By Inigo ‘Naughty’ Zenicazelaya
THE long NFL offseason is upon us and, between now and the NFL Draft in April, there will be millions of trade rumours swirling.
Some rumours are put out by teams to gauge league-wide interest, others are spot on, while others are pure and utter nonsense.
One such rumour that sounds nonsensical at first, but actually makes tons of sense after you think about it seriously for a minute, is the one that has QB Tony Romo and the Cowboys first round pick (#28 overall) in this year’s NFL Draft going to Houston for All Pro DE JJ Watt.
See, I told you, initially it sounds like lunacy, but once you look at the numbers it makes a whole lot of sense.
Arguably, if the Texans had a quality QB, they would have upset the eventual champions Patriots in the playoffs.
The Texans’ defence (without Watt) stifled Tom Brady and the Patriots offence, unfortunately for the Texans QB Brock Osweiler and his huge free agent contract, is a monumental bust!
He snatched defeat from the jaws of potential victory once again, leaving the Texans the long offseason to ponder on a solution to their $40m problem.
The Houston Texans ended 2016 with the best defence statistically. They only allowed 301.3 yards per game and 201.6 yards a game through the air.
The offence only mustered 17.4 points per game, so we know which side of the ball carried the team to the playoffs two years in a row.
The Dallas Cowboys ended 2016 as one of the best offences statistically. They were fifth in total yards and second in rushing yards.
The way Dallas plays offence, keeping its defence off the field for large stretches, defines the team.
They had the best record in the NFC two of the last three years, but the inability to rush the passer knocked them out both times.
The Texans’ biggest issue has been their lack of a competent quarterback.
They drafted Tom Savage a few years ago, and signed Brock Osweiler to a pretty big free agent contract into 2016.
After starting six different QBs in the two seasons, coach Bill O’Brien can’t feel much confidence they are any better off in 2017.
Romo would change everything.
The Cowboys’ biggest issue has been a lack of star power on the defensive line.
Nobody has been able to bring consistent disruption to opposing offences.
There’s no one who commands double teams and still can beat them. J.J. Watt would change everything.
Financially, a trade is feasible for both sides. Watt has five years remaining on his deal. He is slated to count $14.5 million against the Texans’ cap in 2017, with $4 million a prorated bonus. That $4 million is part of $10 million of dead money that would remain with the Texans should they trade him.
Removing Watt from the ledger via trade would mean Houston would temporarily gain $4.5 million of cap space.
For Dallas, Romo has three years remaining on his deal. He is slated to count $24.7 million against their cap in 2017, with $10.7 million of that being prorated bonus. That $10.7 million is part of $19.6 million of dead money that would remain with the Cowboys should they trade him.
Removing Romo from the ledger via trade would mean Dallas would temporarily gain $5.1 million of cap space in 2017.
Adding Romo’s $14 million base salary to the $4.5 million of space gained by trading Watt would be a net of $9.5 million added to the Texans 2017 cap.
Adding Watt’s $10.5 million base salary to the $5.1 million of space gained by trading Romo would be a net of $5.4 million added to the Cowboys 2017 cap.
Even better, both teams would have the option of converting much of the 2017 base salary into a bonus. Dallas could convert $9.5 million of Watt’s base to restructure bonus, spreading the cap hit over five years and shave $7.5 million off his first-year cap impact. The Cowboys could make the trade and actually gain cap space.
There’s no doubt the Houston Texans’ defence has a chance of being historic if Watt were to return, now that Jadeveon Clowney has turned into the beast he was projected to be coming out of South Carolina. Houston finished seventh in defensive DVOA and does have areas to improve on, specifically stopping the run. But is bringing Watt back going to have as big an impact on the overall quality of the team the same way Romo could if he were lining up under centre?
On the Cowboys’ side, it sure would be nice to have Romo there as a safety net in case of ‘sophomore jinx’ hitting Dak Prescott. Once Romo is willing to take a major pay cut for it to be feasible, and he deserves the chance to start somewhere.
As far as both superstars’ ailing backs are concerned, as a Cowboy fanatic, I will take the 28-year-old bad back, rather than the brittle 36-year-old bad back.
The Cowboys didn’t start winning and dominating in their dynasty days in the 90s until All Pro and future Hall of Fame inductee DE Charles Haley was added via trade.
Looking at this current Cowboys roster, offensively we are loaded, the new version of ‘The Triplets’ (Dak, Zeke and Dez) is intact, so now is the time to let history repeat it self defensively, make the trade for JJ Watt, and watch a new dynasty arise in ‘Big D’.