Deshaun Watson is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL and could be up for grabs ahead of the 2021 NFL season. The Houston Texans quarterback has reportedly grown upset with his team’s front office and could ask for a trade over the offseason.
Watson had a career year in 2020. He reached career highs in completion percentage, touchdown passes, and touchdown yards despite not having DeAndre Hopkins for the first time in his four-year pro career. The Texans went just 4-12 without Watson’s go-to guy and the team finished third in the AFC South. Things could get worse now that Will Fuller is entering unrestricted free agency but Watson might be in a position to control his future.
The four-year, $156 million extension he signed in September included a no-trade clause. A trade seems like a longshot, but if it is going to happen, he has veto power. Teams usually don’t trade franchise quarterbacks still in their prime, but that’s not going to stop the speculation! Let’s take a look at some of the teams that could be in the running to improve at quarterback by acquiring Watson.
What teams would Watson agree to play for?
ESPN’s Chris Mortenson reported that Watson could be interested in moving to the AFC East to join the Dolphins on Sunday and there are a few reasons a trade with Miami could make sense.
The Dolphins have experience dealing with the Texans. They dealt Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, and a pair of future draft picks to Houston in exchange for two first-round picks and a second-round pick last offseason. This relationship could help the two sides come to an agreement again. Miami has the assets necessary to get another deal done.
Last offseason’s trade between the Miami and Houston helped the Dolphins land the No. 3 pick in the 2021 draft. That pick could be sent back to the Texans alongside Tua Tagovailoa, who took over for Ryan Fitzpatrick in the middle of 2020 and nearly led the Dolphins to the playoffs. The Alabama product didn’t have the most exciting rookie year but could prove to be the centerpiece of Houston’s franchise down the road. The No. 3 pick in the upcoming draft could be used to bring in another elite talent for the future.
There’s a lot for Watson to like about Miami. Its defense gave up the fifth-fewest points in the NFL and led the NFL in interceptions, and was respectable against the run. Houston can’t compare to that and was a bottom-10 team against the run and the pass. The Dolphins also have a plethora of weapons in Myles Gaskin, Mike Gesicki, and DeVante Parker. While Miami’s offensive line is young, Watson has proved that he can be elite with a below-average offensive line.
People have been throwing Chicago’s decision to trade up and draft Mitchell Trubisky over Watson and Patrick Mahomes for years but now the Bears have a chance to make it right. The Bears traded for an expensive backup in Nick Foles last offseason and he wasn’t even impressive enough to start over Trubisky in Week 1. While he did earn a starting spot back before getting injured, it was Trubisky’s play that helped Chicago creep into the playoffs.
The Bears are at a crossroads and have to decide whether extending Trubisky is a good idea. If they have a real at Watson they’ll likely take it in a heartbeat. David Montgomery, Allen Robinson, and Chicago’s defense are more than enough for Watson to leads a competitive team.
The AFC South is a two-horse race between the Colts and Tennessee Titans have an edge. Indianapolis did have one of the best defenses in the NFL last year and have a promising young running back in Jonathan Taylor but the receiving corps is questionable.
The WR1 spot could be up for grabs with T.Y. Hilton on the decline but the young talent our wide could step it up for the 2021 season. Frank Reich could get a lot more creative with an athlete like Watson under center instead of Philip Rivers, but there are more desirable destinations.
What teams could Watson turn down?
The Patriots excelled at winning during the Tom Brady era but struggled tremendously in Cam Newton’s first year in New England. The Patriots simply don’t have many playmakers and made them very limited on offense this past season. While they ranked fourth in rushing yards they were tied for last in passing touchdowns. Watson is perfectly capable of making plays with his legs but it’s hard to see him choosing New England when there’s a much more talented offensive team in Miami. Lifting the Patriots’ current roster past the Buffalo Bills is a big ask.
The Jets have the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft but might not be comfortable getting a quarterback not named Trevor Lawrence that early. Watson wants to win games and it doesn't take rocket science to figure out that the team most thought would go 0-16 in 2020 isn't high on his list. Two other AFC East teams are significantly better and Watson won’t sniff the playoffs with the Jets.
It’s not likely that Houston would keep Watson inside the division with a trade but the Jaguars need a franchise quarterback now that the Gardner Minshew experiment is over. Watson is a sure-fire star and there’s no guarantee that any incoming rookie will be as good as him. Watson won’t want to play for the team that finished with the worst record in the NFL in 2020 and the fact that Jacksonville just parted with its head coach and general manager makes matters worse.
What team would be the most fun with Watson?
The 49ers were riddled with injuries on both sides of the ball in 2020, and the main knock against them has been the performance of Jimmy Garoppolo in recent years. Jimmy G has an elite offensive line, a dynamic rushing attack, one of the best tight ends in the game, and two explosive receivers capable of making home run plays consistently.
San Francisco’s defense was solid despite being weakened by injuries to Nick Bosa, Richard, Sherman, and others. It can return to an elite level if healthy. The 49ers have a complete team but might not have the assets necessary to acquire Watson. They’re the most well-rounded team he could join in my opinion.