The 2020 NFL trade deadline came and went yesterday without much fuss, with only a handful of transactions involving lower-end rostered players being processed in the moments before Tuesday's deadline passed at 4 p.m. ET. After so much buzz about potential movers across plenty of fronts, what happened? Why didn't we get the monumental shifts that were rumored and whispered about throughout the weeks ahead of the deadline?
It depends on where you look.
One team that would have made the most sense to be active sellers at the deadline was the Houston Texans. Sitting at 1-6 on the season and currently facing about as insurmountable of a comeback as possible to find their way into relevancy at the end of the year, Houston should have been assertive in looking to trade talents like wide receiver Will Fuller and potentially even long-time star defensive end J.J. Watt ahead of this year's deadline. Houston is currently projected to be nearly $11.5M in the red against next year's salary cap before applying rollover cap from the 2020 season and even there the Texans are just $8.4M under this year's figure as things currently stand.
Perhaps the absence of an established general manager in Houston deterred them from moving on from several players and restocking the cupboard as best as possible after Bill O'Brien pillaged it before being relieved of his duties. But if Jack Easterby was looking to sell ownership on his ability to guide the team to success, he's missed an opportunity to do so at the deadline.
Their hottest asset? Fuller, a former first-round pick of the team who is enjoying some of his most productive football in a contract year in 2020 (hello, red flag!). Fuller was floated to primarily the Green Bay Packers as a potential piece, but compensation wasn't something that could be agreed upon—largely because the Texans reportedly wanted the Packers to cough up a second-round draft selection in order to get the job done. Unfortunately for Houston, the Packers had the leverage in this situation. They weren't the one paying Fuller's salary, nor are they the ones looking at the prospect of losing Fuller in free agency and not recouping much of anything other than a compensatory pick for his services. Given the Texans' lack of spending power, a compensatory pick for Fuller feels likely, but his next contract will determine much of how high that pick goes.
The Texans shouldn't expect more than a fourth-rounder in 2022 for their loss there. Because for as tantalizing as his deep speed is, Fuller has never logged 700-plus receiving yards in a season and notoriously battles durability issues; so his contract value may not be sky high in free agency.
So the deadline came and went, Fuller remains a Texan and Houston will probably not sniff anything close to what the Packers were reportedly offering: a fourth-round pick a year sooner than the compensatory pick will come. That's a miss for the Texans. And why? For what?
The Texans presumably entered into negotiations to sell on Fuller expecting to come out the other side as winners. But that's not why you sell at the trade deadline. You sell because you're losing and it is time to accept that the current situation is broken and drastic measures must be taken to improve it. A fourth-round pick from the Packers wasn't going to save the Texans. But the Texans will have made one(!!!) first-round pick between the years 2018-2022, tackle Tytus Howard.
This team desperately needs to get younger and needs to get cheaper. Selling Fuller would have accomplished that; but instead Houston will ride it out with him for another nine games before presumably losing him in free agency because they can't afford to keep him. And the Texans will have to then wait for any compensation they may get for their troubles for an additional 12 months, spurning an asset that could have been useful in a number of ways to further maximizing Deshaun Watson's winning window in the prime of his career.