With the announcement that Deshaun Watson will not face criminal charges, which was promptly dropped Friday evening to avoid the full brunt of the media’s focus, it finally opened the door for legitimate trade talks to occur. Watson isn’t fully out of the clear; he still faces close to two dozen civil cases and any/all of which could get him suspended by the league.
Regardless of the legal ramifications yet to play out, multiple teams have expressed their immediate interest in acquiring Watson.
Before the news broke, the list of potential suitors dwindled when the Denver Broncos traded for Russell Wilson and the Washington Commanders traded for Carson Wentz. The market may be smaller for Watson’s services than people think, but all it takes is one promising team with a desperate or savvy GM to make a move.
Then after the news broke, an initial group of contenders emerged per Aaron Wilson. The list includes the Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the New Orleans Saints. The Vikings just resigned Kirk Cousins for an additional year and the Bucs obviously kicked the can with Tom Brady.
With that being said, two teams have immediately emerged as initial contenders. Per multiple sources, the Panthers and Saints have raised their hands:
The #Texans are expected to grant permission for interested clubs to speak to Deshaun Watson, so this could ramp up quickly. The price hasn’t changed – three first-round picks and more – and multiple teams are willing to pay it. https://t.co/1LJ5NLva9R— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 13, 2022
The Panthers hold the sixth overall pick, however they lack a second and third round pick this year, thanks to the Sam Darnold trade. They would need to source serious talent from their team in additional to most of their picks over the next three years to make this happen. I imagine Brian Burns, Jeremy Chinn, Robby Anderson, Cam Erving, Chubba Hubbard, and Sam Darnold to all be potential bait. It would be a great landing place close to home for Watson. Panthers have a good-not great roster, but what’s the point of getting Watson at the expense of your entire roster?
The New Orleans Saints on the other hand have a semi-full slate of picks this year and all of their picks next two years. They hold the 18th pick and are expected to be a serious contender for Watson in a new era for the franchise under head coach Dennis Allen. GM Mickey Loomis is always been known as one to take chances and this could be the biggest one yet.
Sources: Saints emerging as extremely serious contender in Deshaun Watson trade market and have made trade proposals; no-trade clause gives him a lot of leverage @PFN365 #DeshaunWatson #Saintshttps://t.co/A9QwoljKka— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 13, 2022
The Matt Rhule era has not been fantastic but it has been aggressive. They’ve made trades in the draft, resigned Cam Newton, tried with Sam Darnold, and have dealt with Christian McCaffrey injuries.
Having two teams immediately declare their interest is beneficial. Multiple dogs in the hunt will increase the asking price. It also increases the chances Watson will waive the no trade clause for a team. To hesitant general managers, it forces the issue now and gets those competitive juices flowing. The stigma is already gone if other general managers are interested. General managers are a tight, well connected group. They talk, discuss, compare, and compete. One or two being interested will funnel a couple more into the conversation. That’s when things will pick up.
So far, good news for the Texans and Watson in the aftermath of the litigation news. More info will break throughout this week and leading up to the draft so stay tuned and don’t touch that dial.