Are Dolphins fans talking about trading for the wrong Houston Texan?

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Kyle Crabbs
·3 min read
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We know, we know. You’re tired of reading speculation about Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson, who has requested a trade from the Texans and reportedly has Miami high on his list of potential destinations, will have to battle the Texans’ intentions this offseason if he is to force a trade. But while Dolphins fans debate the potential pros & cons of looking to move on from 2020 rookie Tua Tagovailoa in favor of Watson and the presumed cost involved in doing so, there’s a chance we may not be talking about the right Houston Texan on the trade market.

Because veteran defensive lineman J.J. Watt figures to be a much more easily acquired player than Watson in the first place — and Watt would give the Dolphins quite the added later to a pass rush group that thrived in blitz situations but wasn’t always the most proficient in winning one on ones.

Watt, who will be 32 years old this season and entering into the last year of his contract, would be immediately be the oldest Miami Dolphins player under contract if he was acquired — which would make him something of a departure from what Miami has attacked in the past. But his leadership, hunger for winning, run defending and pass rush prowess would be difficult to ignore for a young Dolphins’ defense.

The Texans’ salary cap situation is in a bad way, so moving Watt’s $17.5M base salary off the books is more motivation for a trade here to happen. And Miami, who owns top-10 salary cap space this offseason, is one of the teams who could shoulder the load there and potentially rework his finances into a contract extension to keep him in Miami for several years.

Health hasn’t always been on Watt’s side in recent years. He played 16 games in 2020 for just the second time since 2015; he missed 13 games in 2016, 11 games in 2017 and 8 games in 2019 throughout the course of a 9-figure contract signed with Houston. Why is this noteworthy? Because a 32-year old defensive end with a high salary and durability worries isn’t likely to command a high price on the trade market.

Look at Calais Campbell as a great example. The Jaguars traded him to Baltimore last offseason for a 5th-round pick. Campbell was 33 years old at the time of his respective trade, was responsible for 88 career sacks (Watt currently has 101) and was due the exact same cap figure ($17.5M) Watt is due this season. Baltimore and Campbell eventually settled on an extension to push his contract to 2-years and $27M; reducing Campbell’s 2020 cap hit by $7.5M in the process.

And Campbell’s cost may be a high-water mark for the trade market despite the parallels — he missed just 6 games since 2008 prior to his trade to Baltimore versus all of the time Watt has missed in the last 5 years.

So. Are we focused on a potential trade for the wrong Houston Texan right now?