating procedure for any smart front office. But we're having a difficult time imagining a J.J. Watt trade match ... and we wonder if this is as much about somebody "imaging'' as anything.

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