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New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers competing for Deshaun Watson trade

Matt Johnson
Deshaun Watson, New Orleans Saints
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson will soon be traded and the New Orleans Saints could potentially be emerging as the eventual landing spot for the NFL star.

After avoiding criminal charges for sexual misconduct allegations, the path towards one of the biggest trades in NFL history is clear. Teams are already making offers to Houston for its star quarterback and the 26-year-old will soon begin meeting with interested clubs.

Watson holds all the cards in this situation. As part of the contract extension signed in 2020, he holds a no-trade clause.

  • Deshaun Watson contract:  $40.4 million cap hit (2022), $42.4M cap hit (’23), $37.4M cap hit (’24)

The Texans find themselves in the position the Seattle Seahawks faced with Russell Wilson. While other teams might submit stronger offers, the no-trade clause allows the player to choose his destination. It’s what will make Watson’s meetings with clubs crucial and could be part of the reason why New Orleans seems to be emerging as the favorite.

NFL insider Benjamin Allbright shared Sunday that he believes the race for Watson is down to the Saints and Carolina Panthers. While Panthers’ owner David Tepper is taking an aggressive approach to landing one of the NFL’s elite, young quarterbacks, Allbright believes the Saints might be in the lead to acquire Watson.

  • Deshaun Watson stats (2020): 4,823 passing yards, 70.2% completion rate, 8.9 ypa, 33-7 TD-INT ratio

New Orleans has made a flurry of moves to move closer towards the NFL salary cap. While acquiring Watson might be costly, both financially and in terms of trade compensation, the organization seems ready to find its next franchise quarterback two years after Drew Brees retired.

What would a Deshaun Watson trade cost the New Orleans Saints?

NFL: Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Any team that acquires Watson will likely want to work with him on a restructured contract, lowering his $40 million cap hit for the upcoming season. It would be a priority for the Saints, allowing them to afford one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL.

Houston’s asking price is significant. At a minimum, any team acquiring Watson must part with three first-round picks, multiple Day 2 picks and young talent. While it’s a lot for any franchise to pay, the Saints know how valuable a championship-caliber quarterback is for an offense.

  • New Orleans Saints trade: 2022 1st & 2nd round picks, 2023 & 2024 1st round picks, Marcus Davenport, Cesar Ruiz
  • Houston Texans trade: Deshaun Watson, 2022 5th round pick

A deal of this size would hurt the Saints’ defense, but the damage along the offensive line would be even more severe. Already expected to lose Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead in free agency, the Texans will likely want one of the Saints’ young offensive linemen.

However, it’s evident the franchise wants to avoid quarterback purgatory for years to come. Watson solves the Saints’ biggest issue, providing them with a player who proved he can help even an average roster go on a playoff run. If it takes overpaying to land Watson, New Orleans will find a way to justify it.

When everyone is available, the Saints’ offense will feature Watson, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. It would be one of the best playmaking trios in the NFL, making New Orleans one of the top teams in the NFC. Of course, one factor might result in a slow start to open the 2022 season.

One thing to keep in mind, the Saints will need viable backups at quarterback and running back. Watson and Kamara are facing multi-game suspensions in 2022, meaning they’ll be at an even bigger disadvantage in the division with Tom Brady returning.

Deshaun Watson meeting with Saints, Carolina Panthers on Monday

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Houston Texans
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

While the Saints have a strong shot at landing Watson, Carolina remains the most aggressive team involved in negotiations. According to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network, Watson will meet with both teams on Monday night.

Carolina will likely pitch Watson on building the organization his way. Tepper isn’t committed to head coach Matt Rhule and could theoretically suggest that Watson will get to pick the franchise’s next head coach.

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Ownership is going to be a crucial factor in this as it’s the reason Watson wanted out of Houston. If he believes Tepper is the right leader for an organization and will build the Panthers the right way, Carolina could make a stronger pitch than its NFC South rival.

As for the Seattle Seahawks, per Texans’ beat writer John McClain, Watson reportedly made it clear he doesn’t want to join the franchise.