Over the past couple of days there has been massive speculation about Deshaun Watson potentially asking for a trade from the Houston Texans. The Texans are coming off a 4-12 record where they fired their head coach Bill O’Brien after starting the season 0-4.
It felt like at times this season that Watson was the only piece of the team keeping them afloat and competitive. The Texans were awful this season despite career highs with a league leading 4,823 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns (tied for 7th most in the leauge), a 112.4 QBR (second highest in the leauge), and a career low seven interceptions.
Depending on who they hire as a head coach, it seems unlikely that Houston can be much better next season because the team is $17.8 Million over the salary cap and does not own a first or second round pick. Combine this with the empty promises that Texans owner Cal McNair made to Watson about him being involved with the head coach and general manager hirings and Watson has more than enough reason to be upset and to contemplate asking for a trade.
The Texans hired New England Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio without running it by Watson. They also refused to interview Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for the head coaching position. Watson had recommended to management to take a look at Bieniemy because he was recommended by good friend and other 2017 Draft class quarterback Patrick Mahomes who has had great success in Bieniemy’s offense over the past three seasons.
The Houston Texans reportedly do not want to trade Watson, even if he asks for a trade. But if the Houston Texans have created a reputation over the years it has been making blockbuster deals with star players who may or may not want to leave the team. Since the franchise seems to be on a downward trend with no assets to help them from going in that direction it would be irresponsible for them to not do their homework and consider what kind of draft assets and players they could get in return for a player like Watson.
Here are the teams who should consider making an offer for Watson.
San Fransisco 49ers
Compensation: 2021 First Round Pick (12th Overall), 2021 (Compensatory) Third Round Pick, 2022 First Round Pick, Jimmy Garoppolo
The most obvious destination for Watson to land if he was to get traded would be the San Fransisco 49ers. Despite only having a 6-10 record this season, the 49ers are one of the most well rounded teams in the league. The one piece they seem to lack is a star quarterback. Jimmy Garoppolo has been serviceable for the 49ers, but an upgrade at the position could be enough to put them over the edge. Since the 49ers lost in the Super Bowl a season ago rumors started that head coach Kyle Shanahan wanted to move on from Garoppolo. He believes that Garoppolo is holding back his offense that has elevated many quarterbacks over the years including Matt Schaub, Robert Griffin III, and Matt Ryan.
Putting a talent like Watson in Shanahan’s offense with stars like George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and Raheem Mostert would immediately put Watson in the MVP conversation and as long as the team stays healthy they will be a Super Bowl contender in the NFC. Also when 49er’s general manager John Lynch believes he can acquire a player that could get his team to the next level he is not afraid to make a deal. He has traded multiple asssets for Jimmy Garappolo, Dee Ford, Emmanuel Sanders, (the draft pick to select) Brandon Aiyuk, and Trent Williams. Lynch even traded away Pro Bowl defensive lineman DeForest Buckner last offseason for the 14th overall pick to select his cheaper replacement.
The Houston Texans would love to add a first and third round pick this year and could get an immediate impact player at 12th overall and a potential starter with that third round pick. Also the Texans would be in a great position the following season to jumpstart the rebuild of this franchise with two first round picks. General Manager Nick Caserio could be extremely interested in reuniting with Jimmy Garoppolo who he scouted and helped draft in the second round for New England in 2014. That is especially in Caserio hires a former or current New England assistant coach like many expect him to do. Despite Garoppolo being under contract through 2023 the Texans would not have to commit to Garoppolo past next season. It would be very easy for the Texans to cut Garoppolo after the 2021-22 season if he struggles and then can use one of their first round picks on a quarterback. But if he plays well they can use those first round picks for other needs across their roster.
Las Vegas Raiders
Compensation: 2021 First Round Pick (17th overall), 2021 Second Round Pick (48th overall), 2022 First Round Pick, Derek Carr
The Las Vegas Raiders are at a point right now where they were before the made the flashy hirings of Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock at the head coach and general manager positions. They are about middle of the pack and can’t seem to finish strong enough to get into the playoffs. Reasons why the Raiders have performed they way they have the past couple of seasons are highlighted here. The opportunity for the Raiders to make a splash move to become a playoff team could be right in front of them in adding Deshaun Watson.
Derek Carr has played well enough to be considered a Pro Bowl replacement most seasons. But he is not great enough to carry a team to the playoffs or the Super Bowl. NFL Draft Analyst Bucky Brooks has a saying “Quarterback are either Trucks or Trailers”. Quarterbacks who are trucks can carry an average or solid roster to the playoffs and beyond while quarterbacks who are trailers get carried by an above average or near elite roster to the playoffs. At this point in their careers it is fair to say that Watson’s playmaking ability makes him a truck. While Carr would be classified as a trailer because despite how well he has played, he doesn’t bring anything extremely special to the table.
Raiders general manager Mike Mayock has an extensive history of drafting Clemson players since taking the job. Mayock has drafted five players from Clemson over the past two seasons and Watson is one of the best former Clemson Tigers of all time. While Jon Gruden has flirted with bringing in a new starting quarterback seemingly every year since becoming the Raiders head coach. It isn’t farfetched to believe that the Watson could be the spark that the Raiders have been looking for and need.
The Texans could get two starters with the Raiders 17th and 48th overall picks. Houston can also get a very solid player with the Raiders first round pick the following season because realistically adding Watson won’t be enough to get the Raiders to an elite level. Realistically adding Watson will get the Raiders to the playoffs and possibly win them a playoff game. Derek Carr is solid enough to be a franchise quarterback for the next three to five seasons. Much like Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract the Texans would be able to cut Carr after one season if they would like to go in another direction, but would have him under contract until 2023 if they like what they get from him. Carr also has connections to the Houston franchise since his brother David was inaugural draft pick for the Houston Texans in 2002. He would likely embrace the franchise that introduced his family to the NFL.
Compensation: 2021 First Round Pick (#3), 2021 Second Round Pick (#50), Tua Tagovailoa
The most popular proposed deal that will involve Deshaun Watson will be to the Miami Dolphins. Despite going 10-6 the Miami Dolphins missed the playoffs and despite going 6-3 during his starts Dolphins fans are not impressed with Tua Tagovailoa. Those who follow the team are demanding results early from their rookie quarterback and are ready to move on from the former Alabama quarterback after nine starts. The reason why this trade appears to be popular is because the belief that adding Watson would put the Dolphins over the top and because the deal the two teams made involving Laremy Tunsil put the Dolphins in the position they are now to build the foundation for a possible contender.
It would be bold to move off a quarterback the team had at the top of their draft board for over a year and that they selected first overall this quickly. But isn’t completely crazy to have discussions about such and replacing him with a quarterback the caliber of Watson. The bar for rookie quarterbacks have been set higher than what it realistic in most instances and first year quarterbacks should really be given until after their second season for teams to really evaluate their options at the position going forward. But Watson is everything that the Dolphins could want from Tagovailoa. A Pro Bowl level quarterback who can carry the team on his back despite not having to do so because in Miami he would have a near elite defense to back him up and keep him from having to put up 30+ like he had to do in Houston to ensure a win.
Houston would reclaim their draft pick at third overall which could give them a player to become the face of the franchise for the next 10-15 years. They could attempt to trade for their second round pick which is 36th overall but they have to settle for Miami’s original second round pick which was at #50. But the most interesting part of the deal would be Tagovailoa. Houston would have the opportunity to buy low on a prospect that ranked in many peoples top-10s just a year ago. If Houston practices patience will Tagovailoa like Miami failed to do in this scenario and built around him they could get a steal acquiring a franchise quarterback on a rookie deal who was compared to Steve Young and Drew Brees.
Washington Football Team
Compensation: 2021 First Round Pick (#19-#32), 2021 Second Round Pick (#51-#64), 2022 First Round Pick, and Matt Ioannidis
The only playoff team that could realistically trade for Deshaun Watson is the Washington Football Team. Despite all of the controversy surrounding this team they made it to the playoffs. That is a testament to Ron Rivera as a head coach and his influence on a locker room who was defeated last season and had every reason to roll over this year as well.
The one piece that Washington haven’t been able to get right for seemingly over a decade is quarterback. Since 2010 Washington has had 12 different starting quarterbacks including Donovan McNabb, Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, Dwanye Haskins, and Alex Smith. As scary as it may be for Washington to give up a haul of draft picks for draft picks for the second time in eight seasons, doing it for Watson seems less risky than when they traded for the second overall pick to draft RGIII. He is already an established product that has only missed one game since 2018. Adding Watson would make Washington’s offense explosive in a way it hasn’t been in an extremely long time. Young offensive stars Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, and Logan Thomas would be able to maximize their potential if Watson was commanding this offense. Also there is the possibility that the best option Washington could have at quarterback in 2021 is Ryan Fitzpatrick if Alex Smith retires.
The biggest downside for Houston is the fact that it is unlikely that Houston could draft a franchise quarterback with Washingtons first round pick this season. The team is also in need of every asset they can get so pooling their draft picks to trade up for a quarterback doesn’t make much sense for Houston to do either if they were to acquire Washingtons first two selections this year. They would likely have to use their own draft pick the following season in order to get their quarterback of the future.
However Houston does get a star defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis back in the deal. Washington has a surplus of talented defensive lineman, especially ones that play in the interior. Washington proved this season that Ioannidis is a luxary on their roster since he only played in three games this season because of a torn bicep while Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, and former fifth round pick Tim Settle had great seasons. Ioannidis could be the foundation for the defense Houston is trying to build, especially with the J.J. Watt trade rumors. In his last full season Ioannidis had 8.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
New England Patriots
Compensation: 2021 First Round Pick (#15), 2021 (Compensatory) Third Round Pick, 2021 Fourth Round Pick (#111), 2022 First Round Pick, Stephon Gilmore
From the second that Tom Brady decided that he was leaving New England the Patriots have been linked to every veteran franchise quarterback. The media puts out a narrative that New England is this great place for veteran quarterbacks to play because of Bill Belichick. But truth be told it could be one of the worst destinations for a quarterback to end up. Despite how great of a coach Belichick is, he is not great great at drafting offensive skill players and on the field he specializes in defense.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is in control of the offense and this seasons performance was evidence enough to confirm that he is the most overrated coordinator in the league. His playbook is extremely complicated for both young players and veterans. McDaniels also lacks the ability to develop young offensive talent. N’Keal Harry and Sony Michel are the latest examples of first round pick offensive rookies that have not shown much improvement since being drafted by the team.
Playing in New England has created more questions about how much Cam Newton has left in the tank. He is obviously no longer the quarterback he was during his prime in Carolina. But how much of his terrible play was on him and how much was on the slow offensive skill players and bad play calling. The fact that New England will likely explore other options and let Newton walk does not bode well for him. There is a chance that New England takes a look at the disgruntled Watson. It is fair to say that Watson and Newton bring similar tools to the table even though Watson has a better arm and is a better passer overall than Newton has been in his career, while Newton is a run first quarterback.
It seems unlikely that Houston could draft their quarterback of the future at 15th overall unless they have total faith in Heisman nominees Mac Jones or Kyle Trask. That is likely the reason why New England would package that pick with other selections in order to trade for an established franchise quarterback that could help then win as soon as 2021. An interesting piece of the deal is last seasons Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. The former All-Pro’s name was floated around during the trade deadline, but New England was looking for a first round pick for compensation. Teams didn’t give in to their demands because of the trend Belichick has where he usually moves on from players a year before they hit a massive decline. But former New England executive and new Texans general manager Nick Caserio may look to bring in a Patriots veteran that he trust in his locker room to be a presence and a leader for the team. Gilmore also still preforms at an extremely high level and would help the Texans atrocious pass defense from a season ago which will help their pass rushers get after the quarterback.
New York Giants
One team that is closer than people realize that have not been discussed as a potential Deshaun Watson landing spot is the New York Giants. Under first year head coach Joe Judge the Giants showed that they could be extremely competitive against most opponents and have a bright future ahead.
The offensive side of the ball appears to be what was holding the Giants back from winning the division easily once they went on their run midseason. Having Saquon Barkley at 100% after tearing his ACL will be a massive boost for the Giants and possibly enough to sneak into the postseason. But Barkley will not help Daniel Jones turnover problem. Since he entered the league in 2019 Jones leads the league in turnovers with 39. He averages almost 1.5 turnovers a game. If the Giants want to take advantage of a weak NFC East and set themselves up for a bright future they could look to upgrade from Jones to a player the caliber of Watsons.
Since the NFC East was one of the worst divisions in NFL history this past season, there seems to be no rush to make bold moves to jump a head of opponents and yield fast results. The Giants should be able to use their draft picks and salary space to continue building this team a foundation to become a contender. The problem is that general manager David Gettleman may not think that way. Towards the end of the season it was rumored that his job security depended on how the Giants ended the year. Despite missing the playoffs and finishing the season 6-10 Gettleman kept his job. But he should be aware that his job is not safe. He may have to make a bold move in order to put the Giants in the best possible position to make the playoffs. Trading for Watson could be the move he needs to achieve his goal.
What does he have to lose by making this move? If the Giants pull off the Watson blockbuster and they make the playoffs he a genius and gains more job security. If the Giants make the trade and still don’t make the playoffs, at least he gave it his best shot but he was likely going to get fired if Daniel Jones was his starter. If he’s fired why would he care about hoarding future draft picks? Keeping the Giants 2022 First Round Pick doesn’t serve Gettleman if he gets fired. So why not package it with their first couple picks from this season and get a prove franchise quarterback?
Despite it appearing that the Texans would be acquiring a franchise quarterback in Daniel Jones, this will likely mark the end of Jones’ starting career in the NFL if this deal goes down. It is hard to imagine Jones showing massive improvement in Houstons offense which is not much better than what he had in New York. This situation would be comparable to Josh Rosens in Miami where he was a sitting duck in an unfair situation for a season where he is expected to prove his worse despite having terrible pieces to work with.
The first and second round picks in 2021 would likely be used to add starter in their biggest positions of need. While veterans Kevin Zeitler and Evan Engram could be cap casualties for the Giants, but could be of value to the Texans. Zeitler is a solid interior offensive lineman who is an upgrade over current right guard Zach Fulton. While Engram is a former first round pick who has showed promise, but has drop issues. Maybe a fresh start in a new city could be enough for Engram to have the breakout season many have anticipated since he entered the league.
Unlikely Destinations that aren’t impossible
Deshaun Watson would be a massive upgrade over what Drew Lock has been at this point of his career. But it appears that the Broncos could give Lock another chance to prove he is the player they drafted him to be. Denver will likely bring in a veteran like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor, or Cam Newton to push Lock during camp/practice.
New York Jets
It would be irresponsible for General Manager Joe Douglas to throw Sam Darnold, the second overall pick, and multiple draft assets at the Texans for Deshaun Watson. Especially since they have arguably less to offer Watson on their current roster than he has in Houston. He would be set up to fail the expectations of the New York media in year one and the it would only prolong the teams rebuild that they are in the process are trying to accelerate and have around a quarterback on his rookie deal may that be Darnold or a rookie from this years draft class.
In any other situation it would be an interesting discussion to debate whether it would be worth it to give up the first overall pick for Deshaun Watson. But it would be hard to imagine the Texans trading Watson to Jacksonville and for Jacksonville to give up the first overall pick and the opportunity to draft Trevor Lawerence to Houston considering they are in the same division and play each other twice a year.
The Indianapolis Colts showed this season that they have one of if not the best roster in football this season being tied for a league high four All-Pro’s on their roster and making the playoffs despite having a not ideal option at quarterback. Adding Watson to the Colts would be creating the next NFL dynasty in Indianapolis. This is along with the fact that the Texans would have to play Watson and this super team twice a year. The only way Houston should consider an offer from them would be if Indianapolis started the deal with three first round picks and one of DeForest Buckner or Quenton Nelson.