(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Houston Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson, who signed a four-year $156 million contract this past offseason, has publicly displayed his frustrations with the Texans and appears to want to be traded elsewhere. The Texans just came off a 4-12 season despite Watson leading the NFL in passing yards, and while retaining executive Jack Easterby, the Texans did not undergo the culture change Watson wanted.
So this begs the question: will Watson be traded and if so, where will he be traded? Watson is a top-10 QB in the NFL (possibly top five) and as a result, many teams would love to acquire his services. So I will look at each team’s salary cap situation, their draft capital, Watson’s preferences and personnel to give in a trade to acquire Watson as I figure out the best fit for him in the NFL.
First, teams with solidified franchise quarterbacks like the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills can be automatically eliminated. Also, teams with very tight cap situations such as the New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers are eliminated as well. Lastly, with Watson’s no-trade clause, he can deny trades to rebuilding and struggling franchises such as the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars.
With this established, let us look at the QB-needy teams with the most cap space available. When looking at the top-five teams with the highest-projected cap room for this offseason, there are three teams that need a quarterback: the Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets and New England Patriots. As far as most draft capital, the Jets and Miami Dolphins each have two first-round picks. Lastly, the two teams that have players to add in a blockbuster deal would be the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Football Team with their loaded defensive rosters.
So we are left with the 49ers, Jets, Dolphins, Washington, Colts and Patriots. With Watson’s no-trade clause, we can rule out the Colts and Patriots. Watson would not want to play for the Patriots, considering Easterby came from the Patriots and they don’t have a desirable receiving corp for Watson to work with. Also, there is no way the Texans would trade Watson to the Colts, their fiercest division rival.
While down to the final four teams, here is a breakdown of the appeal of the four teams. The 49ers, when healthy, have the roster and coaching to reach the Super Bowl as shown in 2019. With rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and 2020 trade acquisition in left tackle Trent Williams, the 49ers added pieces to support a franchise QB. Also, with a healthy defense, the 49ers have one of the best units in the NFL, something Watson didn’t consistently have at Houston. With many players stepping up due to injury, the 49ers have depth to give away in a blockbuster trade. They are projected to have $12 million in cap room, so clearing up more room will be needed in a possible trade.
The Jets have been thrown around as the favorites to land Watson and it’s not hard to see why. They have two first-round picks, including the second-overall pick, and have the cap room to make a huge deal for Watson. Also, the Jets have nice young pieces to build around such as left tackle Mekhi Becton and the best 2021 head coaching fire in former 49ers’ defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. The Jets have a bright future and Watson would accelerate an already promising rebuild.
The Dolphins, who have the third-overall pick due to the Texans’ acquiring left tackle Laremy Tunsil in a trade before the 2019 season, have two first-round picks and plenty of cap room to trade for Watson. The Dolphins went 10-6 with a limited and injured offense and have a brilliant head coach in Brian Flores. So adding Watson would instantly vault the Dolphins into a legit playoff team and they have the culture to have success for the next decade.
As for Washington, they overcame turbulence and turmoil to win the NFC East at 7-9 with four different starting QBs. They bolster one of the best young defenses in the NFL and are well-coached with Ron Rivera at the helm; they also have the sixth-most cap room available. Washington can also throw in edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan in a trade, a reliable veteran who has lost playing time due to the emerging young core. With young weapons across the roster, Washington is an ideal situation for a star QB to come in and thrive.
After looking at the top four teams, I can conclude that Washington is the best place for him. They have a better cap situation than the 49ers and have more weapons offensively than the Jets and Dolphins. The Texans can trade Watson out of the conference and acquire Kerrigan and multiple high draft picks in a trade as Washington has an extra third-round pick in this upcoming draft. They have the culture to succeed on top of being in a weak division.
I believe if Washington acquires Watson, they will become a force to be reckoned with in the NFC and the Texans can start their inevitable rebuilding process. While the Jets, Dolphins and 49ers have a case to trade for him, Washington is the best all-around fit.