Deshaun Watson still wants out of the Texans despite showing up to training camp, doing so only to avoid major fines. According to multiple reports, Houston officials are now willing to deal the starting quarterback while a cloud of serious off-field allegations still hang over him.
The Texans, however, don’t plan on taking a discount in exchange for Watson’s potential services, even with his on-field future in doubt for the 2021 NFL season and beyond. They would require at least multiple first-round picks to trade him.
The league is still waiting to interview Watson until police finish their investigation into accusations of sexual assault by 22 women, who have filed lawsuits against Watson in civil court. While the accusers will start their depositions in September, Watson can’t be deposed in connection with the lawsuits until late February. Per ESPN, eight of those women, along with two others, have filed criminal complaints against Watson with Houston police.
Because of that slow-developing situation, there is little chance Watson is suspended by the Texans or the NFL in the short term. The Texans could instead choose to pull him out of camp practices at some point to avoid extra attention for one of two reasons, either related to the allegations or his trade request.
Even though the NFL is waiting for its own probe into the situation, Watson could be placed on commissioner Roger Goodell’s exempt list, which would keep him from playing but allow him to get paid. At the moment, with no formal charges that qualify for putting Watson on the list long term, Goodell could only do that for a limited time with the purpose of expediting the league’s own investigation.
With all that in mind, there’s a fair possibility Watson will play this season, but very little chance of him playing for the Texans again. Here’s a look at the six potential immediate landing spots outside of Houston if Watson is able to play football in 2021.
Deshaun Watson’s potential landing spots
The Broncos have the worst QB situation in the AFC with no comfortable short- or long-term answer between third-year second-round Drew Lock and bridge option Teddy Bridgewater. There’s a solid mix of youthful and seasoned talent elsewhere on the roster to believe an elite passer would change their fortunes from third place at best in the AFC West to a strong playoff contender behind the Chiefs.
That’s the easy part, knowing Denver needs an upgrade of Watson’s on-field caliber. The difficult part is that the Broncos have only one first rounder each in 2022 and 2023. They would have to give up those picks and a little more, perhaps Lock and a promising defensive starter, say edge rusher Bradley Chubb.
John Elway and new GM George Paton could see this as a worthy splurge, hoping that Watson — only 25 — will be cleared — and will finally solve the most important position for the long term, for the first time since Elway. If they can be good enough for Aaron Rodgers to take over, the Broncos should be a trade destination met with Watson’s approval.
The Eagles have some good feelings about Jalen Hurts, but he’s still a second-year second-round pick with plenty to prove after only a short starting stint under a different offensive-minded coaching regime last season. With a healthy Dak Prescott standing out for the Cowboys as a big QB advantage in the NFC East, there should be more confidence that Watson is a quicker path to helping match that level of play to better compete for the division title.
In terms of compensation, the Eagles can help the Texans expedite their rebuild with two first-rounders and two second-rounders in 2022, thanks to trades with the Dolphins and Colts (for QB Carson Wentz). That chunk of high draft capital might be enough to get Watson and if not, it would make sense to include Hurts in the package.
The Dolphins, before all the allegations came out against Watson in the spring that cooled off the initial trade interest in him, looked like the top suitors because Miami also was Watson’s top choice for relocation. The Dolphins did just take Tua Tagovailoa No. 5 overall in the 2020 draft, but as a 10-6 team from last season with a rising defensive foundation and improved offensive skill, they could see Watson as way to jump faster through the playoff window to catch up to the Josh Allen-led Bills.
Although they gave up a first-rounder to the Eagles, the Dolphins got back two from the 49ers, giving them three in the next two drafts. They also should have noitced that star cornerback Xavien Howard made a public trade request. Howard happens to be a native Houstonian and should fit the Texans’ desire to get an impact veteran in return for Watson along with high draft picks.
Washington Football Team
WFT has loaded up the offensive skill around the quarterback with Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries joining Antonio Gibson, Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas. Although they are confident new veteran bridge Ryan Fitzpatrick will execute in a scheme new to him and distribute the ball well to those playmakers, he’s a 38-year-old only on a one-year deal.
Quarterback is the only question mark in whether Washington, backed up by strong defense under Ron Rivera, can edge Dallas, Philadelphia and New York and repeat as NFC East champions, this time as a more explosive above-.500 team.
Washington, however, has only first-rounder in each of the next two drafts. Giving up those might be OK knowing they would use one a potential franchise QB anyway, but Rivera and GM Martin Mayhew might be hesitant to also give up any young impact defensive player. There’s also the concern of the team just having a major toxic culture cleanup under Daniel Snyder’s ownership. The nature of the allegations made by the women against Watson might make him untouchable for the change-focused regime.
The Panthers also were tied to Watson in the earlier trade rumors before they settled on giving up sixth-, second- and fourth-round picks to acquire former Jets QB Sam Darnold. They also picked up Darnold’s $18.8 million option for 2022.
Would Carolina get back into the mix late with such a high asking price? The Panthers have the standard two first-rounders available through 2023, so they also would need to part ways with a key offensive or defensive veteran (or two), perhaps also throwing in Darnold. Consider this is a long shot with their confidence and commitment in Darnold to have a big career turnaround.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders need to be mentioned because of their fickle support of QB Derek Carr and the pressure that coach Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock have to start producing winning results. But like the Panthers, there’s little chance now they will deviate from their current state to get Watson.
There’s no extra near-future first-rounders for Las Vegas and other than shipping a different Carr to Houston to replace Watson, there’s not a lot of appealing player compensation for the Texans give their status and needs. The Raiders should focus instead on trying to win a potential battle for Rodgers vs. the Broncos in March 2022.