While it’s whimsical fun to consider the possibilities of the Texans trading Deshaun Watson, with each passing day, the Texans’ chances of receiving reasonable compensation for their star quarterback dwindles. The ongoing depositions, the potential for criminal charges, and Watson’s contract put the Texans in an undeniable situation and time crunch.
Most recently, Deshaun Watson’s request to delay his deposition until after April 1st was denied. This is substantial news, as it compresses the timeline for Watson to provide sworn testimony and for his legal team to seek a settlement before the 2022 NFL Draft. While this does help out the cause, there’s seemingly an insurmountable roadblock in the way for pen to hit paper.
Sure, the there are rumors that a “deal might not be too far off”, but no general manager will feasibly receive approval from his owner while the civil cases are ongoing. Even worse, the potential for criminal charges to be filed and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to get involved makes the situation even more volatile.
Multiple teams are reportedly willing to trade for the embattled quarterback before his civil suits are settled, according to a source who spoke with PFT. So it’s less of a matter of if but who, at least as it pertains to the civil cases. But even then, can the parties inside those interested franchises gather enough support in the next few weeks to pull off a trade?
GM Nick Caserio has made the required compensation well apparent. He wants three first-round picks and two second-round picks in return for dealing a franchise quarterback. That’s a haul that could change a franchise, but will a team not only be willing to part with those picks but also accept Watson’s ongoing legal troubles and the fan backlash that would accompany acquiring a QB who has been accused of sexual misconduct? Some believe all will be forgotten when Watson begins to deliver for his new franchise, but that’s a sizable bit of capital for any general manager to cash and one that may not make sense for only but a few GMs who believe they have the standing to take that risk.
The reality is that the Texans simply require too specific of a trade partner for them to benefit from a bidding war. The Texans need a team (1) that has the salary cap space to take on Watson’s contract, (2) that Watson actually wants to go to (thanks to the veto power he has via a no-trade clause), (3) that truly needs an upgrade at quarterback, (4) that has sufficient talent to surround Watson, (5) that has the draft capital to make the deal and is willing to part with it, but will potentially not be too good over the next three years so the Texans can receive their desired return, and (6) management that is willing to endure the immediate disapproval of their fan base for bringing Watson aboard. That’s a lot of conditions.
The secondary question is the Texans’ patience and impatience at play. The Texans desperately want to find a trade partner to end this saga. They also want it to happen before the draft in late April so they can avoid waiting an entire season for the benefits of a trade to kick in. Not only that, but there is a monetary cliff the Texans can avoid. Watson’s 2022 salary becomes fully guaranteed for $35 million at the start of the league year, and he’ll have a cap hit of $40.4 million. That’s money the Texans certainly don’t want to pay if they can avoid doing so.
As mentioned above, don’t forget that Watson can make or break a trade on some level. He has a no-trade clause that he can use to accept a trade only if he approves of where he’s going. We already know Watson reportedly nixed a trade to Carolina last year, demonstrating his preference and willingness to utilize the full bounds of his power. Will that feeling change now that he’s lost a year of his career after sitting 2021 out?
Inevitably, the Texans will be forced to do one of two things. They will either reduce their trade demands to a more palatable level for other franchises or they will have to cut Deshaun Watson. Even if all of Watson’s legal issues are resolved today (and they won’t be), the Texans aren’t able to officially trade him until the league year begins on March 16th. That gives them 43 days to strike a deal between the start of the league year and the first day of the NFL Draft.
If the Texans cut Watson, they will have $51.2 million on the books for 2022, and $10.8 million for 2023 (his signing bonus is prorated over his contract). They wouldn’t see any cap savings until 2023. However, they will be free of the daily grind of his legal situation. They’d gain significant cap flexibility in the future. Yes, the Texans will lose out on the greatest potential draft haul in franchise history, but that may be the price to pay to rid themselves of this debacle.
43 days before the draft. 31 potential trade partners. 22 civil cases. Millions in newfound cap space if Houston trades Deshaun Watson. Several depositions to be conducted. Three first round picks and two second round picks. One truth.
Those are the numbers. These are the conditions. What will happen is utterly unknown, but a scenario where the Texans simply walk away from Deshaun Watson is not beyond comprehension.