This Week in Deshaun Watson produced perhaps the most noteworthy headline of the saga thus far. The disgruntled quarterback’s meeting with new Texans HC David Culley did not cause him to back off his trade request.
New Texans GM Nick Caserio is dug in against the prospect of trading Watson, according to NBC Sports’ Peter King. With the Texans not viewing free agency as a deadline to make a deal, a resolution does not appear imminent. With teams pursuing Watson potentially moving to other options in the near future, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the days leading up to the new league year.
Thus far, the Texans have not budged. Caserio and Cal McNair have issued multiple statements indicating they want Watson back under center in Houston next season. In holding Watson’s rights, the Texans certainly have leverage. Trading Watson later in the offseason may affect his assimilation with his next team and affect that team’s 2021 roster plan, though that might be a small factor here. And Watson could be fined more than $20MM this year if he is truly committed to never playing for the Texans again, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
By waiting until after the draft, the Texans would put themselves in danger of downgrading significantly at quarterback and doing so without collecting the kind of trade package that would help kickstart a rebuild. Thanks to their Laremy Tunsil/Kenny Stills trade, the Texans are without 2021 first- and second-round picks. And they may be set to let Will Fuller walk; prior to his trade request, Watson wanted the Texans to retain Fuller. While they would stand to recoup these and much more were they to unload Watson, he remains a Texan for the time being. Where will he be when the season starts?
Although the Texans might not even view the draft as a loose deadline to trade their three-time Pro Bowl passer, the Jets and Dolphins’ draft arsenals would be enticing. Both pick in the top three this year — the Jets at No. 2, the Dolphins third — and hold extra Round 1 picks (the Dolphins at No. 18, the Jets at 23). The Dolphins also have two second-round picks this year, while the Jets have two 2022 first-rounders from the Jamal Adams trade. Watson is believed to be a Robert Saleh fan, but subsequent reports have emerged indicating he would favor a deal to Miami over New York.
The Dolphins and Jets have QBs they could send to Houston, in Tua Tagovailoa and Sam Darnold, and these incumbent options would hold more appeal compared to the passers the Broncos and Panthers could send over. However, Watson has a no-trade clause, and both Carolina and Denver outflank the two AFC East squads at the skill positions.
Carolina and Denver already discussed Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock, respectively, in talks with the Lions for Matthew Stafford. Both franchises have new GMs not tied to the acquisitions of either passer, and each team holds a top-nine pick — the Panthers at 8, the Broncos at 9 — this year. The Panthers thus far lead everyone in reported Watson interest. Multiple reports have emerged about owner David Tepper being beyond smitten with Watson and obsessed with his franchise making a major quarterback upgrade. Starting nine quarterbacks since Peyton Manning retired, the Broncos are planning to be aggressive as well — if Watson is made available.
The Panthers have both young assets that would intrigue Watson — in Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson — and players that would potentially appeal to the Texans in a trade package. So do the Broncos (Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant). Though new Denver GM George Paton was reluctant to part with young assets for Stafford, Watson being a 25-year-old superstar would change the equation surely.
It is not known how aggressive the 49ers will be, but they did discuss Stafford with the Lions. No offer emerged, however. They have made statements indicating they are fine with Jimmy Garoppolo returning, but Stafford discussions certainly point to San Francisco being interested in a Watson swap. The 49ers’ plan, as of late February, would be either making a Watson-level splash or trot out Garoppolo again. While the Broncos are on Watson’s list of approved destinations, the 49ers may well be ahead of them on said list.
Who are the key dark-horse teams to monitor here? The Raiders have been mentioned as a potential suitor. Of course, they have since been named one of Russell Wilson‘s four acceptable destinations. How much should Watson fetch in a trade? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.