The Houston Texans are on the clock.
No, not in regard to their picks in the actual NFL Draft, as right now they are scheduled to start with the No. 67 overall selection. But when it comes to the 2021 NFL Draft and a Deshaun Watson trade?
Yes, those two things are tied together ... and the clock is ticking.
We've written in this space that new general manager Nick Caserio inherited an unlikely-to-win battle in Watson having demanded a trade, and as the QB seems unbending here - even telling new coach David Culley - that he won't be persuaded to back down - the best solution might be to engineer the best possible trade.
That doesn't have to happen today, even though we know offers are rolling in, and we know the Bears, the Panthers, the Dolphins, the Broncos and others want in on this.
But the Texans do need to start creating a bidding war now, and they do need to deal the 25-year-old star before the April 29 start of the draft.
Why? Because playing a Game of Chicken that extends beyond the draft means no payoff for the Texans in terms of the "treasure chest'' they can gain. Three first-round picks? You want to start collecting those now, so you can begin the rebuild now? Or do you want to play angry footsie with Deshaun for a few more months, then trade him for future picks ... thus rendering 2021 a lost and wasted season?
NFL insider Jim Trotter said on "The Rich Eisen Show" that he believes trade talks around Watson will heat up around the 2021 NFL Draft. Trotter is right, not only because he seems plugged into the situation; he's also right because that timing is logical.
It has been suggested that the Texans are willing to let Watson sit out the season, surely doubting that he'll be willing to take the $20 million hit for doing so. Maybe the new bosses don't want to create the impression that players get to have that sort of muscle, that sort of voice ... except that attitude ignores the fact that this entire conflict was triggered by the Texans telling Deshaun that he would have muscle, that he would have a voice. ...
And then, oddly and unwisely, they took those rights away from him.
Caserio is talking about Houston's approach to free agency being about "meat and potatoes.'' Solid, basic stuff. But there is nothing basic about the Texans' standoff with Watson. "Winning'' is not going to be about talking to the player; "winning'' is going to be about talking to other teams about the player.
Rarely in recent years has Texans management shown cleverness when it comes to roster-building. The next few weeks provide Caserio and Culley - not to mention owner Cal McNair and non-football football exec Jack Easterby - their second gigantic test.
They failed the first test by not inviting in Deshaun Watson. They are now on the clock on the second test, which is gathering a pre-NFL Draft reward while dis-inviting Deshaun Watson.