A Deshaun Watson trade is imminent. The Houston Texans quarterback requested to be moved in January 2021, but sexual misconduct allegations prevented that from happening. With any criminal punishment now off the table, NFL teams are ramping up their pursuit.
Watson is facing accusations of 22 sexual misconduct and assault allegedly occurring during his NFL career. However, a grand jury ruled against criminal charges and that’s the most important element for NFL teams. With only 22 civil suits remaining, the wheels towards a blockbuster trade are in motion.
He could still face discipline from the NFL for violating the personal conduct policy. However, avoiding criminal charges keeps him off the Commissioner’s Exempt list. because of that, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2022 barring a sudden decision from commissioner Roger Goodell.
With that in mind, let’s examine the best landing spots for Deshaun Watson.
Carolina Panthers land their franchise quarterback
David Tepper, the Panthers’ owner, desperately wants a franchise quarterback. He pushed to acquire Watson in February and despite the 22 allegations against him, still believes Watson can fix Carolina’s on-field problems. It’s also important to note that head coach Matt Rhule will be on the hot seat in 2022, meaning both the coach and team owner are in desperation made. That’s something the Texans can exploit.
- Carolina Panthers receive: Deshaun Watson
- Houston Texans receive: Sam Darnold, Terrace Marshall, Derrick Brown, CAR”s 2022 & 2023 1st and 2nd round picks, CAR’s 2024 1st and conditional 3rd round pick
While Watson originally refused to play anywhere but Miami, things have changed. With Brian Flores out as the Dolphins head coach, Watson will likely become more receptive to other landing spots. While Carolina’s location can’t match Miami, the Panthers can offer a skill group that will include Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. Plus, Tepper can promise to build the team how Watson wants it.
Houston wouldn’t want Sam Darnold as a trade chip, but there’s another benefit to acquiring him. If the Texans eat his guaranteed $18 million salary in 2022, the Panthers would gladly offer additional draft-pick compensation. This deal gives Carolina a franchise quarterback and Houston lands three first-round picks, two seconds, a young receiver and a defensive tackle. In addition, the third-round pick becomes 2024 2nd if Carolina makes the playoffs next season.
Deshaun Watson traded to Seattle Seahawks
After trading Russell Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks have reportedly inquired with Houston about acquiring Watson. It would be a stunning turnaround, moving on from a face of the franchise who won a Super Bowl and using the picks received to replace him with a younger star. It also might be exactly the kind of megadeal general manager John Schneider wants to swing.
- Seattle Seahawks trade: 9th overall pick, 40th overall pick, 41st overall pick, 2023 1st, 2023 2nd, 2024 1st, Darrell Taylor
- Houston Texans trade: Deshaun Watson, 2023 5th round pick
From Houston’s perspective, the bare minimum requires Seattle to send its top three picks in the 2022 NFL Draft and two future first-round picks. After that, there’s room for negotiation. This deal certainly makes sense for the Texans, allowing the franchise to build a deep, young roster with an incredibly low cap number.
As for the Seahawks, it’s a bit of a dice roll. They would be left with very little avenues to upgrade the offensive line, a source of frustration for Wilson in recent years. It’s also known that Pete Carroll’s desire to become a run-first offense bothered his star quarterback. In order to convince Watson to waive his no-trade clause, Carroll would have to make the star quarterback think things would be different for him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers replace Tom Brady
There’s no doubt Watson would love to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’d be joining a team that won a Super Bowl a year ago, playing in an offense with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. He could also feel very comfortable operating an offense designed by Byron Leftwich, with Bruce Arians overseeing things as head coach.
Acquiring Watson is a lot easier said than done. Tampa Bay’s picks in the 2022 NFL Draft are a lot further back than what other competitors will offer. So, the Bucs would need Watson to essentially force Houston into trading him to this specific destination.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers acquire: Deshaun Watson
- Houston Texans acquire: 2022 1st, 2022 2nd, 2023 1st, 2023 2nd, 2024 1st, 2024 2nd, CB Jamel Dean, WR Tyler Johnson
Keep in mind, the Buccaneers are currently $2.73 million over the salary cap. Ther is also the Tom Brady factor, with the retired quarterback capable of returning at any moment and asking for a trade. Despite the complications, many around the NFL believe the Buccaneers could be the ultimate landing spot.
Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans make three-team trade
The Minnesota Vikings want Deshaun Watson, but the Texans likely see very little value in acquiring quarterback Kirk Cousins. So, a rare three-team trade could be the avenue to multiple clubs getting exactly what they need.
- Minnesota Vikings acquire: Deshaun Watson
- Indianapolis Colts acquire: Kirk Cousins, Danielle Hunter
- Houston Texans acquire: 12th overall pick, 2022 2nd (IND), 2023 1st (MIN), 2023 1st (IND), Dayo Odeyingbo, 2024 1st (MIN)
Needless to say, there are a lot of moving parts here. If the Vikings are acquiring Watson’s salary and trading Cousins, they’ll need to create cap room. Danielle Hunter is generating trade interest and moving him can help Minnesota keep some of its future assets, while unloading cash. Three first-round picks for Cousins is a trade the Vikings would happily make.
As for the Colts, this deal fills two needs. Indianapolis needs an edge rusher opposite Kwity Paye and Hunter fills that role. On top of that, general manager Chris Ballard lands a quarterback he knows can win with the talent surrounding him. Cousins and Hunter for 1 future 1st, Odeyingbo and a second-round pick is a worthy price.
That leaves the Texans. Frankly, the organization shouldn’t concern itself with a divisional foe landing a quarterback. Houston isn’t competing in the next two seasons, so whatever the Colts do is meaningless. This deal provides the Texans with four first-round picks, a young edge rusher and two second-round picks. That’s more than any other team would offer.