With the Houston Texans’ offseason set to begin on Sunday afternoon, the ‘elephant in the room’ remains franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson. Pending the outcome of Watson’s legal situation, there’s a good chance Nick Caserio and the Texans will move on from the troubled quarterback in the coming months. Clearly head coach David Culley was entirely unable to fix the damaged relationship between management and the best quarterback the team has ever had.
Matt Young at the Houston Chronicle has detailed ten teams that might throw their cards on the table in the Watson sweepstakes, including the Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Denver Broncos, Washington (insert new name here on Feb 2nd), Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks.
As the season wraps up, it looks like there will be even more teams trying to make a trade with the Texans for Deshaun Watson this offseason.https://t.co/yJxyCLTR9t— Chron (@chron) January 5, 2022
A deal was characterized as ‘imminent’ with the Dolphins prior to the 2021 NFL trade deadline, but it was allegedly held up over Watson’s inability to settle all his pending lawsuits. It was rumored that all but a few of the women on the other side of the suits agreed to a settlement, but Watson wouldn’t settle with any unless he settled with all. Miami owner Stephen Ross reportedly wouldn’t greenlight a deal unless Watson’s legal matters were closed.
Multiple NFL teams offered packages including three first-round draft picks and two third-round picks for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in talks with the Texans before last week’s trade deadline, sources say.
The Panthers have also come up often in discussion as a team very interested in obtaining Watson’s services.
The Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins both engaged with the Texans in the week leading up to the deadline. But Panthers owner David Tepper decided not to move forward before the deadline, and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross followed suit hours before Tuesday’s deadline in part because Watson hadn’t settled the civil cases. The Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos also did due diligence on Watson and could re-engage in the offseason.
Watson has a no-trade clause and to this point has only waived it to the Dolphins.
Sources say the Texans have continued to seek five or six assets, including at least three unconditional first-round picks, plus additional high picks and/or premium players. And multiple teams were willing to meet that price, provided that certain aspects of Watson’s legal situation were resolved.
This is where it all starts to get very interesting, from a football arm chair general manager standpoint at least. Caserio will presumably stick to his guns, seeking multiple top draft picks and/or young, star players in some combination that should result in the largest haul in franchise history. But does Caserio make a trade that brings a new quarterback to Houston to supplant Davis Mills? Does he strictly look to stockpile draft picks? Does he forgo a pile of picks for a bevy of young players who can create the core of the new Texans, as other teams have done in the past with monstrous trade deals?
Other Quarterbacks Potentially Involved In Deshaun Watson Trade Scenarios
The latest rumor mill also has the Browns looking to move on from Baker Mayfield. Surrounded by the right players in the right scheme, Mayfield could be an elite NFL starter. Russell Wilson is also reportedly primed to leave the Seahawks and start for another team in 2022; could Wilson help Davis Mills develop into a viable starter? Jalen Hurts, a Houston native, has performed well enough with the Eagles that he might make sense under center in Houston. The Giants, who sure seem to make sense as a trade partner for Houston, have multiple early draft picks, currently predicted to have the 5th and 8th pick in April’s draft.
Deshaun Watson’s No-Trade Clause
From the “needless complication” category, Watson has a no-trade clause in his current contract. Meaning he gets to say whether or not a trade partner is approved. So during negotiations with a potential trade partner , Caserio and crew must have Watson’s blessing before attempting to pull off any potential deals.
The Steelers are watching their second franchise quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, ride off into the sunset soon. Could Watson waive his clause to play for one of the most successful franchises in NFL history? Pittsburgh holds the #17 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, but they do have multiple young players they could send to H-Town. Something else to consider in this scenario is whether the Rooney family would sign off on a trade for a player with Watson’s legal concerns. After Big Ben went through a similar scenario years ago, the Rooneys might not want to open that can of worms again.
The Washington Whatevers are unveiling their new name, logo, identity, etc. on February 2nd; they might want to later accompany that announcement with a shiny, new franchise quarterback. However, if Watson thinks Cal McNair is a bad owner, Dan Snyder is next level.
Another interesting rumor from late 2021 is Peyton Manning maneuvering to buy the Denver Broncos. Watson has made no secret of his admiration of Manning, and while Denver isn’t really ripe with trade assets that are overly intriguing, (they pick 11th in April as of this writing), it’s hard to imagine Watson not waiving his clause to be part of something run by Manning.
Where do all these lines intersect to provide the most likely trade partner for the Texans?
Likeliest Deshaun Watson Trade Partners
It would still seem the Miami Dolphins are one of the front runners. Watson has already approved them as a trade partner, Dolphins ownership allegedly rubber-stamped a massive group of assets to send to Houston, and Caserio had everything set prior to the deadline, pending legal settlements.
Deshaun Watson reached tentative agreements with 18 of the 22 massage therapists who have filed civil lawsuits against him, per Pro Football Talk— Dolphin Nation (@Dolphin_Nation) January 3, 2022
According to PFT, The Dolphins were prepared to trade for Watson if the remaining four lawsuits had been settled
(h/t Miami Herald) pic.twitter.com/mu1hlvAu40
Next in line would likely be the New York Giants or Philadelphia Eagles. Early on, Watson was rumored to have interest in both destinations. The Giants are loaded with draft capital and looking to rebuild quickly. The Eagles currently hold the 14th, 19th, and 21st overall picks in April’s draft and very well could package some or all of those selections into a trade with another team, even if it isn’t the Texans.
Dark Horse Deshaun Watson Trade Scenarios
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos are potential, though perhaps less likely, destinations for DW4. Pittsburgh’s commitment to winning has lasted for generations and won’t stop as long as a Rooney rules the roost.
In Denver, Peyton Manning’s involvement would certainly cover any ownership unease Watson might have as a form of PTSD from dealing with Jack Easterby and Cal McNair. Watson would essentially go from NFL buffoonery to NFL royalty as far as team ownership is concerned.
In the category of ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, a trade could always materialize that no one saw coming. Maybe the Las Vegas Raiders or Minnesota Vikings decide to move on from Derek Carr or Kirk Cousins? Perhaps Bill Belichick convinces his old protege to take Mac Jones and some other assets in exchange for Watson so Darth Bill can make one last run for Super Bowl glory?
The only sure thing right now is the current Texans’ roster will most likely look vastly different at the end of the April’s NFL Draft.