September 25, 2011; New Orleans, LA, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (8) prior to kickoff of a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

You Heard It Here First: Matt Schaub Will Leave Houston In 2013

This is You Heard It Here First – where thinking outside the box and predicting the future is a social pastime.

This week I decided it was time to move on to a topic I alluded to during the draft process – the contract status of Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub.

One of the bigger free agent topics next offseason is guaranteed to be the free agent status of Schaub whose current contract expires at the end of this season. At that point, Schaub would have been in the NFL for 9 seasons but never been a free agent having been acquired by Houston from the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 and immediately signing the contract that he is currently on.

When Schaub originally signed with Houston, he received a $48 million deal for six years that included a $7 million signing bonus and a $10 million option partway through. Despite some of the injuries he has sustained, it can be argued that Schaub has easily outplayed this contract and should be able to get a contract over $10 million per year in free agency. Herein lies the problem.

The Houston Texans are in a salary cap bind which is only going to get worse as time goes on. Recently the club has given very big deals to wide receiver Andre Johnson – 7 years, $62.7 million, expires 2016 – running back Arian Foster – 5 years, $43.5 million, expires 2016 – Johnathan Joseph – 5 years, $48.75 million, expires 2015 – and Chris Myers – 4 years, $25 million, expires 2015. All of these big deals forced the club to jettison former first round pick and defensive stud Mario Williams at the end of his rookie contract which is unheard of even in modern salary cap times.

There’s more bad news to come for this relationship. The Texans have a number of very talented players becoming free agents in 2013 and 2014 whose status must be taken into account with the team up against the cap. In 2013 there’s some major players on the offensive line to re-sign with starting offensive tackles Duane Brown and Rashad Butler both becoming free agents. The team already lost star right tackle Eric Winston to Kansas City this past offseason so getting both offensive tackles back must be a priority. Starting right guard Antoine Caldwell is also due for free agency in 2012 although he may be allowed to leave after the team drafted University of Miami (OH) guard Brandon Brooks in the third round this year.

Still looking at 2013, the defensive pack also has a pair of starters who will get good money in defensive tackle Shaun Cody and linebacker Connor Barwin. It is possible Barwin may not remain given the drafting of Whitney Marcilus in the first round but with Mario Williams now gone Barwin is likely to be retained if possible.

The big hit will come in 2014 with two very big contracts due to be sorted – defensive end Antonio Smith and inside linebacker Brian Cushing. Smith got big money when he signed his current contract in 2009 for $35.5 million with $12.5 million of that guaranteed. His new contract could be up to the $40 million range by now. The big hit is going to come from Cushing’s contract as until now he has been paid rookie money and now is due for a massive payrise. His $14 million deal he signed as a rookie will likely jump to a deal similar to what the Texans will need to pay Smith and this is going to be a big drain on Houston’s cap.

So where does this leave Schaub?

Unfortunately for both Houston and for Schaub himself – he has indicated he’d like to stay if possible – these numbers likely mean that Schaub will be gone from the Houston Texans come the 2013 season. When it comes down to it, Schaub has had plenty of injury issues which will make him a risk for the future. The injury he is currently rehabbing – a lisfranc fracture in his foot – is one that commonly produces more problems and can only be managed rather than fully healed.

You look at his likely cap number – likely to be at least $10 million – and when you consider the other contracts Houston has to dish out this could be put to better use elsewhere. Then you look at the offensive strategy Houston has engaged in lately. This is a running team that will live and die by it’s running game – speaking of which, #2 running back Ben Tate is another due to become a free agent in 2014 and will be pursued – and because of this the quarterback position doesn’t need an elite player but rather just needs a professional player. This team is one who could get by with a veteran quarterback similar to Kyle Orton, Jason Campbell etc.

The final factor in this equation is perhaps most crucial of all – the interest from other teams in Schaub is likely to be exceptional. There are a number of teams out there that are still looking for a quarterback and there likely will be a few more by the end of this season with team like Buffalo, San Francisco, Kansas City and Tampa Bay to name a few having suspect quarterbacks. If Schaub were to hit the market, he will definitely be overvalued. It would not surprise me in the slightest to see a bidding war that approaches $13-15 million per year. The temptation of this could also be a factor in Schaub’s departure.

Should the 2013 season roll around and Matt Schaub isn’t on the Houston Texans, I won’t be surprised and now neither will you because You Heard It Here First.

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Tags: Andre Johnson Antoine Caldwell Antonio Smith Arian Foster Brandon Brooks Brian Cushing Chris Myers Connor Barwin Duane Brown Houston Texans Johnathan Joseph Matt Schaub Rashad Butler Shaun Cody Whitney Mercilus You Heard It Here First

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