As the offseason rolls on, a large amount of NFL media coverage continues to focus around Deshaun Watson. Within the past week, Watson has officially requested a trade, and new Texans GM Nick Caserio has stated he has "zero interest" in trading his star quarterback. It still befuddles me how the Texans allowed the situation to get so dire. Only a year ago, this team had a 24-0 lead on Patrick Mahomes and the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs. Regardless of how badly the Texans have botched their future in the past 12 months, they will have no shortage of suitors should they decide to trade Watson. He’s already a top 5 QB in the league, and at 25 years old, he has plenty of productive years ahead of him. However, a complicated issue for the Texans to work around is Watson’s full no-trade clause. While there have been rumors circulating about where Watson ends up being traded, I believe conversations around where Watson would accept a trade have not begun in earnest between him and the Texans, as the team is still trying to remain strong in their view that they won’t trade him. If and when that conversation does happen Watson will be in a unique position to screen any potential offers to ensure he goes to a team that will maximize his ability and gives him a chance to compete for titles. Below is a list of the 7 teams that should be interested in trading for Deshaun and would provide him the best opportunity to win now and throughout his career.
*One important omission is the Colts, who no doubt would be a fantastic landing spot, but play in the Texans division and are a highly unlikely destination.*
(Image via Associated Press)
With John Elway stepping down as GM this year, it ends a tenure that was both largely successful and disappointing. Elway helped bring a title back to Denver with Peyton Manning but was unable to find a long term solution at quarterback, using high draft picks on Paxton Lynch (2016 Round 1, Pick 26) and Drew Lock (2019 Round 2, Pick 42) with limited return. Deshaun Watson would no doubt be a better solution at QB for the Broncos. They would also provide Watson with talented young weapons to develop alongside him as they look to build into a legitimate contender. Denver has invested a ton of draft capital in recent years into offensive skill positions, with Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, and KJ Hamler forming a young receiver corps with substantial upside. While it’s unlikely the Broncos would provide Watson the opportunity to win now, they wouldn’t be too far away from becoming a contender if they added Watson. In Denver, Deshaun would play for a team with a history of success and a new front office that will be keen to return the Broncos to the top of the AFC.
6. New York Jets
While certain reports have claimed the Jets are one of Watson’s preferred destinations, I’m not sold on the appeal. The Jets have draft capital galore and plenty of cap space, but they’re so many pieces away from contention that I’m not sure where the appeal lies for Watson. The Jets don’t have any legitimate threats at wide receiver, running back or tight end, need to plug numerous holes on defense, but the biggest issue is the offensive line. Sam Darnold ranked in the top 10 in sacks while missing four games this year and likely made Darnold look worse than he is. After enduring constant pressure the past year on the Texans, Watson should understand the importance of a strong offensive line. I think Robert Saleh was the best head coaching hire this offseason, but he’s a defensive guy and won’t encourage Watson that the offensive system implemented will maximize his ability. While there’s an appeal to playing in the New York market and winning there, there are simply too many issues with the Jets for them to look like an attractive destination.
5. Washington Football Team
It seemed almost counterintuitive to designate Washington as an attractive trade destination, but honestly, they could be a couple of spots higher on this list. In Ron Rivera’s first season, the Football Team didn’t blow anyone away, but they outperformed expectations and indicated a team comradery and identity that had sorely been lacking in recent years. In Washington, Watson would be going to a team with a legitimate top 5 defense that would certainly help take some of the pressure off of him. After what he went through in Houston, I’m sure that would be a welcome sight. The issue for Washington would be to make sure they can provide Deshaun with enough offensive weapons to appear attractive. Terry McClaurin looks like a legitimate number one receiver and Antonio Gibson turned a few heads in his rookie year, but Watson will need another wide receiver to see Washington as a truly attractive destination. WFT has the fifth-most cap space this offseason, and a bountiful free agent wide receiver market, they should be able to add another weapon. Additionally, putting Deshaun on the Football Team would undoubtedly make them division favorites. Washington wouldn’t be the most exciting destination, but it would be a great opportunity for team success.
In terms of offensive weapons, the Panthers may be at the top of the list. They have the best running back/receiving back in the league (see CMC), and even with Curtis Samuel becoming a free agent, Robby Anderson and DJ Moore are a lethal one-two punch at receiver. The Panthers' defense wasn’t terrible last year either, and they should be able to improve that side of the ball through the draft, given the talent they already have on offense. The opportunity to work with Joe Brady will also no doubt entice Watson. There’s not really an issue with the Panthers as a landing spot so much as there’s a question as to whether the franchise is set up to succeed. They’ve had one winning record since going to the Super Bowl six years ago, haven’t won a playoff game, and seem to be stuck in a cycle of mediocrity. Obviously quarterback is the most important position and securing a top player like Watson would certainly increase their upside, but that doesn’t change the questions surrounding the team. The Panthers would be one of the most exciting destinations for Deshaun, but a lack of recent success should portent caution when it comes to Carolina.
On the flip side of the organizational stability spectrum, we have the Patriots. Bill Belichick is the most successful coach in league history, Josh McDaniels has over a decade of experience as OC, and management is always aggressive in taking a win-now approach to every season. Going to the Patriots would indicate that Watson values team success over individual accomplishments. McDaniels showed a willingness this past year to change offensive schemes to fit his quarterback, and you’d have to imagine a complete overhaul of the offensive should the Patriots trade for Watson. However, what the Pats have in organizational leadership, they are lacking in personnel. New England is in desperate need of talent at wide receiver and tight end as they had one of the worst group of skill position players in the league this past year. Deshaun is great, but he will need someone to throw to. The Patriots do have the fourth-most cap space heading into free agency and a loaded group of receivers should provide them with plenty of options, but they’ve also demonstrated an unwillingness in recent years of making big splash signings in free agency. Ultimately, securing Watson and a top free agent wide receiver like Allen Robinson or Kenny Golladay would put the Patriots right back into the playoff discussion.
A year ago, it would’ve been hard to make a case for Miami as a better situation than New England, but the Dolphins really turned heads in their first season under Brian Flores (10-6). Flores imported the bend-don’t-break defense he coached in New England with great success and was able to manage a somewhat tenuous quarterback situation while finding ways to win games. Miami was the second youngest team in the league this past year, and there is a lot of optimism surrounding the team and what sort of leap they might take next year. Add Deshaun Watson, a massively talented and young quarterback to develop with this team, and the Dolphins could be legitimate Super Bowl contenders next year. The issue with Miami as with their AFC East rivals mentioned above is a lack of weapons. Mike Gesicki is a fantastic tight end, but Devante Parker wasn’t able to take the next step after a stellar season last year, and the rest of the wide receiver and running back rooms aren’t stocked with talent. The Dolphins have the cap space and draft capital even after trading for Watson to add some weapons, but the team looks to be on the up and up and Watson could bring them to the next level.
If I’m Deshaun Watson, there’s one team I’m clearly asking to go to, and that’s the 49ers. San Francisco is one year removed from the Super Bowl, and while last season was a lost one due to injuries, this team still has the pieces to compete for titles. The defense still has elite talent and should be back to full strength next year with guys like Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas returning from injuries, and the offensive is loaded with talents like George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and Raheem Mostert. San Francisco is a portrait of organizational continuity, and playing for Kyle Shanahan will give Deshaun Watson ample opportunities for success. The Niners may play in a difficult division, but they have all the pieces minus quarterback to win now, and Deshaun would be the best available answer. It’s a match made in heaven, and Deshaun should use every ounce of influence he has to try and land there.