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February 13, 2009
Climb Aboard the Dream Weaver Train

by Keith Weiland

The Texans made a couple of highly anticipated moves this week, waiving running back Ahman Green and linebacker Morlon Greenwood, but when the announcement came, many believed the list had been missing one or two names. Defensive end Anthony Weaver and safety Will Demps both have sizeable base salary commitments in 2009, and neither player seems to be a lock to be named as a starter this season.

Weaver, the first major signing by the Texans after the hire of Gary Kubiak (one I loudly criticized three years ago), has two years remaining on a contract that is scheduled to pay him $3.5 million this year in base salary. Cutting him would accelerate the unamortized bonus money to hit this year’s salary cap to the tune of $5.4 million in dead money. Remember, that as 2009 is the last capped year for the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, there is no significance to June 1st cuts this year. In other words, teams are not able to forward future year’s dead money to next year’s cap, as 2010 is set to become an uncapped season without a new labor agreement.

While cutting Weaver would save just $800,000 on the salary cap this season, waving goodbye to Demps would actually save a bit more. Demps is entering the final year of a two-year contract that is set to pay him a base salary of $2.35 million this year. Cutting him will leave $500,000 in his wake, resulting in a cap savings of $1.85 million.

So why were both spared while Green and Greenwood are gone?

There are a number of reasons. First, and perhaps most importantly, the Texans have reasonable and more promising replacements for the departed pair in Steve Slaton and Xavier Adibi, respectively.

While the Texans have other ends on the roster (such as Tim Bulman), the position rotates often enough that the starters alone are not enough to get the job done. And at safety, there are plenty of question marks already, including the fact that several aren’t even under contract at the moment, namely Eugene Wilson, C.C. Brown, and Nick Ferguson.

Second, there is no urgency to let either go from a financial or salary cap perspective. With more than $30 million and 25-plus roster spots available (before any significant re-signings or taggings), there is no urgency to create additional space in the locker room or on the balance sheet. Plus, those salaries aren’t payable to the players until the season begins. There are no roster or workout bonuses scheduled for either of them.

What might be puzzling, however, at least in the case of Weaver, is why he isn’t asking to be cut. Surely, if fans can see the writing on the wall that his performance has not measured up to his salary, then it might behoove him to seek a new team in March, a time when other teams have more money to spend. It might also be easier for him to get up to speed with a new team at a time when camps and offseason workouts have yet to begin.

A couple thoughts, and generally, these are all optimistic ones. First, regaining health could play a major role for each player. Weaver struggled with injuries his first two years with the Texans, but his play actually showed some improvement down the stretch last season. Finally healthy, Weaver might have found a way to rebuild his trust with Kubiak.

A surprise Pro Bowl alternate after signing as a street free agent in 2007, Demps was hampered much of the 2008 season by hamstring injuries. He ultimately played in just nine games last year. Like Weaver, if Demps is able to prove that it was just the injuries slowing him down, perhaps a healthier version of him will prove to be well worth his contracted value this season.

Also worth mentioning, Weaver turns 29 this summer. He is still in the prime of his playing career, especially for a defensive lineman. If his last few seasons were truly limited in some way by either injury or scheme, then he is young enough to get back on track, and he has a new defensive coordinator and line coach to help him achieve the potential this year. At 30, Demps isn’t a young pup anymore, but the safety position values strength and experience, traits possessed by Demps.

Don't count on Weaver and Demps making the Week 1 roster, but there is a nice combination of optimism and opportunity for both to have some hope for better seasons in 2009. Perhaps they get there with a renegotiated salary (like Green did just before the season started last year) or maybe each earns their starting position through the offseason. Regardless, keeping both around a little bit longer just might work out the best for team and player alike.

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