With the trade deadline now just a few days away, and more teams than ever set to qualify for the postseason, talks are intensifying among executives around the league. And the Houston Texans are at the center of much of it.
The Texans are motivated to try to reshape their roster and accumulate draft picks, according to multiple sources who have been in contact with them, and have a bevy of veteran talent that appeal to contenders at various price points. They are seen within the industry as clear potential sellers -- much more so than other struggling teams like Atlanta or Cincinnati -- with contending teams anticipating them making multiple moves given their assortment of trade candidates and with them short on top draft picks in the aftermath of former coach/GM Bill O'Brien's trades.
"They could make five trades if they wanted to," said one executive who had been in contact with the Texans. "I'm not sure how far they'll go with it."
Dealing superstar defender JJ Watt remains unlikely, sources said, though many other front office executives believe the veteran would be very open to going to a contender at this stage of his career. However, he is a favorite of ownership and that fanbase, has a hefty salary ($17.5M next year) and is unlikely to command the kind of offers it would require for ownership to seriously consider moving him. Defensive end Whitney Mercilus remains the subject of trade talks as well, with numerous contending teams seeking to boost their pass rush by the deadline.
The Texans have four receivers who they would be willing to move, according to league sources: Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills. Fuller has drawn the most interest, while Cobb and Stills have contracts that many teams see as prohibitive. At this point, it would surprise rival general managers if the Texans do not move at least one receiver, while tight end Darren Fells is also drawing some interest and running back Duke Johnson is available as well.
The Falcons, who, like the Texans, recently fired their coach and general manager, seem unlikely to do much beyond moving defensive lineman Takk McKinley if they can. The Patriots have engaged in considerable discussions about both buying and selling, but are seeking good young players more so than draft picks, and outside of corner Stephone Gilmore, do not have much to offer than would really excite contending teams, league sources said. The Jets have received calls on linebacker Avery Williamson, tight end Chris Herndon and receiver Breshad Perriman (currently in concussion protocol), and are expected to continue reshaping that roster for the future and accumulating picks.