With not much else to talk about, the Deshaun Watson trade rumor mill is still swirling like an ever-flushing toilet, infinitely sucking the hopes and dreams of Houston Texans fans down the drain. Reports came out this past weekend that Houston general manager Nick Caserio is not just deflecting trade requests for the phenom QB, but flat out ignoring them. However, sooner or later one side is going to have to make a move. For Watson to stand his ground if the Texans refuse to part ways with him, he’ll have to forgo a lot of money over the next year.
If Watson missed mandatory minicamp ($95,877), 28 days of training camp ($1.4 million) and three preseason games ($1.86 million), he could be looking at being fined more than $3.3 million, and that’s before we get to the regular season.
If Watson sits out the entire season, his contract would essentially freeze and he obviously would not be paid for the season. Watson signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension in September that keeps him under contract through the 2025 season. The Texans could also use three (very expensive) franchise tags on Watson after the 2025 season that would keep him in Houston through 2028.
In the unlikely event Watson chooses to retire over playing another snap for the Texans, Houston can collect $21.6 million, according to Schefter.
So while Houston would continue to honor Watson’s contract, they could fine the snot out of him for non-compliance. In the end, the multi-billion dollar franchise does appear to have the edge in the staring contest with the quarterback who, according to Celebrity Net Worth has a net worth of $24 million.
Should the Texans play ultra hard ball, they could essentially get $24.9 million back from the signal caller. If they take that route, it will turn into the single ugliest divorce in NFL history. However, it’s hard to imagine Cal McNair going that route, especially after the release of J.J. Watt. Should the Texans cave to Watson’s demands, this financial reality kicks in:
If the Texans decide to trade Watson before June 1, all $21.6 million of his remaining signing bonus ($5.4 million times four years) accelerates into Houston’s cap for 2021.
But, if they wait until June 1 or later to trade him, $5.4 million counts toward the cap for 2021 and the $16.2 million of dead money (from the 2022, 2023 and 2024 seasons) become part of the 2022 cap.
All of that can get wrapped into a trade scenario with another team, or at least enough of it to recoup a substantial amount of the franchise’s investment in Watson, similar to how Bill O’Brien paid Jadeveon Clowney to leave - but this time it would be in Houston’s financial favor.
Unfortunately, all that math eliminates a large number of teams from the Deshaun Watson Sweepstakes. Many NFL franchises don’t have the liquid capital to finance all the back end numbers of taking on Watson, not to mention the salary cap implications. If you’re a fan of the New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons or Las Vegas Raiders, odds are your team isn’t landing Deshaun Watson no matter what. However, there are some teams that could make it all work and have the available assets to trade with Houston to make the trade more appealing to Caserio and Jack Easterby - a/k/a Grima Wormtongue for those playing along at home.
Below are some totally hypothetical trades involving Deshaun Watson I’ve kicked around.
Houston Trades Deshaun Watson to the Minnesota Vikings
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman is one of the best in the league. He’s always managed to put high end talent on the field. Right now, the Vikings have a promising set of “triplets” in quarterback Kirk Cousins, wideout Justin Jefferson, and running back Dalvin Cook. Cousins has done well in the Nordic land, but he has ties to Houston and his demeanor might suit the Texans’ desired “culture” very well. Additionally, having Cousins would help the Texans sidestep a total rebuild.
- Houston gets Kirk Cousins, tight end Kyle Rudolph, the Vikings’ 2021 third, fourth, and fifth round draft picks, and their 2022 first and second round picks.
- Minnesota gets Deshaun Watson.
Before anyone jumps on the “But Houston wants four first round picks” for Watson bandwagon, the Texans would get another franchise quarterback in this scenario. While Cousins isn’t Deshaun by any stretch, he’s still one of the NFL’s best. Further analysis here by some guy with a familiar name.
Houston Trades Deshaun Watson to the Carolina Panthers
Rumors abound the Panthers are all in on acquiring the former Clemson great. The team is allegedly clearing cap space like crazy to have the room and financial liquidity to put Watson under center in 2021.
These moves have brought [Carolina] into the top 10 in the league for cap space, and signs are indicating that the Panthers want to add Watson, who has made it clear that he wants to be traded from the Texans.
This one is from ESPN’s Bill Barnwell:
- Houston gets QB Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina’s first and second round picks in 2021, Carolina’s first round pick in 2022, and Carolina’s first round pick in 2023.
- Carolina gets Deshaun Watson, Houston’s 2022 third round pick, and Houston’s 2023 fourth rounder.
Many think the Panthers should cough up All-Pro running back/Swiss Army knife Christian McCaffrey, but doing so would weaken an offense already in need of offensive line help and targets for Watson. Plus, would the rebuilding Texans really want the hits that would come with bringing McCaffrey’s contract aboard?
Houston Trades Deshaun Watson to the Miami Dolphins
According to a source with direct knowledge, a high-ranking team official has told at least one outsider that the Dolphins expect to be in the mix to acquire Watson if the Texans make him available (which they have not, to this point).
That person said the Dolphins did not indicate what they believe their chances were or what they were willing to offer, but instead merely acknowledged the possibility of Miami acquiring him.
The Dolphins, like the Vikings, could offer a solid replacement quarterback option in a trade with rising star Tua Tagovailoa, along with a raft of draft picks.
- Houston gets Tagovailoa, both of the Dolphins’ first round draft picks in 2021, and Miami’s second round pick in 2022.
- Miami gets Deshaun Watson.
With the right coaching, I believe Tua will develop into a star quarterback in the NFL. Whether the Texans’ staff provides that sort of “right coaching” remains to be seen. While Tua isn’t at the same level as Cousins, the draft pick compensation from Miami is stronger for the Texans. As long as Caserio can draft at least as well as former Texans GM Rick Smith, this package looks pretty tasty if losing Watson is inevitable.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t make sense for Houston to trade Deshaun Watson at all. However, if they can’t mend fences and bring Watson willingly back into the fold, parting ways with the “Michael Jordan of Football” is really the only choice they have at this point.
What do you think? Which scenario would you take?