Texans At Trade Deadline: Shopping Season For WRs?

Mike Fisher

The Houston Texans can use all the “brain-storing” and “spit-balling” at their disposal; that's how the NFL world works when you are 1-6 and, in a post-Bill O'Brien era, maybe somewhat rudderless - or at least inexperienced - when it comes to front-office wheeling and dealing.

So, if wide receivers are The Sales Item of the Day, the Texans need to be highly-aware - and, it seems, as it regards Will Fuller and Randall Cobb ... they are. In fact, TexansDaily.com has already performed this exercise as it relates to Houston's depth at receiver. To wit:

Brandin Cooks

It's only seven games into his Texans career and he has less than half of those where you would consider Cooks has played a good game. There's plenty of on-field advantages, and money movement options, to keeping Cooks around.

"We know Cooks was brought in at the doing of (interim general manager Jack) Easterby. His contract is very friendly for cap manipulation for 2021. Houston would complete a simple restructure of base salary to signing bonus conversion to free up much-needed cap space for 2021"

Cooks has already been traded a couple of times in his career. Yet another deal could mean a red flag decreasing value.

"I would imagine Cooks' value is a late third or early fourth. That is not enough compensation to move on from Cooks.''

Will Fuller

The speedy wideout has been plenty healthy and dynamic enough for the Texans. Only the game against the Ravens, where he was hurt, was a dud for Fuller. He's scored a touchdown in every game since and averaged 75 receiving yards per game as well.

Trading Fuller, and getting the right deal in a trade, are easier said than done.

"Fuller is a prime trade asset, probably the most valuable given the team is not tied to him like Watt. Texans will be fighting an uphill battle to return equitable compensation. The league knows the front office is weak, has a bad cap situation in 2021, and the 2020 season spiraling."

What would be the best the Texans could get if they made a solid move?

"I would suspect Fuller would return a late second-round or early third-round pick. His pending free agency plus injury history will be a red flag for some rosters. The Texans were not going to afford Fuller as a free agent in 2021, getting something now would help the team.''

Kenny Stills

Stills has been lightly targeted and hasn't lit up the box score. Just 10 catches for 138 yards and a single touchdown. He's still speedy and a veteran in a pass-heavy NFL. "

"Trading Stills would be strictly for the cash savings (about $3.25 million) to be able to roll that money over to the 2021 salary cap."

Read more on our detailed look at the "Dollars and Sense'' of Texans trades here.

The Green Bay Packers are rumored to be a receiver shopper. So let's do the exercise for them, from the other side. 

How about a trade of Dallas Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper to the Green Bay Packers? The idea hits print via ProFootballTalk.com, and again, just as 1-6 Houston needs to be open to all ideas, so does 2-5 Dallas.

So, let’s dissect. ...

*PFT writes that Dallas is in “fire-sale mode,” That’s incorrect; the three aforementioned guys are destined to be ex-Cowboys because they don’t fit here, not because the Jones family is bailing on the season. The Texans might be there, to the point where we've endorsed J.J. Watt asking to be dealt. The NFC East allows Dallas to not have to go there.

*PFT suggests that Cooper now represents a sort of luxury given the team’s recent drafting of Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb. They are correct here, reiterating a point that we have made often. (PFT cites Cedrick Wilson’s “pretty dam good” ability to replace Cooper as another reason; that’s a stretch.) Houston, too, has receiver depth and "expendability.''

*PFT correctly notes, as we did at the time of Cooper‘s off-season signing, that even though Cooper signed a five-year, $100 million contract, it’s really a two-year, $40 million deal - escapable after two seasons.

It is NOT, however, especially escapable NOW. 

The hard numbers: Trading Cooper this week would mean $6,117,647 dead money in 2020 and a $5,882,353 savings. Not problematic.

But what does it do to the Dallas cap next year? Trading Cooper would leave $8 million in dead money - meaning the Cowboys would be “paying the cap” to the tune of $8 million while Cooper is (in the PFT example) catching passes from Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.

The Cowboys don’t view that as a very viable way of spending their money. Similarly, Houston can't just make "Fantasy'' trades here; they must make trades formed in large part by "finance.''

*Now to Green Bay, and this applies to any calls the Packers make, including the Houston. Could they use a standout No. 2 receiver alongside Devante Adams. Sure. Can they spend $20 million per year to do so?

Via the invaluable Bill Huber, our man in Green Bay:

Meanwhile, per to the NFLPA, the Packers have about $8 million of cap space. Cooper’s cap number for this season is $12 million; the economics don’t align.

Moreover, with the salary cap expected to plunge in 2021, the Packers are only about $3.2 million under next year’s cap, according to OverTheCap.com’s projections. And that’s with 39 players on the roster – none of them being free agents-to-be David Bakhtiari, the team’s four-time All-Pro left tackle, running back Aaron Jones or cornerback Kevin King.

Cooper’s cap number for 2021 is $22 million. Packers cap guru Russ Ball is really good at his job, but I don’t see how this is possible whatsoever.

So, Houston and Green Bay can be a partner here in ways that Dallas and Green Bay cannot. Let’s keep brain-storming and spit-balling; the Texans aren’t good enough not to. But then ... let’s make sure we ask the teams involved to help us with personnel thoughts let's make sure we've got the Big Calculator working, too.

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