Deshaun Watson has “formally” requested that the Houston Texans deal him to a new team which, barring some unforeseen restoration of relations, sets in motion what should be the biggest trade in NFL history.
The NFL Network should make it a reality show: “Billion Dollar Listing: Houston.”
Watson is a 25-year-old superstar with impeccable leadership skills. He’s the definition of a franchise quarterback — on the field, in the locker room and around the community.
He played hard and hurt last season for a dysfunctional, losing team that traded away his best receiver and fired its coach. He completed 70.2 percent of his passes and threw for 4,823 yards and 33 touchdowns (against just seven interceptions) while rushing for 444 more yards and three scores.
Patrick Mahomes is probably a better player, but by how much? Watson and the Texans did have a 24-point lead on Kansas City in last year’s playoffs, after all.
All of which is to say that guys like this never go on the market.
For this to even be possible required a uniquely bad situation in Houston, coupled with the modern player empowerment movement, an incredible talent who is already under contract for three more seasons playing the most important position on the field at a time when nearly 20 teams are in need of a QB.
This is a disaster for Houston, who loses what every team wants, but it still can broker this into a real future.
One draft pick, two draft picks, three draft picks, four
You want Deshaun Watson and we want more
Adding to the drama is that Watson has a no-trade contract, which means Houston just months ago gave him the right to essentially choose where he wants to be traded. Not smart, but if the Texans were smart they wouldn’t have gotten estranged with their most valuable asset in the first place.
Houston could always tell Watson to pound sand but he’s already wealthy and might just sit back and wait. Besides, Watson has smartly not detailed exactly why he is so angry with Texans ownership, although there have been hints. Whatever it is, it’s unlikely to center on third-down play calling or something innocuous like that.
Trade him and whatever dirty laundry may exist might remain hidden. Get in a war of wills and who knows what tales Watson has to tell. What’s that worth to the McNair family?
As for the rest of the league, it’s time for a full asset analysis. Other than a few teams, Watson would be an upgrade at either talent, circumstance (namely his age) or both.
Miami is certainly one of the favorites here. The Dolphins have two first-round picks this year – their own at No. 18 and one they got from the Texans at No. 3 through a prior trade. They also have Houston’s second-round pick in 2021. They could also deal young quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has a more favorable rookie contract, which would free up salary-cap space for Houston to spend on other players.
Tagovailoa was the fifth pick overall last year and while he may not have been great as a rookie, he wasn’t that bad either. His basic numbers (64.1 completion percentage, 11-5 TD-interception ratio, 6.3 yards per attempt) compare with Watson’s as a rookie (61.8, 19-8, 8.3).
Watson is a sure thing, but have the Dolphins already soured on Tagovailoa? Mahomes, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and a lot of other great QBs didn’t do anything as a rookie, mostly because they were allowed to sit and learn.
The New York Jets have a still-young QB in Sam Darnold, a slew of picks this year (four in the top 66) and the lure of Manhattan with a fresh young coaching staff to offer Houston and Watson.
New Orleans has a ready-built Super Bowl contender and, presuming Drew Brees is done (or even if he isn’t), there is a need for a star quarterback. Do you mortgage everything for Watson? Why wouldn’t you? And if you are Watson, getting out of the young, quarterback-rich AFC isn’t a bad long-term plan.
Indianapolis, San Francisco and Washington all have menacing defenses and are in desperate need of an offensive spark. New England has a ton of cap space and Bill Belichick. Dallas is Dallas. Jacksonville owns the No. 1 pick and a new regime under Urban Meyer. We can go on.
There is no telling who offers what. Or what the motivations of Watson really are. Or what the Texans value going forward. This could go in all sorts of directions, but like a luxury home in a real estate market, the price might rise due to competition and ego.
Whoever wins gets one of the great young quarterbacks in football, essentially the most prized possession in the NFL.
What’s that worth to them? And will the Texans, and Watson, feel the same way?
Buckle up, a trade drama like the NFL has rarely, if ever seen is about to play out.
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