A big deal
Did the Texans really overpay for Laremy Tunsil? Let's dive into the numbers
There was much ado about Laremy Tunsil's reported $22 million per year deal with the Texans, which made him the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history. But if you break down the numbers, the contract is not as cap damaging as the initial reports.
When you see big money deals like this, it is easy to be critical. But without context, you don't get the whole story. The most important part of the contract is the yearly cap hit; that impacts how much the team will have to spend on other players.
Per overthecap.com, the year by year breakdown of the deal is not nearly as punitive as $22 million per year would indicate. In fact, Tunsil's cap hit at no point reaches $22 million in a single season. The reason for the high average? Tunsil got a boost on his 2020 cap hit, which was to be $10.5 million.
Let's look at the year by year impact on the salary cap:
2020: $14.1 million. This is pretty much fair to below market value for a 26-year-old left tackle coming off his first Pro Bowl.
2021: $19.4 million. The first year of the extension kicks at a level that is above any other left tackle. High, but not ridiculous.
2022: $21.1 million. This is where you start getting into questionable territory, but in two years this probably will not make him the top paid offensive lineman.
2023: $21.75 million. See 2022.
The good news is if Tunsil busts, the Texans could bail after two years with only $6.5 in dead money. Ideally, though, you do not expect to punt on your franchise left tackle. So the last two years will be critical. Before the Rona, everyone expected the salary cap to go up exponentially, making those last two years palatable. But that remains to be seen.
So overall, this is not a big overpay, but certainly a slight one. They were always going to have to pay an average of $17-18 million per year minimum, so a slight overpay costs them the price of a backup lineman. Of in the Texans case, a kicker, on top of what he would have gotten. So not a terrible deal at all.
Now the bad news. In context with some of the other recent deals, the Texans could easily run into cap trouble when they get Deshaun Watson his extension. Whitney Mercilus' will take up anywhere from $12-14 million over the next four years with no real escape plan. Bernardrick McKinney and Nick Martin have over-market deals as well. Not to mention overpaying a kicker.
They also overpaid for Randall Cobb, whose cap hit bumps to over $10 million in 2021 and 2022.
The Texans could move on from David Johnson after 2020 and Brandin Cooks as well, but one-year rentals for a second round pick and DeAndre Hopkins? Not a good look. Johnson will cost $9 million and Cooks $12 million in 2021.
There will be ways to clear cap space - guys like Will Fuller, Bernardrick McKinney and Zach Fulton could all be jettisoned next season in addition to Cooks and Johnson. And the one no one wants to hear - J.J. Watt. But are there viable replacements for all these players on the roster? That is the bigger question.
So before you blame the Tunsil extension on future cap problems, keep in mind his deal is not that outrageous. It is some of the other ones that should be causing concern.