HOUSTON – The Houston Texans are 1-5 with severe cap issues heading into 2021, meaning the team could be a seller at the NFL Trade Deadline on November 3.
Here’s a look at some of the Texans players who could be up for a deal come deadline day.
J.J. Watt, Defensive end
Why trade him?
Watt is on the books for $17.5 million in 2021 with no dead cap (meaning the Texans could cut Watt without paying anything). The Texans would have a full-on revolt in the city if they were to get rid of Watt and received nothing in return.
Watt may not be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate anymore, but he’s still one of the top pass rushers and 3-4 defensive ends in football.
An article from the Athletic proposes the Texans trade Watt to New Orleans for DT Sheldon Rankins and a first-round pick. Of competitive teams, only the Browns and Patriots could fit Watt in without messing with the cap too much.
It’s J.J. Watt! Losing the heart and soul of the team and one of the few effective players on the defensive side of the ball for Houston would be a massive blow.
Not only that, there’s no reason to tank for the Texans since Houston doesn’t have a first (or second) round pick, thanks to Bill O’Brien’s Laremy Tunsil trade. Basically, trading Watt doesn’t have much upside except for maybe the chance at a mid to late first-round pick. Watt is worth more than that.
Kenny Stills, wide receiver
Why trade him:
Although Kenny Stills has a good connection with Deshaun Watson, Stills has been the odd man out as the Texans re-structured their receiving corps in 2020. The No. 3 receiver in 2019 has been pushed to the No. 4 role behind Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks.
Stills is also in the last year of his contract and unlikely to be re-signed for 2021. If the Texans can get a draft pick for Stills, that would be useful.
Kenny Stills is a great fill-in just in case Will Fuller gets injured, plus the Texans don’t have salary tied up in Stills beyond this year.
Darren Feels, tight end
Why trade him?
The Texans have other options beyond Darren Feels. Houston has a young tight end in Jordan Akins, who has played well at times, and drafted tight end, Kahale Warring, in the 3rd round in 2019.
Warring has yet to see the field, but eventually, the team will need to know what they have with him. Warring could come back after Week 9 and having him stuck behind Fells may not be smart.
Fells has shined the past couple of weeks with Akins injured. Warring has never been healthy and Deshaun Watson does need a tight end.
Duke Johnson, running back
Why trade him?
The Texans are locked in for a lot of money spent on running backs, despite a running game that hasn’t really helped the team in 2020.
Duke Johnson has traditionally been used as a pass-catching back, which is a role David Johnson can play. Also, the Texans never really used Johnson much despite his good analytics, and the back could break out if he had a fresh start. Johnson could bring back a healthy pick since he’s not a salary cap burden with no dead cap left after 2020.
Texans starting running back David Johnson has either been injured or lost his starting job for three straight seasons. The Texans don’t have a young running back waiting in the wings. If David Johnson goes down, Duke Johnson would get a massively expanded role. Otherwise, the Texans would have to sign a running back off the street.