Rumors are circulating that Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson could ask for a trade. Watson has reportedly grown disillusioned with the Texans organization. The team traded DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals in a cut-price deal prior to the season. They then proceeded to go 4-12.
Deshaun Watson appears unhappy about the Texans new general manager
On Tuesday, January 5th, the Texans announced that they were hiring Nick Caserio, the former New England Patriots director of player personnel, to their vacant general manager position. Following the hire, Watson tweeted, in a since-deleted tweet, “Some things never change…”. While Watson may not have been referring to Caserio’s hiring, he likely would have cleared that up immediately. The fact he has remained silent since then is quite telling.
Both Caserio and the yet-to-be-named head coach will undoubtedly do whatever they can to ensure that Watson remains in Houston for the foreseeable future but convincing an unhappy player to stay could prove difficult.
Deshaun Watson’s contract situation
Deshaun Watson signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension in September. At an average of $39 million per year, he’s the second-highest paid quarterback in the NFL. While that number is undoubtedly high, the salary cap situation can be managed.
The Texans would still be on the hook for $21.6 million in 2021, even if Watson isn’t on the team. With Watson on the team, their cap hit is set to be around $16 million, so trading Watson would add around $5.6 million in dead money to the 2021 salary cap. However, it would save the team significant money in 2022, 2023, and beyond.
For the team trading for Watson, the situation is slightly different. Watson would count just $10.54 million against their salary cap in 2021. That number would rise significantly in 2022 to $35 million and again to $37 million in 2023 before decreasing slightly to $32 million in each of the final two years of his contract. The hopes are that the league will be closer to normal circumstances in the 2021 season than they did in 2020. Therefore, the cap in 2022 and 2023 would be expected to rise above the 2021 figure, giving more flexibility to teams in the future.
Deshaun Watson has a no-trade clause in his contract but that isn’t as prohibitive as it sounds. The clause was put in place to give Watson power to veto any trade that the Texans might agree to if he doesn’t believe it to be in his best interest. If Watson decides that he wants to be traded, then a deal could still be completed.
Which teams could trade for Watson?
It would be quicker to list the teams that wouldn’t be interested in trading for Watson. A player who has been named to the Pro Bowl in every season that he’s been healthy is a rare commodity. The Texans would likely ask for significant assets in return, as PFN Insider Benjamin Allbright suggested on Twitter. While that would suggest that teams near the top of the 2021 NFL Draft could be in play, Deshaun Watson’s no-trade clause means that he could block a move to any team whose aspirations don’t match his own.
Could the Miami Dolphins trade for Deshaun Watson?
In what came as a surprise to many, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, Deshaun Watson’s reported unhappiness with the team is accurate. Watson is reportedly still angry about the team’s insensitivity to social justice, including hiring practices, after the franchise failed to interview Chiefs OC Eric Bienemy this past week.
Of all the head coach opening, the Texans were the only team not to even interview with Bieniemy. Mortensen clarified that Watson’s unhappiness is more current with the state of the franchise and what has transpired.
Watson’s contract does include a no-trade clause, so he holds all the cards when it comes to what team he could play for. According to Mortensen, one team he would consider is the Miami Dolphins. In return, the Dolphins would need to send rookie Tua Tagovailoa and additional compensation. That additional compensation is not known at the time, but Miami does hold a plethora of draft picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, including what was once the Texans’ first-round pick (third overall).
Deshaun Watson could spearhead a future Patriots dynasty
The New England Patriots had their first losing season since 2000, in large part due to the departure of Tom Brady. Cam Newton is unlikely to be back, and Jarrett Stidham has shown nothing in the last two seasons to prove that he should be the starting QB. Nick Caserio, the new GM, spent the last 20 years with the Patriots. While he’s not looking to do them any favors, he has an existing relationship with the organization’s brass.
If Watson’s frustrations are directed at Caserio, he could be resistant to joining the Patriots. Watson’s entire career has been played under a coach coming from that system. He may not be looking to jump straight into a similar setup.
Watson and Shanahan could be the perfect marriage
The San Francisco 49ers have been in quarterback purgatory for a while now. They’ve shown that they can win with Jimmy Garoppolo but have been reluctant to commit to him long-term. His injury history has left the 49ers relying on C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens more often than they’d like. Kyle Shanahan is one of the best play callers in the league and would love to have a player of Watson’s caliber.
The 49ers also have an out in Garoppolo’s contract, saving them $24 million in 2021. They could release Garoppolo, use that cap space to add Watson, and still have space to reinforce other areas.
Watson could make the Chicago Bears Super Bowl contenders
The Bears are no strangers to blockbuster trades. Their acquisition of Khalil Mack for two first-round picks demonstrated that. Mitchell Trubisky has looked better recently, but he is a free agent after the season. Trading for Watson would instantly transform them into one of the best teams in the NFL. It would also go some way toward atoning for the decision to draft Trubisky when Watson was available.