Sean Pendergast

J.J. Watt Sticking Around: Four Thoughts on the Dormant Texans Trade Deadline

Will Fuller will be around for at least two more games against the Colts this season.
Will Fuller will be around for at least two more games against the Colts this season. Photo by Eric Sauseda
The NFL trade deadline came and went at 3 p.m. local time on Tuesday, and for all of the chatter the last couple weeks about the Texans' moving J.J. Watt, Will Fuller, or any number of second or third tier players on this ill-conceived, talent-deprived roster, the whole thing wound up being one big popcorn fart.

To be fair, the Texans were not promising anybody any trade deadline fireworks. Quite the opposite, actually, as owner Cal McNair went on SportsRadio 610 earlier this week, and had this to say when asked about possible moves before Tuesday afternoon:

No big news. You’ll see some little things that happened over the weekend. But no big moves. We like our players. We like our team. We have a lot of season left, a lot to play for. There’s an extra wildcard game this year and so you don’t know what’s going to happen. One thing you know about me, Marc, other people don’t know, is that I’m extremely optimistic and I don’t believe in giving up. And we won’t. Our team won’t. Our ownership won’t. Our coaches won’t. We’re going to go out there and believe in each other, win one game at a time and see where this season is. This story on the season is not written yet.
So Will Fuller did not get traded. J.J. Watt did not get traded. The Texans will now try to attack the final nine games with enough ferocity to hopefully get back to respectability. In the meantime, let's dive a little deeper on what did and did not take place in the trade market over the last several days:

So how close did the Texans come to trading Will Fuller?
Over the last two or three days, the rumor mill was swirling with interest in Fuller, most notably from the Green Bay Packers, who are looking for more weapons to help Aaron Rodgers make a run back to his first Super Bowl since 2010. Clearly, from his social media, Fuller was hearing all of the chatter, as he tweeted this out with just a couple hours to go before the deadline:
As it turns out, there was plenty of conversation between the Texans and the Packers, but the two sides couldn't agree on the value of the remaining half a season on Fuller's contract:
The belief, as McClain mentions above, is the Texans held tight looking for a second round pick in next spring's draft, a draft in which the Texans are currently without a pick in either of the first two rounds. The Packers are believed to have offered a fourth round pick as their best offer. Personally, I like that the Texans decided to hold onto Fuller, and allow the next GM to decide what to do with him after this season. The options include re-signing him, applying the franchise tag on him, or letting him walk in free agency. Everything is on the board.

What was the J.J. Watt trade market like?
The belief around the league is that the Texans were never in the market to move Watt. For what it's worth, it's believed that the four untouchable Texan players going into this week were Deshaun Watson, Laremy Tunsil, Tytus Howard, and Watt. That doesn't mean that teams couldn't come at the Texans with their best offer, and I'm sure a few teams kicked tires on Watt, in hopes the Texans might bite. This is one situation that would have been far more intriguing had Bill O'Brien been kept around, since (a) Watt appeared to be at his wit's end with O'Brien as the head coach, and (b) O'Brien the GM might have shipped Watt out for a fourth round pick. As it is, Watt will likely play out the final year of his deal next year, and we will see where it goes from there.

Unloading Whitney Mercilus' contract should still be a focus moving forward.
One of Bill O'Brien's most awful "parting gifts" he left behind as GM of this team was the four year contract extension that he signed Whitney Mercilus to last season. Four years, $54 million, $28 million of that being guaranteed. Mercilus has been practically invisible this season, with just 14 tackles in seven games. His 2021 salary of $10.5 million is fully guaranteed, so my hope had been that some contender seeking depth in their front seven might bite on giving the Texans something — ANYTHING — to get Mercilus' deal off the books. But alas, Mercilus will be here the remainder of 2020. Unless something REALLY clicks for Mercilus over the second half of the season, and he goes out and gets six or seven sacks, then getting rid of his contract needs to be a focal point for the next Texans GM.

Oh, the Texans did make one trade late last week, in case you missed it!
The Texans did make one trade, late last week. In case you missed it, they traded defensive tackle Eli Ankou to the Cowboys for a seventh round pick. While this trade is practically insignificant in terms of how it affects the team on the field, it IS interesting to note that the Texans picked up Ankou off the street a few weeks ago, and he had yet to suit up for a game for them. So the reality is that whoever is pushing the buttons for the Texans on trade talks — interim GM Jack Easterby, maybe? — managed to turn a player they picked up for nothing into SOMETHING. Granted, it's just a seventh round pick, but still. SOMETHING. It's about the small victories, at this point.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast