Upset over the way the organization has operated in recent years, Watson has asked the Texans to trade him and has had very little contact with the organization since the season ended. The conversation with Culley is believed to have been the first between the two. Culley said in his introductory news conference that he expected Watson to be on the team in 2021.
But according to the sources, Watson’s message to Culley in Friday’s meeting was that nothing has changed from his end and he still would like to be traded. So far, the Texans have told interested teams that they don’t intend to trade Watson, who just last summer signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension that runs through 2025.
Trading Watson would cost the Texans $21.6 million in dead money against this year’s salary cap — a significant hit, since his cap number if he’s on the team is just $15.94 million.
Any team acquiring the young superstar would get a tremendous bargain in 2021, as Watson is scheduled to earn just $10.54 million in salary this year before that number jumps to $35 million in 2022, $37 million in 2023 and $32 million each in 2024 and 2025.
If the Texans choose not to trade Watson, he could opt not to report to mandatory team activities or training camp, but at a cost. Houston can fine Watson $95,877 for missing minicamp and can fine him $50,000 per day for each day of training camp missed plus one week’s salary — $620,000 — for each preseason game missed. In the unlikely scenario that Watson chooses to retire, the Texans can collect $21.6 million.
Watson’s trade request came after he was reportedly unhappy with the process used by the team to hire new general manager Nick Caserio in early January.
Watson set career highs in the 2020 season in passing yards, touchdowns and completion percentage. He also threw a career-low seven interceptions. His 33 touchdowns and 4,823 passing yards were single-season franchise records.
He is the NFL’s career leader in completion percentage ahead of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. In 2020, Watson became just the 11th player in NFL history to complete at least 70% of his passes in a single season.
ESPN’s Sarah Barshop contributed to this report.