One year after making one of the biggest free-agent blunders this side of Redskins Park, the Houston Texans made one of the boldest gambits the NFL has ever seen, dumping its $72 million, six-foot-7 quarterbacking albatross to clear up cap space for a possible run at Texas' favorite adopted son, Tony Romo. The move was everything the original signing wasn't: brilliant, out-of-the-box, forward-thinking and resulting in not having Brock Osweiler. Victories all around.
It's a move unlike any the NFL has ever seen - a high-salary trade dump, not unlike what NBA teams to free up cap space by trading expiring contracts. Houston cleared $10 million by getting rid of Osweiler and only had to pay a second-round pick for the privilege. If that seems like a steep cost, it is: But getting out from under that contract, with the ability to get a win-now quarterback on a team on a team that plays in a bad division (one so bad they won it with Osweiler and won a playoff game) and could easily turn into a Super Bowl contender is worth every penny.
Sure, mock Houston for the original Osweiler signing. It's well deserved. They gave $37 million guaranteed to a guy they never met based off seven mediocre starts on a team that had a defense so good it could have made the AFC championship with Tim Tebow. But what's done is done. Rather than continuing to ride with Osweiler or making him the most expensive backup in the game, all the while turning every quarterbacking move into instant NFL drama, Houston cut their losses. They turned one of the worst free-agent contracts in history to a one-year blip. The damage was minimized.
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Cleveland comes off well too. The move seems like a no brainer - they basically bought a second-round pick for $16 million with cap space that was in abundance. Reports say they'll cut Osweiler, who will get his money, become a free agent and then be able to play on the cheap - most likely going from the most overpaid quarterback in the league to a fine value for whichever team gets him. (This assumes NFL rules allow this in spite of its "no cash for draft picks" rule.)
To be fair, Cleveland was nothing more than beneficiaries of Houston's reckless spending, a convenient trading partner that had equally high levels of cap room and desperation. But just because it seems like an easy call, no decision ever is: This took guts, ownership backing and foresight. Still, with increased league revenues in their coffers and a chunk of money that went unspent last year, it works. Still, this is not a new day for the Browns.
If $16 million means nothing to Cleveland, then why did the Browns let Terrelle Pryor, the breakout receiving star who repeatedly stated his desire to remain with the franchise, walk into unrestricted free agency? They could have given Pryor their 2017 franchise tag, a designation that will pay wideouts just over $15 million. So don't think of this "trade" as $16 million for a second-round pick, think of it as Cleveland valuing a second-round pick more than they did a receiver poised to become one of the great players in the game. Browns are gonna Browns, y'all.
Houston isn't out of the woods yet either. Assuming this was the first move in a play for Romo, there's still the little matter of Tony being on the Cowboys and there being another potential suitor in Denver. It could all still backfire. But, hey, those who risk cannot win. And those who start Brock Osweiler don't either.