Whenever NFL owners and execs next get together for league meetings and hobnob in social settings once that is acceptable again, the Texans and the Rams contingents might want to keep their distance, anyway. A little space could go a long way with them, seeing as their indiscretions on the trade market are now having a negative impact on the contract extension market.
These two teams, foolishly, made blockbuster trades for young players – giving up a bounty of picks the likes of which are rarely seen in this league – without having anything close to an extension hashed out with the players involved. And now it has created a logjam for others teams looking to secure their own talent into the future, and coupled with the desperate situations these two franchises find themselves in, and a global pandemic, could create a prolonged cooling period in several critical markets.
The Texans traded two first-round picks and a second-round pick for Laremy Tunsil, a very good left tackle but not one considered in the top five in his position. They did so, recklessly and ridiculously, without having any sense of the young man's price point, heaping unchecked leverage to his camp. Then Tunsil went out and stayed healthy, played good football, and now the Texans find themselves completely splayed out at his mercy during contract talks.
Exactly as everyone around the league expected.
The Texans have to somehow find a way to keep Deshaun Watson healthy, as challenging as that has been for them, and Tunsil knows they can't risk letting him walk in the future after giving up so much for him. Add in the fact that Watson seems ticked, justifiably so, that DeAndre Hopkins was given away to the Cardinals, and you have the makings of one of the greatest self-inflicted roster-building wounds in recent NFL history.
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Meantime, Tunsil comes out and states the obvious – that he wants to be the highest-paid left tackle in the history of the game. And why the heck not? I'd do the same thing. And he's not that guy … but eventually the Texans are going to have to reward him as such. So what does that mean for a team like Baltimore, that absolutely has a top-five left tackle coming off an All-Pro year and entering his fifth-year option? It means, as Clubber Lang once said: Pain! Nothing good!
Tunsil is in no rush, which means Ronnie Stanley can't even really try to peg his market value. Why potentially sell yourself short when, who knows, maybe Tunsil eventually gets Bill O'Brien, who specializes in wasting his owner's money, to pay him $21M a year? Seems crazy, sure. But so was this trade in the first place. Same goes with the Bills, who would want to get something done with their emerging left tackle, Dion Dawkins, though patience must be a virtue for him now, too (the Bills and Ravens, in particular, could not be blamed for having some ire at the Rams and Texans).
The Rams took things a step further in their trade for Jalen Ramsey, a player who was willing to embellish an injury and go to all lengths possible to get out of Jacksonville in-season. The Rams took him in, giving up a haul of picks in the process, despite having an uphill climb to reach the playoffs, and they missed. Byron Jones started to push the cornerback market back up in free agency and every other defensive back is now waiting to see what Ramsey squeezes out of L.A.
This is a huge-market team about to open a $5 billion new stadium and Ramsey is arguably the second-best player on the team. They are desperately short on picks the next few years, like the Texans, and thus cannot let this player go at any cost. The Rams also have history of drastically overpaying their own players, going back to their days in St. Louis (only the Falcons give them a run for their money in that department), which is not lost on those close to Ramsey, either.
And so, until that situation is resolved, we get a backlog of other cornerback transactions. Why would Marlon Humphrey, emerging as an All Pro in Baltimore, consider doing a long-term deal until Ramsey does? And as for the Bills, you guessed it, they have a top-of-the-market corner they would like to retain for the long haul, too, but Tre'Davious White will be in that same holding pattern as Humphrey. The Saints' Marshawn Lattimore will be in the same boat as these guys, too.
Transactions like those the Rams and Texans executed have ramifications far beyond those teams. Good for the players involved. Let them get all they can. They should capitalize on the negligence of those on the other side of the bargaining table. That's simply business. Teams always look for every advantage and means to hold salaries down. That's how it works.
But in this case, the fellow front offices won't be looking askew at the agents and players involved. It will be straight at their peers, who have now opened up the floodgates in a way you rarely see. This wasn't like the Khalil Mack or DeForest Buckner blockbuster trades. This wasn't even like the Amari Cooper signing, where the Cowboys let the player hit the market a year and a half after acquiring him, knowing they had the means to pay him more than anyone else.
These are two players, at premium positions, both with one year left on their deals, who hold all of the cards. They don't need to do a new deal now, and the longer they wait and the better they do, the more money it is going to cost other teams. And the more cap space they will ultimately have to devote to their similar players, which invariably will eventually cost them to lose a few others they would like to keep.
In these already uncertain times, the Ramsey and Tunsil situations invariably create more uncertainty in the market for other corners and tackles. Whatever massive deals they receive, other teams can try to play it off like they're anomalies, but that argument won't get that far ... and this will cost them more money.