“As of right now, there is no contingency plan,” Culley said, “from the standpoint of he is a Houston Texan, and basically that’s how we’re moving forward with it. We’re committed to him.”
Now the Texans have a plan. On Tuesday, Houston agreed to a one-year, incentive-laden deal worth up to $12.5 million with Tyrod Taylor, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
While this doesn’t mean the Texans have changed their mind about trading Watson, who has said he won’t play for them again, the move is the first step made by general manager Nick Caserio toward figuring out what life without their franchise quarterback could look like.
Before agreeing to sign Taylor, Watson was the only quarterback on the Texans’ roster. Last season’s backup, AJ McCarron, was a free agent and the team released third-string quarterback Josh McCown earlier in the month.
By adding Taylor, the Texans found a quarterback who can back up Watson, be the starting quarterback if Watson is traded or holds out and also has experience beginning the season as a starter before handing over the team to a rookie, potentially.
Signing a veteran quarterback to a one-year deal also highlights how Caserio has approached building the Texans’ roster through free agency in 2021. Even if Watson is under center next season, the Texans — who won four games when Watson had the best season of his career in 2020 — clearly have a long way to go before they are competing for a Super Bowl.
With this in mind, Caserio has focused on agreeing to terms with players on low-priced, one- or two-year deals. On Monday — the first day of legal tampering in the NFL — Houston agreed to contracts with 10 free agents. In the weeks before the legal tampering period began, Caserio agreed to two trades (sending Benardrick McKinney to the Miami Dolphins for Shaq Lawson and acquiring former Patriots tackle Marcus Cannon) and signing three street free agents to contracts.
It’s Caserio’s first offseason in charge of personnel for Houston but, even during this short sample size, we’re getting a clearer picture of how Caserio views roster building. He’s adding the way the Patriots have built their teams in the past — before this offseason — when Caserio was the director of player personnel in New England.
What Caserio did on Monday — building his roster by adding low-cost, low-risk players, until he can have a few drafts to find players, develop and re-sign them — is likely what this offseason will look like for Houston. This is a big change for Houston under former general manager and coach Bill O’Brien, who led the way to Houston spending a league-high $244 million in 2020.
• Reset Pats’ roster after spending spree
• Taylor offers backup plan if no Watson
• Mahomes enters digital world of NFTs
• How Saints cleared $111 million of cap space
• Brady, Bucs taking less to stay together
Since the start of the 2019 offseason — the past two seasons Caserio served as director of player personnel in New England — the Patriots were second in the NFL with 15 trades, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
While it’s doubtful Caserio would have gone in with huge contracts even if teams weren’t dealing with a depressed cap this season, the lack of financial flexibility didn’t help. The salary cap is expected to jump significantly in 2022 because of the NFL’s TV deals, and by signing players to short-term deals right now and not committing for years down the road, Caserio will have a chance to make a splash in free agency next offseason.
Of course, there are many unknowns on this roster, because it remains to be seen if Watson will be playing for the Texans in 2021. If the Texans trade Watson or he sits out, Houston will be going through a major rebuild that one offseason will not fix.