Barry Warner: Baseball's back, and a look at the Rockets and NFL

Justin Verlander heads the best rotation in baseball. Elsa/Getty Images

Baseball is back

Excited today as Astros pitchers and catchers report. Justin Verlander spent the weekend at Pebble Beach, as the partner of Jim Crane. The righty heads the best rotation in the Majors.  This year’s Astro team is the favorite to once again go to the World Series.

What a far cry from the 100-plus loss teams of the past.

Agents like Steve Boras and AJ Hinch’s former college teammate, Brodie Van Wagenen, co-head of powerful agency CAA's baseball group, are outraged at the lack of free agent movement.

The Players Association and MLB negotiated the latest Basic Agreement.  Like the NFLPA they were more concerned with the quality of life, like less two-a-days, less training camp in shoulder pads, than present days.

Yu Darvish got $126 million from Cubs in six-year deal. Chump change to previous of season contracts for top pitchers.

Want to look how dumb owners have been in the past? Check out former Yankee star Robinson Cano. Four years into his ten year and $240 million dollar deal he has yet to hit over .300.

All you need to know about the current impasse is Royals Eric Hosmer is looking for an 8 or 9-year deal.   And former Astro JD Martinez is acting like he is insulted by not getting five years, $125 million from the Red Sox as a DH.

On what planet, Mars, Venus or Uranus?

Owners and GM’s finally have awakened and come to their senses.  It’s not collusion, but rather good business in their industry.

Houston Sports Awards

Props to Patti Smith and the folks at the Houston Sports Authority for their first dinner honoring local stars. The star-studded event had the three-great number 34’s, Nolan Ryan, The Dream and Earl Campbell.

Rockets make shrewd moves

Clint Capella had career high 25 rebounds in the win over Denver.  Much of his success during the last two years goes to John Lucas.  The former No. 1 pick of the NBA draft is in charge of player development.

Dr. MIT, Rockets GM Daryl Morey, proved why he is among the shrewdest in all of pro sports.

For the first time in 11 years he sits out the trade deadline.  Then follows with the signing of vet Joe Johnson, 36, who is averaging 7.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. He is a seven-time All-Star and has played 16 seasons in the NBA. The Rockets have been after him for years, but there was never enough cap space for Morey the Magician to make it happen.

He followed that by signing 30-year-old Brandon Wright after a buyout deal by the Grizzlies.  The Rockets will be in Minnesota going for their ninth win in a row against Jimmy Butler and the Wolves.

The NBA trading deadline was like a roller coaster.  The defacto GM of the Cavs, Le Bron James got several young guys to play with. Isiah Thomas, who never seemed to recover from hip surgery, is now a Laker.

Things got worse for the once proud Knicks, when they lost their star Kristaps Porzingis. The 7-3 star from Latvia has thrived as the team’s main man with the departure of Carmelo Anthony, averaging 22.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and a league-leading 2.4 blocks per game this season.

Some thoughts on the NFL

Which Texans would start for the Eagles?

The only offensive player would be De Andre Hopkins.

On defense, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Bernardrick McKinney and after next year linebacker Zach Cunningham will join that list.

Never met Jermaine Every, who writes an NFL column here.  But the top priority in a thin free agent market is the offensive line. Brian Gaine needs to trade up and get an experienced offensive tackle, then fill in the bottom rounds.  Andrew Norwell will be too expensive.  Do not be shocked if the Texans re-sign Xavier Su-a Filo.

Memo to Fred Faour: do NOT trade JD Clowney.  But package Will Fuller in a deal.

Bad move, Josh

Josh McDaniel’s classless pulling out of Colts gig hurt more than just his reputation.

I understand it was a family decision but last-minute decisions from man who has made so many rights calls for the Patriots... does that carry over to making the correct call for other families he had hired? Controversial Colts owner Jim Irsay agreed to pay three assistant coaches the Mc Daniels wanted, but never officially signed contracts.

Classy move.



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Let's make a deal. Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The NFL trade deadline is less than a week away, and the Houston Texans have a significant decision to make regarding their franchise star, J.J. Watt. The Texans are 1-6 through the first seven games of the season, and the next few years of the franchise seem a bit bleak.

No player or staff member has encapsulated Houston's frustration quite like Watt. Excluding the Texans' victory over the Jaguars, the future Hall of Famer has looked miserable in every post-game press conference. Each week, it's the constant look of despair. And in hindsight, closing the chapter on Watt's career in Houston seems to be best for both parties.

At 31-years-old, the All-Pro defensive tackle should be spending the twilight of his career competing for Super Bowls — not playing for a team who is clearly about to hit the reset button at the conclusion of this season.

By departing from Watt, it would allow the Texans to get a jumpstart on their rebuilding project — one that has the potential to bring back quality draft picks, a young prospect, and clear close to $20 million in cap space.

If they decide not to move on from Watt, the Texans risk putting themselves in a situation where they may miss out on obtaining higher draft picks and strapped for cash heading into the 2021 free agency market. And with one year left on his contract following 2020, the Texans also risk losing leverage in a potential deal if forced into trading Watt come next season.

At this stage of his career, the Texans may not receive a haul for Watt's services but could maximize his trade value by dealing him to a championship-contending team. A move that would give Watt the best chances of adding a championship title to his luxurious resume in return.

With the future of the franchise in mind, here are three potential trade ideas that would be best if the Texans are truly considering moving on from Watt.

Watt returns home to Wisconsin and joins the Packers

Texans receive: 2021 first-round pick and LB Kamal Martin

Packer receive: J.J. Watt

The Green Bay Packers are one of a handful of teams who has a realistic chance to stamp their ticket to Super Bowl LV. Following a win over the Texans on Sunday, the Packers stand first in the NFC North with a 5-1 record and possess one of the NFL's best offensive teams.

Green Bay's offense can compete in a shootout with just about any team in the league, but their defense may be the reason why they fall short of representing the NFC in Tampa Bay come February. They have only accumulated a total of 10 quarterback hits and are currently 30th in the league in pass rush through the first six games. The Packers' lack of ability to get to the opposing team's quarterback could be an immense problem during a playoff game that could feature Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson.

So what do the Packers have to lose by acquiring their Wisconsin native?

The addition of Watt would allow the Packers to add one of the best pass rushers of all-time. Although Watt is nowhere near the player that finished second behind Aaron Rogers for league MVP honors in 2015, he has illustrated that he is still a disruptive defensive lineman five years later.

Through the first seven games, Watt has accounted for 11 pressures, six quarterback hits and three sacks — which would make him Green Bay's second most reliable pass rusher trailing only Za'Darius Smith.

For the Texans, receiving a first-round pick for Watt is self-explanatory and would be the most suitable return for the aging star. However, for a team that is building for the future, the Texans should consider obtaining a young and raw prospect to evaluate.

Kamal Martin, a fifth-round draft selection in 2020, made his NFL debut against the Texans on Sunday and left an exceptional first impression. He recorded six tackles and one tackle for loss in 29 snaps inside NRG Stadium, and could be a building block should the Texans begin to make modifications to their linebacking corps.

Seattle sends multiple draft picks for Watt

Texans receive: 2021 second-round pick and fourth-round pick

Seahawks receive: J.J. Watt

If the Packers do not take advantage of improving their pass rush with Watt — perhaps the Seattle Seahawks will. Both NFC teams mirror each other with a high-powered offense, but a feeble defense may hinder one another from advancing to the Super Bowl. In a deal for Watt to the Seahawks, the Texans would miss out on the chance to acquire a first-rounder, but obtaining multiple picks would be just as prominent.

Seattle's general manager John Schneider is no stranger to taking a significant risk, and appears willing to make any moves that will put his organization closer to their long-overdue second title with Russell Wilson. Perhaps, Watt would be that missing key.

The Seahawks are pretty solid at stopping the run but need a tremendous upgrade in their pass defense. Seattle has given up the second-most passing yards on the season (2,212), and the reason seems to be their inability to get to the quarterback. Seattle has only implemented pressure to the opposing team's quarterback on 20.1% of their dropbacks, while only recording a total of nine sacks.

The Seahawks pass defense may not become elite, but the disruption of Watt on their defensive line could be enough to limit the devastation they have experienced through the first seven weeks of the season.

Watt to the Big Easy for Brees' last dance

Texans receive: 2021 second-round pick and Marcus Davenport

Saints receive: J.J. Watt

Seven weeks into the season, the New Orleans Saints are not sitting near the top of the NFC nor their division when compared to recent years. A bevy of injuries have been attributed to their minor decline this season — mainly to their All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas.

However, the Saints have prevailed through the injury bug to march their way to a 4-2 record. If New Orleans can get healthy during the second half of the season, they will be in the running to represent the NFC in Tampa Bay for Super Bowl LV. But unlike the Packers and Seahawks, this could be the Saints last chance to recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy in what is likely Drew Brees' last dance.

The addition of Watt to the Saints would give general manager Mickey Loomis a chance to create the most disruptive defensive line in the league. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen would be able to shift the five-time Pro-Bowler to the interior — allowing the Saints to trot out a d-line of Watt, Cameron Jordan and Trey Hendrickson.

This trade would give Watt arguably the most help he has ever had on the defensive line — which would allow New Orleans to maximize what is left of his career.

This trade would have the Texans missing out on obtaining a first-rounder, but a sound-round pick would be just as valuable for Watt. However, Houston should consider adding a young prospect in a potential swap, and Marcus Davenport would be their best return.

Drafted in 2018, Davenport is a former first-round talent who can help transition the Texans into the post-Watt era. He has showed promise of a bright future through his first two seasons, but injuries have prevented the 24-year-old prodigy of San Antonio from establishing himself as one of the league's top young talents.

This season, elbow and toe injuries have limited Davenport to just a pair of games in 2020. Although there is an immense concern regarding Davenport's health, the Texans cannot pass on adding a player who has already registered 11.5 sacks and 31 quarterback hits through his first 28 career games.

Coty M. Davis is a reporter for ESPN 97.5 Houston/SportsMap covering the Houston Texans. He is also the co-host of Locked On Texans, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network. Follow Coty on Twitter @CotyDavis_24.

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