Watt wants trade to contender, but not feasible for 49ers


Just like the 49ers, it seems highly unlikely that the Houston Texans will qualify for the playoffs this season. But unlike the 49ers, the Texans aren't primed for an immediate return to contention next year.

That doesn't sound like a situation Houston defensive end J.J. Watt is going to tolerate. CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported Sunday, citing sources, that the 10-year veteran wants to play for a contender, and that it's a "virtual certainty" that Watt will be traded this coming offseason.

"It's a wrap," one source told La Canfora. "He knows he only has so many games left and he is ready to go and try to win. The guys in that locker room are bracing for it."

Watt has been one of the premier defensive players in the league ever since the Texans drafted him with the No. 11 overall pick in 2011. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year has totaled 100.0 sacks in 120 career games and is regarded as one of the best leaders in the sport.

The 49ers have experienced a season from hell, one thrown off track by some of the worst injury luck a team has endured in recent memory. After coming within minutes of being crowned Super Bowl champions last season, San Francisco had no chance this time around. However, when healthy, the 49ers' roster still compares favorably to almost every other team in the league. With better injury luck next season -- not to mention a far easier schedule -- the 49ers certainly have the potential to go from (currently) worst to first in the NFC West.


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As such, the 49ers would seem to fit the main qualification Watt is looking for. And certainly, San Francisco would love to add a player of Watt's caliber to a defense that already includes several of the best players at their respective positions.

That said, if Watt does end up getting moved, don't expect the 49ers to be the team that acquires him. It's highly unlikely to be feasible.

For one, Watt will make $17.5 million in the final year of his current contract next season. While that's a more-than-reasonable salary for one of the best defensive linemen of the past decade, it's likely far too rich for San Francisco. According to Over The Cap, the 49ers currently are projected to have just over $23.2 million in cap space for next season. However, that's with only 34 players currently under contract.

Consequently, the 49ers don't have nearly as much financial wiggle room as it seems, particularly considering some of the higher-salaried players -- like cornerback Richard Sherman and left tackle Trent Williams -- who likely will cost a pretty penny to re-sign.

That's not to say the 49ers don't have ways to create more cap space. Moving on from Jimmy Garoppolo, for instance, would open up another $24 million. That said, it's difficult to see the 49ers being able to add a Watt-like salary without finding a trade partner for Dee Ford. And given the draft compensation San Francisco likely would have to give up to entice a team to take on Ford's bloated contract, not to mention the draft compensation Houston would demand in any Watt trade, the whole scenario is highly unrealistic.

The 49ers have made it known they don't want to part with future draft picks, and that's not just to restock the cupboards for future iterations of the team. It's also about controlled costs and keeping future space available for lucrative extensions for stars already on the team, like Fred Warner and Nick Bosa.

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It's going to be a critical offseason for San Francisco, and the team could look considerably different when it is completed.

The 49ers are set up to be a team that Watt reportedly would want to play for, but if he ends up on a contender, it's far more likely to be somewhere else.