The 2021 NFL trade deadline is approaching. Houston is expected to be a seller, looking to flip players like Maliek Collins or Charles Omenihu, for late round picks. This isn’t the big news. The Texans are at the center of the NFL’s trade deadline because they have a franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson. Watson has sat out for the entirety of this season after requesting a trade in January. He is facing 22 sexual assault lawsuits. Nick Caserio has remained strong in keeping him and hasn’t given in to the phone calls that have been made so far. Well, probably.
We’ve run the gauntlet of Texans trade rumors. Watson would be traded by the end of last week. The Carolina Panthers entered the sweepstakes. Last night, we even heard terms on a trade of Watson to the Dolphins have been agreed to, but Watson’s legal problems are holding the transaction up.
Graziano: Still, one of the big questions for any acquiring team is whether and when they’d be able to use Watson, who could be subject to league discipline and/or the commissioner’s exempt list due to the off-field issues. Jeremy, I’ve been told the league isn’t offering any hints on what it would do on that front if Watson were dealt. What do you make of it?
Fowler: Many of the questions you ask above are still difficult to answer, though commissioner Roger Goodell gave something of a hint at the owners meetings Tuesday, telling reporters the league doesn’t have enough information from law enforcement to place him on the commissioner’s exempt list at this time. Prospective teams hoping he can play this season would take that as good news. But my understanding is when or if teams call the league, the NFL would give the standard response that the investigation is pending and that it is monitoring the situation. Maybe team owners can have some back-channel conversations with Goodell.
But here’s the thing: I talked to a few team execs who are not trying to trade for Watson who say that if they were set on trading for Watson and they knew he would play, say, six games, they could at least budget for and plan around that. With a set amount of missed time, they’d accept that. But the unknown is the most difficult part of this unprecedented situation. Even if he’s eligible to play this season, there’s the grand jury deposition and a case that could drag on well into 2022. It’s tough to forecast how the NFL will react when it can essentially act unilaterally here.
I’m curious about your thoughts here, but after asking around, I’m still 50/50 at best on whether this gets done at all. Houston seems dug-in on wanting three first-round picks and more.
Graziano: I’m pretty close to 50-50 as well, but if I had to guess one way or the other, I still think he does not get dealt by Tuesday’s deadline. Too many moving parts, and Houston can look ahead to a potentially more robust market (and maybe some off-field clarity) next offseason. That said, I do want to make it clear that I wouldn’t be surprised to see a deal by Tuesday. I just lean the other way.
It’s 50-50. It could happen. It may not happen. But no one will be surprised if they see a trade happen by Tuesday. Cool. The big thing to glean is that it sounds like the agreement for a Watson trade would involve at least three first round picks. Without knowing where these picks will be made, it still doesn’t seem like enough to me.
My stance is still the same. Hold onto Watson until after the season and know exactly where the picks you are getting back in a trade would fall. Picks in the middle of the first round don’t cut it for a top five franchise quarterback, even one with clouds surrounding him.