Stunner: Texans trade Brock Osweiler AND 2018 2nd-rd pick to CLEV for Browns to take Osweiler contract off Houston books, sources tell ESPN.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter)March 9, 2017
Last year, the Houston Texans signed Brock Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million contract with $37 million guaranteed. But this is the NFL where contracts don't mean anything. Today Schefter reported that Osweiler has been traded to the Cleveland Browns in what amounts to a contract dump.
First, let's take a quick note of something Schefter mentioned in his post announcing the deal: "Cleveland is not committed to keeping Osweiler and is likely to try to trade him, per sources. If so, it would turn into a basketball-like trade in which NBA teams routinely trade contracts to get them off their books; only it rarely, if ever, happens in the NFL."
Are you fucking kidding me? Did it really take the NFL, a freakin' hard salary cap league, this long to figure out the concept of dumping negative assets to free up existing liquidity? My god, no wonder former Moneyball main character Paul DePodesta came to this league. He's like a fox that found that not only is the henhouse unlocked, but it's run by a bunch of hens.
Looking at the terms of the deal, a pretty hilarious question immediately pops up: what, exactly, is Brock Osweiler worth? Here's the deal:
Cleveland gets: Osweiler (and his contract), a 2018 second-round pick, and a 2017 sixth-round pick
Houston gets: Cleveland's 2017 fourth-round pick
It doesn't take very complicated math to see Osweiler has negative value in this trade (that is, after all, what a contract dump is). But to make this clearer, just take Osweiler out of the equation for a second. Cover up his name with your hand or something if you have to. Cleveland is obviously getting way more (a 2nd and a 6th for a 4th). So Osweiler must be valued by both teams as having negative value.
How much negative value? That's a little tricky as everyone values draft picks slightly differently, but, for an approximation, let's use the draft value chart devised by Kevin Meers, which is an improvement over Jimmy Johnson's old, arbitrary chart from the 1990s because it uses fancy mathstuffs.
After balancing out the picks' values (I made the 2018 second-round pick the 49th overall—middle of the round—for our purposes here since we don't know what pick they'll have based on the Texans' 2017 performance), Osweiler is valued at somewhere around negative 104.5 points, or the same absolute value as the 89th overall pick (bottom of the third round). As a refresher, the Eagles gave up a fourth-round pick for Sam Bradford.
I want to be clear: Osweiler is not valued equivalent to a third-rounder, or roughly a Sam Bradford. He's valued equivalent to a negative third-rounder. So to make an equitable trade, a hypothetical team would have to trade both Bradford and Osweiler and get nothing in return to make it fair.
This is pretty remarkable. Just one year ago, Houston valued Osweiler enough to give him a $37 million guaranteed contract. Now, they traded him at a value equivalent to a negative-third round pick.
Cleveland will gladly take this, since they have more than $100 million in cap space and can easily afford Osweiler's $19 million cap hit for one year. Cleveland can either cut Osweiler at the end of the year with relatively little cap penalty (less than $10 million) or trade him. Who cares?
Either way, the Browns and Paul DePodesta won big time with this trade, profiting off Houston's stupid, bad, no-good contract. The Browns are smart now, somehow the vast majority of the NFL remains unspeakably, hilariously dumb.