(UPDATED) NFL Free Agency 2013: Your Texans Cheat Sheet (Cap Numbers, Restructure Candidates and More!)
Back in the day, when I used to have oodles and oodles of idle time on my hands during prime game-show watching hours (that's code for "back in college"), Wheel of Fortune was a staple of my game-show dance card. (For the record, Tic Tac Dough, Joker's Wild and The Price Is Right -- the Sopranos of game shows -- were also on the agenda.)
Illustration by Make Your Own Word Puzzle Mistakes were made.
While it was always comical to watch seemingly literate adults play glorified Hangman and the emotional swing of the occasional "BANKRUPT" spin brought many a seminal moment, I was always intrigued by the shopping spree at the end. (Kids, back in the day, when Wheel of Fortune was still awesome, you could spend your prize money on gifts right there in the studio!)
Would the winner splurge on one big gift, or would they spread it out trying to attain the value of multiple pretty good gifts? Riveting stuff.
NFL free agency starts Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m. local time, and the easiest thing to equate it to, for me, is old school Wheel of Fortune.
The currency is cap space (and, to a lesser extent, draft picks to fill in holes free agency didn't), and the prizes are players.
So with that in mind, let's take a gander at our Houston Texans as they begin this year's Wheel of Fortune style foray into free agency.
(SIDE BAR I: If you had to pick one Texans player to represent the team on Wheel of Fortune who would it be? I think for "maximizing winnings" purposes I'd take Chris Myers, for "entertainment" purposes I'd take Antonio Smith, and as a fail safe I'll put J.J. Watt as my wild card based on the fact that he is a superhero and destroys at everything.)
(SIDE BAR II: How intriguing would Gary Kubiak be on WOF? Any chance at all that he ever pushes the envelope and tries to keep spinning and picking off letters even after the answer to the puzzle becomes obvious? None, right? Would anyone be more petrified of the BANKRUPT slice of the wheel than Kubes? This needs to happen.)
As of this typing, here are the financial weapons the Texans have to go to battle with as they try and go shopping. My subjective assessment, they have the Wheel of Fortune bankroll-equivalent of a person who got in on the back end of a mostly finished puzzle and scooped like the last three letters, like this guy:
Salary Cap Space (as of 3/12/13): $10,342,693 **
(** UPDATED to reflect the release of Kevin Walter)
1st rd (27)
2nd rd (57)
3rd rd (89)
4th rd (121)
5th rd (153)
6th rd (185)
7th rd (217)
** NOTE: The Texans have yet to find out what additional compensatory picks they will receive for losing 2012 free agents like Mario Williams, Mike Brisiel, etc. Consensus seems to be they will get an additional third round pick (Williams), and a handful of sixth round picks. The compensatory picks cannot be traded.
PRIME RESTRUCTURE/PAY CUT CANDIDATES
If you have any desire to see the Texans a) re-sign any of their own primary free agents (mostly Glover Quin), b) improve in any substantial way via free agency, or c) take care of some of their 2014 retention early (oh hi, Brian Cushing...), then chances are there will need to be some restructuring of current Texan contracts, either by turning some 2013 salary into bonus money and thereby mitigating cap ramifications by spreading that money out over future years (players LOVE this!), or from literally reducing pay or outright cutting players (players HATE this!).
Keep in mind that all the "restructuring via bonus money" option does is push off cap obligations to future years. Every real dollar that goes out the door will be counted against the cap at some point, this year or in the future.
Here are your prime candidates to see some sort of amendment to their existing contract (in no particular order):
7. ANDRE JOHNSON
2013 Base Salary: $9,500,000
2013 Cap Figure: $14,652,918
Signed through: 2016 (4 years remaining)
It's practically inherent that the highest paid player on a team, particularly one with so many years remaining on his existing deal, is at least a candidate for discussion of restructuring. Andre has already redone his deal a couple times, and with four years left, could they open up four or five million dollars by turning a chunk of his 2013 salary into bonus money? Sure. But Dre's cap numbers (and base salary numbers) are so ridiculous in 2015 and 2016 (a time when his deal will almost need to inevitably be reworked with a straight pay cut), how much of a salary cap time bomb are you creating by going "credit card" on this particular player?
6. JOHNATHAN JOSEPH
2013 Base Salary: $7,500,000
2013 Cap Figure: $11,250,000
Signed Through: 2015 (3 years remaining)
Big money guy who's redone his deal before. Again, like Andre, the numbers will always make him a talking point on something like this.