On March 11th, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson cleared a very big hurdle as he seeks to get back on an NFL field. A grand jury elected to not indict Watson of sexual misconduct criminal charges stemming from nine complaints. Watson is still facing civil lawsuits from 22 women who have accused him of various sexual misconduct and sexual assault.

Additionally, the NFL is investigating Watson for violations of its personal conduct policy in connection with the civil and criminal complaints. The criminal charges represented the largest hurdle for Watson to return to action. Now that they have concluded, it is expected there will be renewed interest in the signal-caller in his quest to be traded from Houston.

Understanding what a team may be getting in Watson is a complicated and intricate matter. Bucs Twitter is currently bursting with debates over whether the young quarterback is a possibility for a team looking for the heir apparent to Tom Brady. While there are several factors to consider, most notably whether Tampa Bay can afford his contract.

The answer to that question is most certainly yes, they can afford it. Watson is set to enter year one of a four-year extension he signed prior to 2020. His salary cap hits over these four years are as follows:

2022 $40.4 million

2023 $42.4 million

2024 $37.4 million

2025 $32.0 million

However, these figures do not represent the cap hit to the team that may acquire him via trade. Those cap hits include a total of $21.2 million in signing bonus. These cap charges will remain with Houston in the event of a trade. So for an acquiring team Watson’s cap charges will look like this:

2022 $35.0 million

2023 $37.0 million

2024 $32.0 million

2025 $32.0 million

Moves To Fit Watson Under The Cap

“But this is still a very large cap hit and last I heard the Bucs were over the salary cap!”

Both of these statements are true! But that does not mean they can’t afford to take on Watson’s contract. It will require two things, but it is possible.

The first and easiest step for the Bucs to become cap-compliant while adding Watson to the roster is by restructuring his contract. With a simple max restructure, the team can reduce Watson’s base salary from the $35 million he is owed this season to the $1.035 million minimum salary for a 6th-year player and convert the $33.965 million reduction to a restructure bonus that will be prorated over the four years left on his deal. This move would change his cap charges to the following:

2022 $9,526,250

2023 $45,491,250

2024 $40,491,250

2025 $40,491,250

All of a sudden, that 2022 cap charge does not look like a significant barrier to acquiring Watson. Now, how can the bucs fit this $9.5 million charge under the cap? That will come down to restructuring the contracts of veteran players already on their roster.

Bucs WR Mike Evans

Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

As of this writing Tampa Bay sits $10,848,779 over the salary cap per OverTheCap.com. Adding Watson’s potentially reduced number would bring that number up to $20,375,029. Tom Brady’s retirement, which will be processed on June 2nd, will reduce that overage by $12,270,588. Then the team would most likely look to Mike Evans, Shaq Barrett, Donovan Smith and Vita Vea for some combination of simple restructures or extensions to reduce their 2022 cap hit. Combined, these four players could account for up to $39,434,335 in 2022 cap savings.

Are you keeping up with the math? If the Bucs executed all of these moves, they are now sitting $31,329,894 under the cap. The team could also restructure the contracts of Lavonte David and Cameron Brate. And don’t forget, coming to terms with Chris Godwin on a long-term contract that would reduce his 2022 cap hit from its current $19.18 million position.

Long-Term Impact On Bucs Cap

Bucs NT Vita Vea

Bucs NT Vita Vea – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

All of these moves do come with long-term ramifications. In restructuring the contracts of Evans, Barrett, Smith and Vea, the team defers the accounting of those numbers to later years. Also, the charges become guaranteed. But as Pewter Report’s own JC Allen pointed out on Twitter earlier today, the team has very few financial commitments past the year 2023. Plus, the cap will go up exponentially the next two years.

The proposition of trading for Deshaun Watson will certainly carry with it many possible barriers. Obstacles such as trade cost, public relations and ethical questions, one thing that will not prevent the Bucs from pulling the trigger will be whether they can afford his contract.

*Author’s note–This piece will touch on an individual who has been accused of sexual assault and sexual misconduct. It is not my intention to cast judgment or to insinuate that I condone the actions this person has been accused of. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault I encourage you to reach out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673*

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About the Author: Joshua Queipo

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chefboho
chefboho
3 months ago

Either go all in to get Watson or don’t sign a QB and let Trask roll out there. Simple as that for me. No other QB would fit on this systems. No all day to Jimmy G and definitely a hard pass on Teddy B. They bring nothing to this offense.

Jdgamble31
Jdgamble31
Reply to  chefboho
3 months ago

I agree with that.

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
Reply to  chefboho
3 months ago

I’m of the same mind, although I’d also like to resign Gabbert cheaply to compete with Trask. I don’t just want to hand the kid the job, and although unlikely, I do think that due to his physical skillset, his familiarity with this offense, and his comfort level with our receivers, Gabbert has some potential upside. So yea, for me, it’s either (a) get Watson, or (b) sign a very cheap vet to compete with Trask for the starting job, and accept that either the winner of that surprises us and steps up, or we go into 2023 in a… Read more »

Jdgamble31
Jdgamble31
3 months ago

Watson is just so dynamic. Good luck finding someone with his talent. If we don’t make this happen, we’re destined for QB purgatory. I had hopes for Trask, but the Bucs staff must see/know more than we know. You guys ready to get on the Blaine Train? Endorse Fitzy battle plans? Trade for Baker ?? IMO, to hell with all that!
Let’s go get an elite dynamic young QB (even with his baggage/likely suspension). This isn’t a 2022 play, it’s a 2023-2030 play. GO BUCS !!

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Jdgamble31
3 months ago

Obviously Bucs leadership knows more than we do about Trask, but 100% of their public statements to date have been full of superlatives about him, nothing negative at all. Remember, this is the media and Twitter world that is all aflutter over Watson – the Bucs are totally mum to date about acquiring him. Does that mean the Bucs won’t try to work a deal? No. Nobody in this business tips their hand when there is nothing to gain from it. Personally, I would prefer to see the Bucs go to training camp with Gabbert and Trask, and another one… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Naplesfan
Jdgamble31
Jdgamble31
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 months ago

Yea so we disagree and that’s fine. My perspective is we as a franchise have been looking for a franchise QB for the entirety of our franchises existence. We just got a brief taste of it for 2 short years. I for one would not like to go back to the years of Brian Griese, Jeff Garcia , Josh freeman etc. bc that’s who I think gabbert , Trask , and name the FA QB of your choice. Mediocre at best. So we have a elite level talent staring us in the face , I say go get em. Yes… Read more »

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
Reply to  Jdgamble31
3 months ago

With the clearing up of any criminal legal issues, I’m with you. You outbid everyone else, period. It will hurt for a while for sure, but it’s a MUCH better path to have to get by without a couple years of high draft picks and having the QB position brilliantly solved for the next decade or more than it is to be searching for the QB who can make any of it work at all. That guy could come next year, or we might not find him for another 20. Never know. Assuming he’s right around the corner or something,… Read more »

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 months ago

I think you should put a little more effort into reading between the lines of what the team has said, and focusing closely on what it HASN’T said. The fact that we’ve talked about having Blaine battle for the starting job, Bucs sources were clear earlier this offseason about the plan for Blaine to also sit 2022 just as he did 2021 (before very recently changing their tune to say that he’ll have a chance to compete for the starting gig), and that every source on the planet is talking about how heavily we’re in on Watson, says plenty IMO.… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  toofamiliar17
3 months ago

Saying nothing bad and everything good about Trask is supposed to give us ample doubts? That’s nonsense. Trask and the Bucs comments about him have done nothing to create actual doubt, other than guys like you making stuff up in your head and repeating what the Trask haters here say. There is nothing to create any doubt other than the usual doubt about any quarterback who has yet to play a snap in the NFL in a game that counts. Which is every quarterback that ever played. A helluva lot of high draft pick quarterbacks whom people should have had… Read more »

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 months ago

As for Watson himself – the off-field stuff is certainly troubling, but it seems that the reality that he’ll face no criminal charges on any of this stuff, much less actual criminal punishment, is a clear indicator that any punishments he may face will likely be relatively minor. It’s obvious from reports of the many teams interested in acquiring him that the league as a whole thinks so anyways. Fans want to win. When we spent well more than a decade being among the bottom dwellers of the league, guess what – we lost fans, attendance struggled, and nobody watched… Read more »

scubog
scubog
Reply to  toofamiliar17
3 months ago

You’re right about that Too. I sure don’t want to be sitting in the stands surrounded by the visiting team’s fans and my only retort if we’re getting our ass whipped on the field is, “Oh yeah, well our players are nicer than yours.”

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  scubog
3 months ago

You mean Bucs fans seeing our team get its ass whupped when we mortgaged our team’s future by giving away first and second round draft picks for two years, as the Bucs did in 2002 to get Gruden, and then saw a whole buncha losing after that for the next several years until they were able to start drafting again three years later?

Last edited 3 months ago by Naplesfan
scubog
scubog
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 months ago

It was also because of poor drafting and limited free agency. Things are different now.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  toofamiliar17
3 months ago

The Bucs are not going to suddenly turn bad because we have an inexperienced quarterback, if that is how it goes this season. Quality coaches know how to build confidence in a quarterback with a good offensive line, an effective run game, quality receivers, and a game plan that does not put everything on the shoulders of the quarterback. We have a Super Bowl caliber team that lost its quarterback, just as New England lost the same quarterback two years earlier, and then messed around with a mediocre veteran for a season, then got an inexperienced rookie qb last season… Read more »

fredster
fredster
3 months ago

I agree with other comments here wholeheartedly that Watson is the only QB worth going after. Jimmy G, Teddy, etc would not be much of any upgrade over Gabbert and I don’t want to see Gabby. He would be an int. machine I bet. None of the other free agent QBs is a good pocket passer or an upgrade over what we have imo it’s that simple. However I’m on the fence though. Watson seems to have some screws loose or something. Also would require lots draft picks that would hamper us in future. I’d love to see Bucs compete… Read more »

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
Reply to  fredster
3 months ago

I get the hangup over the draft picks, and if we end up having to go that route to find our next good QB, so be it. But come on, man. You say this like it’s just so easy to find an elite QB in the draft. We’ve tried time and time again. And if we try again and fail, over and over again, as we did in the many years before Brady, then we could spend the next decade or more struggling the way this franchise always has outside of a very few brief runs of limited success. I… Read more »

Charlie
Charlie
3 months ago

Great work Josh, great piece! Yeah, you gotta go get em if you’re Jason Licht and Bruce Ariane. Put your best foot forward with a proposal for Watson to wave the no trade clause. Go Bucs!

Buc76
Buc76
3 months ago

Have to get him. Otherwise we have no shot. Trask is another glennon and gabbert is washed up. With Watson we can win the division for years and make runs at the super bowl. Free agents will want to come here. Give up the whole draft if you have to. Worked for the rams it can work for us.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Buc76
3 months ago

Really? Pray tell us where you got your crystal ball, and developed your expert opinion that is 100% at odds with what the Bucs GM and coaches have been saying since TB-12’s retirement.

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 months ago

lol what do you expect the coaches and front office people OF THE TEAM to say?? That we’re screwed and just hoping we can win 6 games next year? Sheesh, you’re so absurdly silly sometimes.

Last edited 3 months ago by toofamiliar17
Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  toofamiliar17
3 months ago

LOL – if they think Trask sucks, they’d bury him dude. They won’t say he’s great if they think he sucks. What planet do you live on?

MWD
MWD
3 months ago

I think we should do whatever we have to do to get Watson- this is a “win now” league and we have to keep this ship sailing! Watson brings someone to the table who’s still young, is mobile out the packet, he can throw and surrounding him with more talent at the skill player position will set him up for success. Couple that with an NFC South that is still ours to lose and at minimum we still win the division and get into the post season.

ScottC543
ScottC543
3 months ago

Jason Licht can make this happen.

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
3 months ago

Something I wrote on this subject elsewhere before we restructured Vea’s deal: Example of what we do to fix our cap to acquire Watson. We’re currently $11M over. Designate Brady post June 1 retirement, that saves $12M. Extend Mike Evans for two additional years (his age 31 and 32 seasons) at $19M per year for those seasons, add a void year on, pay him $1M in base for 2022 with a $20M signing bonus, that lowers his 2022 cap hit from $20.5M to $10.2M, saving $10.3M. Convert $12M of Shaq’s salary to a bonus, lowering his 2022 hit by $9M.… Read more »

scubog
scubog
3 months ago

Before the advent of free agency it would likely have been suicide for a team to give up premium Draft picks. That’s just not the case in these “modern” times when drafting errors can be corrected by wisely signing players who have already proven themselves. Just look at these teams that year after year are looking for that QB savior in the Draft knowing that, even in the best scenario, there will be growing pains for a year or two. For every Mahomes there are Goff, Wentz, Mariotta and even our own Gabbert. There are so many examples of QB’s… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  scubog
3 months ago

Premium draft picks are the reason the Bucs attracted Tom Brady in the first place, and allowed him to win a Super Bowl his first year on the team, and not have to suffer through a rebuild of a bad or mediocre team. He came because of guys like Evans, Godwin, and many others, and he in turn attracted additional free agents to the Bucs. Teams like Seattle and Green Bay found out what it’s like to have an extremely well paid and talented quarterback but had to economize on the rest of the team’s roster in order to afford… Read more »

scubog
scubog
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 months ago

Key words “quality drafting”. With free agency, teams can make up for their errors.