Deshaun Watson might want a trade. That's the rumor Mike Florio reported on Thursday morning. Via Pro Football Talk:
"Rumors already are circulating, and we’ve already heard them from multiple different people, that Watson has quietly broached with teammates the possibility of requesting a trade."
This is obviously a long way away from Watson actually asking for a trade. But such rumblings are often the first step in a superstar's quest to get out of his current situation. Nobody would blame Watson, either. He led the NFL in passing this season but his team managed only four wins. Bill O'Brien's wild ride as GM has left the Texans without their first two picks this season and robbed Watson of his favorite receiver, DeAndre Hopkins. The team is in flux after firing O'Brien. It seems like JJ Watt doesn't have any interest in sticking around. This is not what a team building around a superstar quarterback should look like at this point in his career.
Watson did sign a new contract this past offseason, but as Florio points out in his article, he only carries a $21.6 million dead cap hit in 2021. That is not a small number by any means, but certainly tenable if the Texans lead entirely into rebuilding. This is not quite Carson Wentz and the Eagles. If Watson really wants out, the Texans have the capability to grant him that wish.
On the flip side of it all, it would be easier to make a list of teams who do not want Deshaun Watson than vice versa. Half the NFL's franchises would send a king's ransom to land a star QB in the midst of his prime under contract through 2025. But we have to start somewhere, so here are the four teams that make the most sense as a possible destination for Watson if the unthinkable happens and Houston puts him on the block.
The Dolphins have something the Texans could really use right about now: the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, which they own thanks to the Laremy Tunsil trade that sent the left tackle to Houston. They also have an exciting young quarterback named Tua Tagovailoa who still needs a bit of seasoning before he's leading any team to playoff contention. Miami was on the cusp of a wild-card berth before completely falling apart in Week 17 against a Bills team with nothing to play for. They can likely put together the most attractive package for Watson; two first-round picks in this year's draft to jumpstart a rebuild and a QB who could be worth building around with four more years under contract. Miami would instantly become a playoff team in the AFC East with Watson at the helm instead of the revolving door of Tagovailoa and Ryan Fitzpatrick. This theoretical makes the most sense.
New England Patriots
Duh. The Patriots have no plan and no future at the quarterback position. Watson is a transcendent talent able to overcome the team's shortcomings at receiver and would certainly make them a playoff team when paired with Bill Belichick and a decent defense. New England has plenty of cap space and their highest draft pick since 2008. They'd likely have to attach some sweetener in the form of a talented player or two (Stephon Gilmore, perhaps?). Houston did just hire Nick Cairo, de facto GM of the Patriots for the last few seasons. Belichick doesn't have time for an extended rebuild project. Even the stingy old coach would be willing to part with just about anything and anyone for someone like Watson.
San Francisco 49ers
There has not been a lot of confidence that Jimmy Garoppolo is the answer, especially after he missed nearly the entire season with yet another injury for the Niners. Watson would be magical in Shanahan's offense and the Texans can rest easy knowing they sent their star out of the AFC. San Francisco could offer up Garoppolo as a bridge to the next Texans QB or Houston can try and build around him; Jimmy G is not completely lacking for talent, even if he may not be good enough to win a Super Bowl. Throw in some draft picks, starting with the No. 12 pick in 2021, and maybe one of the talented pieces San Fran has on their defensive line, and this feels feasible.
Philip Rivers is on his way out and the Colts only signed him to a one-year deal this past offseason. It resulted in a playoff berth, but Indy needs a long-term solution at quarterback, and he isn't currently on their roster (sorry, Jacoby Brisset). They don't have a ton of talent at wide receiver, but Jonathan Taylor has been a revelation as a rookie running back and Watson would be backed by one of the league's very best defenses with the Colts. The biggest hold-up is that Indy doesn't have a lot to offer. Their first-round pick is going to be somewhere in the middle-to-low end of things, Houston won't want Taylor in exchange for Watson, and nobody in Indianapolis will green-light trading stud linebacker Darius Leonard. They're also in the same division, which is a mighty tough sell. Still, if the Colts are willing to give up anything not nailed down, a deal could be struck.