The Houston Texans’ offseason moves really didn’t get started until the 2022 NFL draft. During free agency, the Texans added solid veterans from outside the organization such as guard A.J. Cann and cornerback Steven Nelson. Houston also kept reliable starters such as defensive tackle Maliek Collins and even reworked receiver Brandin Cooks’ contract.
In the draft, the building blocks for the future were acquired with the selections of first-round cornerback Derek Stingley, guard Kenyon Green, second-round safety Jalen Pitre, receiver John Metchie, and fourth-round running back Dameon Pierce.
They’ve made a lot of questionable decisions (letting Davis Mills go unchallenged at QB? making Lovie Smith the latest placeholder atop the staff? signing/re-signing a bunch of free-agent leftovers again?), but dealing Watson was inevitable. The fact they offloaded his big contract and off-field baggage for three first-rounders and more? They’re at least set up to rebuild.
General manager Nick Caserio told reporters on March 19 that the ability to pull off the trade wasn’t as simple as finding a willing trade partner; it had to be a situation Watson would want to go to.
“I think the impetus for getting teams to the table when you have a situation like that was there’s X number of teams that there would have been interest in potentially waiving that clause for, so in order to get those teams to the table we had a certain threshold of what it would take to get to that point for those initial discussions to take place,” said Caserio. “From there, you have to work through the trade compensation and whatever the compensation is that you feel makes the most sense. I think you have to be thoughtful and you have to take the information, process it and try to make the best decision at that time so that’s why we went ahead and did what we did.”
The Texans aren’t just setup to rebuild; they are setup to put the final touches on a roster that could be competing for a playoff spot in 2024. They also have the capital to build packages to acquire Pro Bowl and All-Pro talent, and Houston will also have the salary cap space to do so in 2023.
Dealing Watson provided Houston the opportunity to start over and cultivate a new identity for the franchise. The move also allowed Watson to go to a new NFL city and hit the reset button — although Watson’s legal entanglements may keep the two parties linked for a while longer.