The 2021 season came and went without any significant movement on the Deshaun Watson front. There were rumors the Miami Dolphins wanted to trade for him despite the 22 sexual assault lawsuits he was in the middle of fighting, but that amounted to exactly nothing by the trade deadline. The Houston Texans were predictably bad but didn't trade Watson, burning a roster spot to keep him away from the building every week. Watson's legal issues remain unsettled.
Now the Super Bowl is over and all eyes turn towards another offseason of potentially significant change around the NFL landscape. Watson apparently is doing the same. Jeremy Fowler reported for ESPN this morning that Watson is "evaluating" potential trade destinations, naming the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the teams in question. Per ESPN:
The Texans quarterback, who spent the 2021 season on the team's active roster but did not play, has begun evaluating potential fits for his services in 2022, with the Buccaneers and Vikings among teams on his radar.
One source noted that Watson -- who has a no-trade clause -- is still early in the evaluation process, but he's looking for the right blend of offensive system, coaching, talent and, most importantly, the chance to win.
Obviously it needs to be said that Watson can evaluate all he wants but nothing will happen until the civil suits come to their conclusion. No team is going to pony up the assets required to trade for him while his off-field issues loom large. Any self-respecting franchise should think long and hard about whether they want to employ a person with these kinds of accusations in the first place, but we all know how it works in the NFL. Talent trumps everything.
As Fowler notes, Watson has a no-trade clause and can dictate where he goes. One would think his leverage is completely shattered after everything that's happened in the last 12 months but it's in his contract and there's nothing Houston can do about that. The Texans want to take the best offer on the table, but have to adhere to Watson's wishes if they want to avoid paying him to not play again in 2022.
Both the Vikings and the Bucs are not exactly overflowing with assets as aging teams closer to a rebuild than a championship given their pricy rosters and respective quarterback dilemmas. That's the type of team Watson will want to play for but not the type of team that can offer the most attractive trade package for him. A balance will have to be struck. We'll see if it finally happens this offseason.