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March 1, 2009
Time for Enterprising Speculation

by Keith Weiland

Lost amid all the activity the past few days might have been the signing of back-up tight end Joel Dreesen to a three-year contract for a total worth either $3.2 million or $3.6 million depending on the source. Given the low tender as a restricted free agent (RFA) on Thursday, the contract was signed during a hectic window of time for the team, initially leading this outsider to believe that the Texans front office has some good multi-taskers on staff.

The more I think about it though, the more I think there might be something underneath the surface. Advanced warning and full disclosure: I have nothing concrete here beyond Dreesen’s signing, just a peculiar set of circumstances.

Dreesen inked a deal for almost the same amount of dough and the exact number of years that many of you think is too much for another RFA, David Anderson. Maybe there’s less concern because Dreesen is one heartbeat away from being “TE1”, and that makes it okay. Fine, I can agree with that line of thinking.

But the timing is a little strange, as if the Texans caught wind that another team was looking to sign Dreesen to an offer sheet. Or was the urgency pursued as a safety valve because of outside interest in Owen Daniels?

Hmmm... Captain Picard? Speculation: Engage!

The scuttlebutt has been that the Bills had their eye on Daniels, at least before he was given the 1st + 3rd round RFA tender. Maybe they or another team re-positioned their sights on Dreesen?

Even without any more than what is here on the surface, I doubt Daniels would be too chagrined about Dreesen getting locked up before him. Dreesen's total contract value is less than a half million or so more than Daniels' high tender this year.

Still, just as David Anderson's offer sheet has shown, other teams in the league probably have taken notice that the Texans had a darn fine offense in 2008.

Story break

Some surprising news yesterday about the trade of Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel to the Chiefs involved the Broncos reportedly fielding offers for their quarterback, Jay Cutler, in an effort to acquire Cassel.

Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels was Cassel’s offensive coordinator last year, so a bromance must have been born. Let’s just hope the two of them stopped short at getting matching ankle tattoos.

So guess who has two thumbs and is pissed? Yep, that would be Jay Cutler.

As this is Denver South, it is tough to blame Texans fans for engaging in their own speculation about the team’s possible interest in Cutler. Of course, head coach Gary Kubiak does not have any firsthand familiarity in coaching Cutler, as the Broncos drafted Cutler after Kubiak had already arrived in Houston (and er… pledged his commitment to coaching up Mister Mittens. Blurgh.)

Given how invested, not just financially but emotionally, the Texans are in their own starting quarterback, Matt Schaub, I am having a hard time setting my mind adrift on this fantasy, which is saying something since I enjoy pondering the improbable.

But I’ll let you have your fun by saying this: If the Texans were going consider the notion of trading Schaub, there might be no better time than the present, at least from a salary cap perspective.

Schaub signed a six-year contract in 2007, but it was broken in half by a major $10 million option bonus due to him after the 2009 season.

Since that option bonus has not been executed yet (to my knowledge, at least), that means if Schaub were traded now, then the team would only need to accelerate the unamortized bonuses already committed to him, leaving that $10 million to whatever team received him, assuming the contract isn't re-worked.

Schaub's original signing bonus was $4.5 million, split six ways at $750k per year on the salary cap. With this year and three more remaining, the dead money on the deal if Schaub was traded would just be $4 million. Compare that to his $6.95 million base salary this year.

Of course, Cutler wouldn’t be free. He was a first round pick in 2006, and his rookie contract is formidable. And would it be fair to add here that Cutler has Type I diabetes? I guess so, though very much worth mentioning is he is reportedly adjusting to the chronic condition rather well.

Okay, money aside, giving up Schaub plus a high draft pick is too much compensation for me to strike a deal. I'm just not ready to sell Schaub short. Yes, he's been hurt, but he has suffered illegal hits in getting hurt.

Schaub came back after his injury and played better than ever. In those last four games, he posted a 95.2 QB rating to go with his big wins against the Packers and Titans. He is reaching that magical point in the Kubiak offense where QBs turn the corner and take off.

So I’m sorry, Cutler. I will not ask Picard to make it so. Nor will I ask Picard for further input, either.

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