The Houston Texans have completely imploded over the last year-plus, alienating franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson to the point where he's demanding a trade, decimating their roster and draft capital with idiotic personnel moves and getting called out by team legend Andre Johnson for allowing Jack Easterby to ruin the franchise.
While enough ink has been spilled to fill the Pacific Ocean writing about all those missteps and more, it's time to look ahead at how the Texans can salvage the situation. It may appear bleak on paper, but the reality rosier. Houston can put together a competitive roster. It's just going to take trade creativity and draft acumen to make it happen.
First, let's state the obvious. Deshaun Watson is gone, which means we need to find a new starting QB in Houston. Second, Easterby has gotta go too. So in this scenario, Easterby is gone, thus making Houston a more attractive destination, and Watson has been shipped out for trade assets. The two most likely landing spots for Watson are with the New York Jets or Miami Dolphins. That gives the Texans either the second or third pick, where they'll likely to select Zach Wilson or Justin Fields, plus another first-round pick this year and another next year.
Whether they draft Wilson or Fields, Houston will still need a veteran QB and can pick up the perfect one in Ryan Fitzpatrick. He did an excellent job mentoring Tua Tagovailoa and was likewise solid throwing the ball when given the chance. He's a hired gun at this point and likely just wants a chance to start one more time. The Texans offer him that and they pick up a young gun to build around. Quarterback position solved. Maybe.
With JJ Watt also saying goodbye to Houston at the end of this season, and the Texans fielding a lackluster unit around him in 2020, the Texans are in dire need of an overhaul on the defensive line. They'll save $17 million against the cap trading Watt, but that just takes them down to the cap number in 2021. That makes signing a pricey free agent unlikely. Instead, the Texans can fill their defensive line in the draft thanks to what they pick up in the Watson and Watt deals. Daviyon Nixon, Kwity Paye and Christian Barmore are being projected as late first-round picks and could be a good building block.
The Texans can save nearly $7 million in cap space by cutting RB David Johnson and, with a $9 million price tag, I would assume they'll do just that. To replace him, they could sign Leonard Fournette, Philip Lindsay or Le'Veon Bell on a one-year prove-it deal. All three are hoping for a big payday, or in Bell's case one last one, and will be motivated to produce. All three would be a cheap upgrade on Johnson.
The Texans also need upgrades at safety, cornerback, offensive line, tight end and wide receiver. Their best path is through the draft. Beyond Watson and Watt, they could also trade WR Brandin Cooks, even though he said he won't accept another trade, and Charles Omenihu to pick up additional draft assets. They would save cap space and add draft capital both times.
The Texans are a mess right now and fixing them will have to start with hiring a new head coach. Simultaneously, they must look at the roster and figure out areas to add and subtract. This year will be about rebuilding and next will be about competing. If they have a dozen solid months, they can fix a lot of the issues they created in the last dozen. At least that's a good first step in that process.