It's officially official as it gets: Deshaun Watson has asked the Houston Texans to trade him this offseason. The rumblings of such a transaction first began just after the new year and have only grown in strength and numbers since. Today, we finally got the report we had been waiting for from Adam Schefter.
Three weeks ago, we gave four potential destinations when a Watson trade was nothing but a juicy rumor. A lot has transpired since then; the Texans hired Nick Caesiro as general manager, who then interviewed numerous coaches (including Eric Bieniemy, Watson's reported top choice) and ultimately went with 65-year-old David Culley. Watson was radio silent the whole time, and it appears the hiring of Culley over Bieniemy broke the dam.
Now Caesiro will undertake the unenviable task of attempting to get anything near fair value for a top-five quarterback under contract with a no-trade clause who everyone knows wants out. It will probably not happen quickly, but it will happen before the start of the 2021 NFL Draft on April 29. That is all we know for certain.
In light of the most recent news and the various murmurings around the league about Watson's preferences, here are four potential destinations for the superstar quarterback.
New York Jets
The Jets hired Robert Saleh as their new head coach after firing Adam Gase and everything might change. Watson reportedly likes Saleh so much that he would green-light a trade to Gang Green. This New York team has the assets to make a viable offer, too; they have a young quarterback with some potential in Sam Darnold and four first-round picks over the next two years (including the No. 2 overall selection in this year's affair) to offer alongside him. The Texans would be hard-pressed to find a better deal in terms of assets.
Darnold hasn't shown much since he was selected No. 3 overall but he has more potential than any other young quarterback realistically on the market, and if the Texans don't like him they can trade him again and pick a QB of their choice in the draft. It would be a kick-start to a rebuild and the Jets would leap at the opportunity to acquire Watson, as they should. They haven't had a franchise quarterback since Joe Namath. Houston needs Watson's sign-off and if he is as high as he apparently is on the Jets, this should be the deal made.
The Dolphins were mentioned in the same report as the Jets, coming in at No. 2 in terms of Watson's preferred destinations in a trade. Their appeal for the Texans is straightforward: they own Houston's first two picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, including No. 3 overall. Miami also has a good-to-great quarterback prospect in Tua Tagovailoa fresh off his rookie season after being selected No. 5 overall last year. It's nearly as appealing as the Jets offer, especially if one is of the opinion Tua is legit. Houston, however, might not be of that mind; the Houston Chronicle reported the Texans are not terribly high on Tua and don't see him as a franchise quarterback. But, like with Darnold, if the Texans don't love Tua then they can auction him off and have their pick of quarterbacks in this year's draft, although Justin Fields might be off the board at No. 3 if the Jets go that direction.
The Dolphins have a strong team and should have made the playoffs if it weren't for an untimely collapse against a Buffalo Bills team largely resting starters in Week 17. The receiver department is lacking but adding Watson would make them instant playoff contenders and only a few small improvements away from Super Bowl contenders. They would have to offer up a few more high picks of their own in any trade-- probably a 2021 first and second along with a 2022 first, at least-- but the Dolphins, like the Jets, haven't had a franchise quarterback since the days of yore.
We already addressed the possibility of Watson to the Jaguars at length shortly after the initial rumors spurted up from the ground, so I'll keep it short here. In essence, the Jaguars currently have the most valuable asset in football: the rights to Trevor Lawrence, everyone's favorite quarterback prospect in a decade. They also have the first pick in the second round and would offer up more future high picks. The downside: the Jaguars are in the Texans' division and both teams would have reason to not want to give the other the rights to a good quarterback, seeing as they would have to play one another twice a year at least. Jacksonville also has nothing else to offer after stripping the roster down to spare parts in pursuit of this No. 1 overall pick. Lawrence will be good enough to warrant discussion anyway, and there is no better way to soothe the minds of Texans fans about this debacle than landing him.
Let's speak bringing Deshaun home (sort of) into existence, shall we? This is the most unlikely of the other destinations, but more likely than any other team with no obvious strong hand to offer for Watson. Carolina can offer up a fine quarterback to bridge the gap in Houston with Teddy Bridgewater and a legitimate All-Pro player in Christian McCaffrey. They own the No. 8 overall pick in this year's draft as their most attractive draft asset and will offer up a horde of others if it gets the deal done. They could add on last year's No. 7 pick, Derrick Brown, to help replace J.J. Watt when the time comes for him to step away or get traded like Watson.
Carolina is far from a playoff team and adding Watson wouldn't make them Super Bowl contenders. But the fan base would go bananas for their Clemson man and Matt Rhule seems like a great fit with Watson. There's also the small fact that the Panthers just hired Sean Ryan as their quarterback coach, an insignificant move in normal times. But it could now be significant because Ryan was Watson's quarterback coach for his first two seasons at Clemson. There are pieces here that support the argument that Carolina is a sleeper trade partner for Watson's services.