Why the Miami Dolphins are a perfect fit for Deshaun Watson trade

By Matt Johnson
Dec 27, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) warms up before a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans found a way to anger superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson, just days after he wrapped up an MVP-caliber season. With increased speculation that the Pro Bowl passer could pursue a trade, the Miami Dolphins immediately jump out as the perfect landing spot.

Blockbuster trades of this magnitude are rarely seen in sports and even more uncommon in the NFL. Meanwhile, several reports have come out to indicate Watson won’t be moved. However, we’ve heard that before and then the right offer comes along or a player demands a trade.

Watson has every reason to be angered by the Texans’ actions. Ownership vowed to give him a voice in the hiring process for head coach and general manager. Instead, Houston ignored his suggestions for GM and hired Nick Caserio, with the franchise quarterback learning about the news on social media.

Meanwhile, Watson has pushed heavily for the team to hire Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. However, the Texans are now the only team with a vacancy that hasn’t interviewed or even asked permission to speak to Bieniemy.

This is already an organization without first- or second-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. On top of that, the Texans are over the projected 2021 NFL salary cap, leaving them without any flexibility to build a better roster around their face of the franchise.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday morning that Watson’s frustration level with the Texans is at a 10. By comparison, according to someone close to Watson, it was at a two following the DeAndre Hopkins trade. Now, with the star quarterback reportedly open to a trade to Miami and willing to waive his no-trade clause, things get interesting.

Deshaun Watson trade: 5 most realistic trade destinations

With that in mind, let’s dive into why a Deshaun Watson trade makes perfect sense for the Miami Dolphins.

Deshaun Watson: The only logical upgrade over Tua Tagovailoa

Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa
Dec 26, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins made the right decision selecting Tua Tagovailoa with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. When healthy, he was one of the best quarterbacks in college football and a top-10 talent in the 2020 draft class. While the 22-year-old was benched twice this season, with head coach Brian Flores turning to Ryan Fitzpatrick for a spark, he had a lot going against him in his rookie season.

Tagovailoa suffered a dislocated hip in November 2019, an injury that nearly ended his football career. He worked tirelessly to get health and showed enough for NFL doctors to sign off on him as a top-five NFL Draft pick. Unfortunately, his development track suffered a setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams didn’t report for training camp until July, meaning no rookie minicamp or OTAs for Tagovailoa to learn the offense. Even worse, the elimination of the preseason meant he couldn’t get valuable snaps.

After making his NFL debut on the final drive against the New York Jets, Miami turned the keys over to Tagovailoa in November. Coming out of the bye week with a 3-3 record, the organization prioritized its long-term interests over contending in 2020.

Based on the NFL standings, things worked out well for the Dolphins. The team went on a three-game winning streak and won five of its next six games, entering Week 14 with an 8-4 record. However, while Tagovailoa showed flashes of talent, he was not playing at a level that could sustain victories.

While he posted a 99.4 quarterback rating over that span, Tagovailoa put a ceiling on Miami’s offense. He threw just seven touchdown passes across those starts and averaged 6.63 yards per pass attempt. By comparison, Fitzpatrick finished the season with a 7.8 YPA and sparked the wild comeback against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 16.

The real key to Miami’s 7-3 record in the second half of its season was the defense. The Dolphins generated 20 takeaways over their final 10 games. From Week 8 through Week 14, Miami’s defense held opponents to averaging 18.7 points per game.

In Week 17, with the team a victory away from earning a trip to the NFL Playoffs, Tua Tagovailoa imploded. He tossed three interceptions and could never sustain offensive drives and finished with a 23.3 QBR. Suddenly, the Dolphins were eliminated from playoff contention.

Tagovailoa can still be a very good NFL quarterback. He will be healthy in the offseason and should have a full summer of OTAs, training camp and multiple preseason games to get more comfortable in the offense. But for a team that boasts one of the NFL’s best defenses, time is of the essence.

Deshaun Watson stats: Pro Bowl quarterback can make the Dolphins a Super Bowl contender

Deshaun Watson: Miami Dolphins
Jan 4, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates after a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Wild Card NFL Playoff game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

First, consider the circumstances Deshaun Watson played through with the Houston Texans. He dealt with Bill O’Brien in the first four games, before a change was finally made. Once O’Brien departed, Watson was given more input in the offense.

Despite playing behind one of the NFL’s worst pass-blocking offensive lines, per Pro Football Focus, and even after Will Fuller’s suspension, Watson did MVP-caliber things.

  • Deshaun Watson stats (2020 season): 4,823 passing yards (1st in NFL), 8.9 YPA (1st in NFL), 70.2% completion rate (2nd in NFL), 112.4 quarterback rating (2nd in NFL), 33/7 TD/INT ratio, 444 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.

The numbers over a full season are absurd. Watson didn’t have an All-Pro receiver like Davante Adams or a supporting cast with Hall of Fame coach Andy Reid, All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce and star receiver Tyreek Hill. Even more incredible, comparing Watson’s stats before and after O’Brien was fired.

  • Deshaun Watson stats (Week 1 – Week 4): 65.6% completion rate, 98.2 quarterback rating, 273 pass yards/game, 8.5 YPA, 6/3 TD/INT ratio.
  • Deshaun Watson stats (Week 5 – Week 17): 71.63% completion rate, 116.8 quarterback rating, 310.9 pass yards/game, 9.83 YPA, 27/4 TD/INT ratio.

There’s a reason J.J. Watt apologized to Watson after the team’s loss in Week 17. Houston’s star quarterback played at the same level as Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes, the co-favorites to win NFL MVP, but it didn’t change the standings because of how Watson’s teammates performed.

Now, image Watson on the Dolphins. Flores has created a culture that Bill Belichick would be proud of and players in Miami love. While the team needs an offensive coordinator and a vertical threat at wide receiver, the defense is in place to battle with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Miami lost to Patrick Mahomes and Co. 33-27, in a game that saw Tagovailoa average 6.6 yards per attempt, take four sacks and complete only 58.3% of his passes. Imagine the result with a quarterback who can practically match Mahomes throw-for-throw.

With Deshaun Watson, the Miami Dolphins are a Super Bowl contender in 2021.

Deshaun Watson trade: What should the Miami Dolphins offer the Houston Texans?

Deshaun Watson: Miami Dolphins
Dec 27, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks (13) celebrates with quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Convincing the Texans to trade Deshaun Watson won’t be easy, especially with the easily-finessed Bill O’Brien out of the building. If a trade request is made and Houston honors it, Miami can make the offer it would take.

  • Miami Dolphins receive: Deshaun Watson, Brandin Cooks
  • Houston Texans receive: 2021 first-round pick (3rd overall), 2021 first-round pick (18th overall), 2021 second-round pick (50th overall), 2021-fourth round pick (Miami), 2022 third-round pick (Miami), QB Tua Tagovailoa

The move immediately fills the void at quarterback for the Texans, with a player who could develop into franchise signal-caller. Tagovailoa is still a very talented player and with the right coaching, which will be key for Nick Caserio to get right, there’s a greater chance he reaches his potential.

Just as importantly for Houston, it could actually build a foundation around its new quarterback. The No. 3 overall pick could be devoted to an offensive tackle, with the team then free to shop Laremy Tunsil for more draft capital. With the No. 18 selection, the Texans can draft a player to help rebuild the defense. It would result in a multi-year rebuild, but that’s exactly what the team needs.

According to NFL Draft insider Matt Miller, Nick Caseri loved Tua Tagovailoa in the 2020 NFL Draft. So, if any team could meet Houston’s asking price to land Watson, the Dolphins make the most sense. It’s a deal with a lot of benefits for the Texans, giving them flexibility with their 2021 NFL Draft picks. Meanwhile, Miami gets its difference-maker.

As for the Dolphins, this is a high cost that is worth paying. Tagovailoa could develop into a great quarterback, but he doesn’t offer the potential to be an All-Proquarterback and Watson is already playing at that level. Plus, if Tua doesn’t live up to expectations, Miami will need to give up a lot to acquire a great quarterback in 2022 or 2023.

In this scenario, the Dolphins still keep the No. 35 overall pick. The selection can be used on Trey Smith, Creed Humphrey or Wyatt Davis, all guards who would be upgrades on the interior offensive line. Furthermore, the organization keeps its 2022 first- and second-round picks.

The icing on the cake is Brandin Cooks. He is one of the best deep threats in the NFL and is coming off a 1,000-yard season in 15 games. He already loves playing with Watson and would complement DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki and Preston Williams perfectly.

If the Miami Dolphins want to become perennial Super Bowl contenders, a trade for Deshaun Watson is the best way to make it happen.