Indeed, exactly one year after inking him to a four-year, $72 million contract with $37 million guaranteed (numbers I feel every Houstonian can recite in his or her sleep at this point), Brock Osweiler was traded to the Cleveland Browns in an NBA-style salary dump that saw an NFL first, as best I can tell — a team trading a surplus of assets to another team just so they'll take a large, guaranteed salary off their hands.
The deal was first reported by ESPN.com's Adam Schefter:
A year ago, in my analysis of the Osweiler signing, I wrote the following:
Stunner: Texans trade Brock Osweiler AND 2018 2nd-rd pick to CLEV for Browns to take Osweiler contract off Houston books, sources tell ESPN.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2017
To see a starting quarterback with franchise quarterback potential (and that is the key word in all of this, potential) change hands in free agency is the football equivalent of seeing a unicorn. However, yesterday Brock Osweiler decided to leave the world champion Denver Broncos and the role of heir apparent to Peyton Manning to sign a four-year, $72 million ($37 million guaranteed) with the Houston Texans, and in one move everything changed for those two franchises.You could argue that last sentence, in bold, applies to yesterday's trade with the Browns as well. Structurally, the actual deal looks like this, in its entirety:
We never see moves like this in the NFL, and we rarely see Houston as the epicenter for anything remotely close to this.
TEXANS GET: Browns 4th round pick (2017)Functionally, from both the Texans AND Browns perspective, the actual deal looks like this:
BROWNS GET: QB Brock Osweiler, Texans 2nd round pick (2018), Texans 6th round pick (2017)
TEXANS GET: ...RID OF BROCK OSWEILER, Browns 4th round pick (2017), $10 million in cap space...and if you think that's NOT how both teams are looking at this deal — a salary dump, in which the Browns are merely hoarding draft picks so the Texans can get out from under the worst signing in franchise history — then just read the statements from both teams on this deal.
BROWNS GET: Texans 2nd round pick (2018), Texans 6th round pick (2017)
First, the Texans...
To repeat, the Texans put out a press release EXPLAINING the deal to their fans because it's so unorthodox (for the NFL), and the Browns LED THEIR PRESS RELEASE TALKING ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF DRAFT PICKS, in a deal in which they acquired a quarterback who actually started 14 games last season.
Here's the Browns press release on the Osweiler swap, complete w/ quote on THE PICK THEY ACQUIRED AND NOT REALLY THE PLAYER LMAO pic.twitter.com/XCD0jbEUq1— Dave Richard (@daverichard) March 9, 2017
Whether the Texans have specific plans for the newly opened cap space, or whether the deal was made just to remove the dark cloud of failure that Osweiler would represent collecting a check as a backup next season, is really a moot point. The bottom line is, as I've said on multiple occasions in this space, Osweiler just had to go. There was no reason to keep him around anymore for the team to try to fix the unfixable. As it turns out, his signing was a gargantuan mistake, and the deal yesterday was about mitigating the damage of the $37 million guarantee. (Functionally, it became a $21 million guarantee with the trade.)
This trade was more like clean-up of an oil spill than any sort of sly caginess on the part of Rick Smith. Any kudos for making this deal is canceled out by the necessity of a deal needing to be made in the first place. Where Smith (and the team) deserve kudos is in recognizing and admitting their error, and moving on to the next decision at quarterback. They were decisive. Make no mistake, the Kubiak-era Texans would have ridden Osweiler into the ground for at least one more season. On this, I have zero doubt.
So with Tony Romo's departure from Dallas, either via trade or release, imminent, and with a Texans roster that now has only Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden under contract at quarterback, what does Thursday's news all mean?
Well, it means the Texans all of a sudden have more than $30 million in cap space with which to do SOMETHING. Unfortunately, this deal went down after a lot of the plum free agents had found homes already, meaning that a solid right tackle, a veteran wide receiver and/or A.J. Bouye (five years, $67.5 million from Jacksonville) had already made decisions on their employers next season before the Texans could comfortably get a little crazy with their open cap space.
However, there are still some names out there who can backfill Bouye and safety Quintin Demps (three years, $13.5 million from Chicago), and this space could help with purchases there. The multimillion-dollar question on everyone's mind, though, is "Was the Osweiler trade a precursor to Tony Romo becoming a Houston Texan?" Time will tell. The Cowboys are reportedly trying to get something, anything, in a trade for Romo. I think we can safely say this about the Osweiler trade, as pertains to Romo's chances of becoming a Texan — it sure as hell didn't hurt.
So move over, Ed Reed, Ahman Green, Rahim Moore...Brock Osweiler's official plundering of all three of you as the Worst Signing in Team History got its exclamation point on Thursday afternoon.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.