J.J. Watt is no longer a Houston Texan because there were no plans in Houston for him to remain with the franchise for the 2021 season. The Texans "did right" by Watt by mutually agreeing to part ways now, in mid-February, when it was understood he was never playing for Houston at $17.5 million next season.
But by releasing Watt outright and not entertaining trade offers for the once-dominant pass rusher, the Texans did not do what was in the best interest of the Texans. Which is exactly what they're trying to claim they're doing by foolishly hanging on to Deshaun Watson when he's made it clear he won't play for the franchise again.
Look, it's simple: the Texans probably could have found a trade partner that would have given them a second- or third-round pick for Watt and his contract. It may have even been a trade partner that Watt would have agreed to. And no, that pick is not likely to turn into a player that will rescue the franchise from the doldrums of the NFL.
Letting Watt walk helps Houston with a much-needed PR win, but it doesn't help the Texans on the field.
Bill O'Brien is gone and yet Houston is still missing the part where both sides can actually win in a transaction. DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona for a second-round pick? Laremy Tunsil as the highest-paid offensive lineman? Now Watt leaves and the Texans get nothing, and if they wait past the start of the new league year, they'll arguably get less for Watson in a trade than they would today.
Meanwhile, if GM Nick Caserio would pick up the phone, he'd realize what's in the best interest of the Texans is to trade Watson. He's not playing for Houston again, and there's no kumbaya with new head coach David Culley and [insert today's title here] Jack Easterby that's going to change that.
"And, you know, we have zero interest in trading the player," Caserio said last month, referring to Watson. "We have a great plan, a great vision for him and for this team and his role on our team. We look forward to the opportunity to spend more time with him here this spring."
Team owner Cal McNair echoed those same sentiments today to media, though he remembered to call Watson by his name. The Texans have been digging their heels in on this, and they'll continue to do so.
I wrote last month how it'd be in the best interest of all parties to come together to work on a Watson trade since Watson won't be playing there anymore. Houston has a high-value, non-performing asset, and NFL teams are tripping over themselves to figure out what they have to surrender to get him.
The Panthers, for example, were so aggressive in pursuing Matt Stafford a couple of weeks ago because they did not believe Houston would part with Watson within a reasonable amount of time. Not wanting to be stuck at the dance without a date, Carolina offered an attractive trade package to Detroit for Stafford that just couldn't compare with the Rams.
The dust has settled around the league post-Stafford trade despite what the Eagles wanted everyone to believe last week. It seems teams understand Watson is the big domino, and there's no reason to act out of desperation at the quarterback position with more than four weeks until the start of free agency.
If we see teams make major deals at QB in the next few weeks, it will continue to be a signal that the Texans aren't playing ball with trade offers.
And if that's the case — that there's a historic haul waiting to be exchanged for their elite quarterback who won't play there and the Texans don't or won't do it — then they aren't doing what's in the best interest of the franchise. Again.