Referring to his anger level on a scale of 1–10, Deshaun Watson’s frustration with the Texans has spiraled in the past weeks. Initially advocating for Chiefs OC Eric Bienemy to fill Houston’s head coaching vacancy, the Texans reportedly said they would listen to Watson’s requests. But, after Bienemy interviewed with various teams during Kansas City’s Wild-Card bye week, the Texans had yet to bring him. Then, after the hiring of a New England executive in Nick Caserio to fill in their GM spot (we know how Watson doesn’t like coaches/execs from the Patriots), Watson’s dislike for the Texans came to a boil. Then came a report that Watson discussed a trade in private with his teammates and the tweet above and that he’d spoken to his teammates about requesting a trade.
The Texans backpedaled as fast as they could, managing to interview Bienemy last Monday, but the damage was done. Watson reportedly has said he will demand a trade regardless of who the new coach is (via Chris Mortenson of ESPN).
With the news that his departure is now likely inevitable and a no-trade clause that gives Watson the ability to decide his destination, let’s take a look at some of the best and worst landing destinations for the top-5 quarterback.
Don’t do it: New York Jets
After the hiring of new head coach Robert Saleh, an energetic defensive-minded head coach, Jets fans are more excited than they’ve ever been. The energy of Saleh may be enough to counteract the languid nature that former HC Adam Gase brought to that locker room and their team culture seems to be due for a change in the near future.
With the 2nd overall pick in the draft and another first in this year, many speculate the Jets have what it takes to trade for Watson. In the past few days, there have been conflicting reports saying Watson’s top destination is New York and others stating the Jets aren’t even on the list, so it remains to be seen whether Watson truly wants to go to New York.
While they have the assets, this would not be a good fit for either team or Watson. Currently in a full-scale rebuild with the draft capital to get young talent now, there is no reason they should give all of those picks away to get Watson. A top 5 quarterback, Deshaun Watson went 4–12 with a Texans’ roster that is better overall than what the Jets have to offer. With J.J. Watt and a certified №1 option to throw to in Brandin Cooks, Watson still didn’t have the pieces to succeed. A bad O line and a terrible secondary that made it impossible for Watson to keep up with opposing offenses, his frustration also stemmed from losing.
In New York, with less to work with, there is no reason to believe things would change. And since his presence would mean there are fewer picks to change the situation, Watson would likely just request a trade again and the Jets will have wasted draft capital.
Jets fans listen up: DESHAUN WATSON WILL NOT FIX THIS TEAM, A TRADE WILL DIG THIS TEAM INTO A DEEPER HOLE. There are so many weaknesses to this roster that it will just be a repeat of the 2020 Texans for however many seasons they have Watson. Sure, the former Clemson standout will make some amazing plays and make Jets games slightly more watchable, but the better option for the future is to either stick with Darnold and draft Penei Sewell/a top receiver or draft a QB in Justin Fields/Zach Wilson. Getting a young rookie QB is much more appealing with their much more digestible first contracts compared to Watson’s 4-year $156 million mega-deal as well. This plan would allow NY to be more adventurous in free agency too, with much more cap room to work with relative to what they’d have after the Watson acquisition.
All in all, the Watson trade would look nice until September. When games start getting played and the Jets find out that their copious issues aren’t solved, they’ll realize their mistake, and so will Deshaun. If the reports stating NY isn’t on Watson’s list are true, it’s a good call by the QB.
Go there, beg if you have to: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are practically the opposite of the Jets. They have a solid team that just needs a star QB to bring it all together. While many Dolphins fans would call it heresy to trade Tua Tagovailoa just a year after drafting the Alabama star, Tua has shown he will be a slowly-developing QB.
As a team with a dominant defense that can win right now and 2 first-round picks to trade (including the 3rd overall selection from HOU), Miami needs to go all-in. Watson’s appeal is that he can turn this offense, which finished 20th in passing, into a dynamic air attack with his dual-threat repertoire. It seemed like at times in 2020, Tua was just trying to avoid turnovers so the defense could win the game for him — a true game manager. With Watson, the Dolphins won’t be so dependent on their defense and will be able to play complementary football; an essential trait of any championship team.
So it’s obviously appealing for Watson and Miami, but why should Houston want to pull the trigger on it? Watson will reel in both of Miami’s 3rd and 18th picks and if new Houston GM Nick Caserio is worth his salt, he’ll get Tua as well. From here, the Texans would be in a similar position as the Jets, as they could go for a star WR or take Penei Sewell if he’s still on the board. With great value picks like edge rushers Kwity Paye and Jaelen Phillips to likely be on the board at 18 as well, the Texans could get a pass rusher and trade J.J. Watt for even more assets.
This trade would put Miami into a contending position while ensuring Houston has a bright future without Watson. This trade would not only shake up the NFL hierarchy but put Houston in a spot to get there in a few seasons. I’d be surprised if talks between Miami and Houston don’t pick up this offseason.
The Wild-Cards: New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers
Like the Dolphins, a trade for Watson would make both of these teams instant contenders; the difference being the Niners will contend regardless.
Let’s start with New England.
Their defense should be back in its dominant form in 2021. With veteran defensive pieces like Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung returning after opting out of the 2020 season and former DC Matt Patricia coming back in an assistant role, this defense should be back on track. After a dominant 2019 showing by this defense where they finished 1st in points and yards allowed, they finished 7th in points allowed in 2020 even while lacking big pieces and were still a top 5 secondary.
Playing with a top 5 defense makes any quarterback look elite, so New England acquiring Watson, a legitimately elite QB, paired with the genius of Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick could put them right back into contention.
Now, this looks peachy for bloodthirsty Patriots fans craving another title, but there are some issues with the logistics of this trade. For their decades of dominance, the Pats mortgaged their future assets. They don’t have the same wealth of picks as the previous teams on this list, so they would likely have to fork over future picks and defensive talent like J.C. Jackson since Watson’s price is so high. Although the offense isn’t amazing talent-wise, the appeal of playing for Bill Belichick may be enough for Watson to waive his no-trade clause to make the deal work.
But the Texans will be listening to offers that are full of top picks and possible replacement QBs, so chances are whatever New England offers will simply not stack up.
Most of the same goes for the Niners. They have an elite defense that was struck with a myriad of unfortunate injuries in 2020 and should get back on track in 2021. Pass rushing talent like Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas will be returning with top tight end George Kittle getting healthy again in 2021. This nucleus of creative running and an all-around defense that went to Super Bowl 54 last season has one weakness though: Inconsistency at QB.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo proved to be a God-send for the Niners when he first arrived a few seasons ago but has proven to be rather mediocre at times since. Missing key throws and lacking the speed to escape pressure, there is no playmaking at QB. Garoppolo’s lack of playmaking puts a wealth of pressure on HC Kyle Shanahan to make the offense work solely on running the ball, and that formula has proven effective until they match up with smart defenses. As a result, this banged-up offense went from 2nd in rushing in 2019 to 15th in 2020.
Although they are a proven contender when healthy, adding Watson would cement their status as a top 2 team, with only KC rivaling them. But, they also lack assets and would need to give up key pieces for Watson. A package for the Houston QB would likely include SF’s 12th overall pick and a key defensive piece like Solomon Thomas or Arik Armstead to go along with future first-rounders. They could definitely package enough pieces to acquire Watson, but it would likely impede their contending chances with Watson as is, making them a maybe to land the star. For Watson, it’d be another great place to land for different reasons, as he would have an elite running game to alleviate the pressure of carrying the offense.
Trading for Watson would be an absolute homerun for either the Patriots or Niners, but it’d be hard for them to beat Miami or New York in a bidding war for the star QB, making them both wild-cards.
Deshaun Watson has been a force in the NFL since his drafting in 2017. Where he ends up after this debacle in Houston could have a profound impact on the league in the coming years.