While Texans owner Cal McNair has not explicitly signaled which way the team will proceed ahead of the trade deadline in two weeks, league sources said that some confidants within the organization, and some outside of it, have advised him to strongly consider trading some veteran talent this month.
McNair fired coach and general manager Bill O'Brien just a month into a season that already appears lost and the organization is clearly repivoting after O'Brien won a succession of power struggles for more control of the franchise. O'Brien's propensity for short-sighted trades has left the club crippled on multiple levels. They are bereft of top draft picks, without a first- or second-round selection in 2021, and also have looming salary cap issues as presently constructed and with the cap likely to be flat at best next season.
The Texans, who are 1-4, also have a handful of veteran players who rival executives have been scouting and assessing ahead of the deadline, and league sources indicated a number of teams are preparing to engage in trade talks with Houston in hopes of fortifying their rosters for a playoff push. In particular, general managers and personnel execs have pointed to pass rusher Whitney Mercilus, linebacker Zach Cunningham, corner Bradley Roby, tight end Darren Fells and receivers Brandin Cooks and/or Will Fuller as potential trade targets.
There has been chatter around the league about J.J. Watt as well ahead of the deadline, though that is seen as less likely if McNair chooses to launch a rebuild given his stature with ownership and Hall of Fame accomplishments. He also carries a heavy salary and injury concerns. It remains to be seen how McNair approaches one of the first critical junctures in his tenure, but there will certainly be opportunities to move players and some pressure internally and externally to embrace this opportunity to try to add assets that will benefit the next regime when it takes over in 2021.
"Cal knows that a fire sale is probably in order," said one league source who has been in contact with the owner. "There are people in that organization who would support it. But this is not where he thought he would be in October. This is a new horizon for him."
The Texans' situation could be aided by other teams not embracing a rebuild. The Falcons, who fired their coach and general manager last week, have sent public signals through team president and acting GM Rich McKay that they do not intend to trade off hefty contracts, for instance, and with an expanded playoff field and more teams harboring postseason hopes (or fantasies), the Texans could find themselves well positioned to auction off some veterans to kick start a draft-based relaunch. The trade deadline is two weeks from Tuesday.