NY Jets, Deshaun Watson Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
The NY Jets are reportedly Deshaun Watson’s preferred trade destination.
According to a recent report by the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero, the Jets are Watson’s top choice because they hired Robert Saleh as their head coach. Someone that Watson wanted his current team, the Houston Texans, to interview for their head coaching vacancy.
A big reason why there is a rift between Watson and the Texans stems from them not accepting his input after promising him that he’d be a part of the hiring process.
The Texans lost 12 games last season, but their biggest loss is the trust and faith their superstar quarterback had for them. Houston made Watson promises and then closed the door on him and didn’t keep them.
So now, Watson wants out.
Perhaps there is still time for the Texans to repair the damage they have done to their relationship with Watson. Hiring the right head coach could be a step towards that recovery.
Call me cynical, and perhaps that’s part of being a Jets fan, but I am in the “I’ll believe it when I see it camp” when it comes to the possibility of Watson being traded, let alone to the Jets. Carl from ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ is dead and buried for a reason.
However, with each day that passes, the pipedream of Deshaun Watson on the NY Jets seems more and more like it could happen.
Most Jets fans want Watson and hope that perhaps Watson will get his way, without Gang Green having to mortgage a lot of their assets to get it done. The real pipedream is assuming that the Jets won’t have to.
The truth is that if the Texans entertain trading Watson, they will not give him away for pennies on the dollar. They have no reason to.
No matter what the narrative is out there, Watson does not have all the leverage. Yes, he can dictate and accept who he gets traded to, but Houston controls whether he gets traded.
Watson could play hardball and threaten to not show up to Houston for OTA’s, workouts, or training camp. But if he were to take that course of action, he would lose millions of dollars in fines.
And if Watson were to extend a self-imposed boycott into the regular season, the forfeiture clauses in his deal would see him lose a portion of his signing bonus every single week. It’s a situation that both parties would love to avoid, but the Texans could call Watson’s bluff.
Last September, Watson signed a four-year $160 million extension to his rookie deal and is under contract through 2025. So the Texans have him under control, but they are projected to be $17 million over the cap in 2021 and have very little draft capital to improve their team.
So, let’s presume that the Texans decide to entertain trade offers for Watson. The best time to do it would be before the draft to acquire Watson’s potential successor. The Texans will be looking for draft capital and potentially young players under contractual control for the next couple of seasons.
And there’s no chance that Houston would trade Watson to a team in their own division. So despite Jacksonville having a need and the first pick in the draft or Indianapolis looking for a QB, it won’t happen.
To make the trade a reality, Houston would have to sit down with Watson and ask him to give them a list of potentially five teams or more that he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause for.
At this point, we know that New York and Miami are at the top of the list, but Houston may not want to trade Watson to a team in their own conference.
So if Watson tells Houston, “I don’t want to play for you anymore,” the compromise could be to accommodate him but that he’d have to add more teams to the list.
Henceforth, the likelihood is that there could be a bidding war between teams to acquire Watson, and potentially, Houston could take less from an NFC team to keep Watson from being in the AFC.
Once upon a time, the Green Bay Packers did the same thing with Brett Favre and traded him to the Jets. Rather than to a team like the Minnesota Vikings or Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC, Favre’s two desired landing spots.
Next: Potential longshots
NY Jets, Deshaun Watson Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Potential longshots to trade for Deshaun Watson
Two NFC teams are not on this list that I believe would be desired destinations for Deshaun Watson. But because of cap issues, it may be impossible to pull off.
The New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.
In the Saints, Watson would love to play for Sean Payton and throw to Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, but New Orleans will have a rough time creating cap space to operate in 2021. They are projected to be over $100 million over the cap.
Watson to the Saints is not impossible but unlikely. In a fantasy world, Watson would be an amazing replacement for the retiring Drew Brees.
The other issue is that the Saints do not have much to offer from a draft capital standpoint. They’d have to part with multiple first-round picks and some of their best young players to get Watson.
The Atlanta Falcons would represent a return home for Watson. He was born, raised, and played high school football in Gainesville, Georgia. Seeing Watson play in Atlanta would be like watching Michael Vick all over again.
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Atlanta has the fourth overall pick in the draft. So that certainly checks off one of the boxes for Houston.
The problem is that the Falcons are already committed to Matt Ryan, and his $40 million cap figure makes him almost impossible to move. Atlanta is projected to be $36 million over the cap.
I won’t completely rule the Falcons out of the equation, but they would have to move heaven and earth to get a trade for Watson done.
With that in mind, here’s a look at five different teams that the Jets may have to compete with for Deshaun Watson’s services.
Next: 5. San Francisco 49ers
NY Jets, Deshaun Watson Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
5. The San Francisco 49ers could rival the NY Jets for Deshaun Watson
The cat’s out of the bag. The 49ers are in the market for a new quarterback and are looking to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo.
As of press time, the Detroit Lions have put quarterback Matthew Stafford on the market, and the two teams in the running for his services are San Francisco and Indianapolis.
The 49ers are projected to be $9 million under the cap, but by releasing Garoppolo, it would clear $24 million of cap room. Setting the stage for Kyle Shanahan to add a star quarterback to his offense like Stafford.
However, it’s entirely possible that Detroit could decide to trade Stafford out of their conference to Indianapolis instead. While the 49ers have a higher first-round draft pick than Indianapolis (12 versus 21), the Colts could sweeten the pot with additional picks in this year’s draft and down the line.
Player trades can’t officially happen until March, but there have been some in the past that have been agreed to in principle in February. Like last year’s trade of Nick Foles to Chicago.
So if the 49ers don’t land Stafford, where do they go from there?
Watson would clearly be someone for them to target. San Francisco has designs of getting back to and winning a Super Bowl. In that QB-friendly system, Watson would be the missing piece to getting the Niners to the promised land.
The Texans would probably prefer dealing their superstar quarterback to an NFC team. And for Watson, while it wouldn’t be his first choice, San Francisco would be a desirable location, with plenty of young talent on offense and a team positioned to compete.
The question is, what do the 49ers have to offer the Texans? Therein lies the rub, the 12th pick in this year’s draft will not assure Houston gets their replacement for Watson.
The 49ers would have to sweeten the pot with additional picks in this year’s draft and beyond. And potentially, to compete with other suitors, they may have to part with one of their premier players and/or take on one of the Texans’ bad contracts, like that of a Whitney Mercilus, for example.
Where there is a will, there is a way, but admittedly, this way may not present the best value in return for Deshaun Watson.
Next: 4. Carolina Panthers
NY Jets, Deshaun Watson Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
4. The Carolina Panthers could rival the NY Jets for Deshaun Watson
From a trade partner perspective, the Carolina Panthers check all the boxes for Houston.
They are an NFC team, with the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft, and unlike some other potential trade partners, Carolina’s future first-round picks could also be in the top 10 as well, even if they were to add Deshaun Watson for the 2021 season.
There’s an upside for Houston’s deal with Carolina to net them two top-10 picks or more.
Matt Rhule and his staff could decide to make the bold play and offer up three first-round picks to Houston and potentially one of their better younger players on their roster.
The problem with this possibility is getting Watson to waive his no-trade clause.
Working with Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers’ young receivers could be enticing, as could operating in Joe Brady’s system, but from a prestige standpoint, Carolina doesn’t have what other teams have.
It’s worth noting, however, that Watson did become a star in the south at Clemson. Albeit, in South Carolina, not North Carolina.
Next: 3. Detroit Lions
NY Jets, Deshaun Watson Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
3. The Detroit Lions could rival the NY Jets for Deshaun Watson
What if the Houston Texans saved face and acquired star quarterback Matthew Stafford in return for their superstar quarterback? Stafford isn’t on the level of Watson, and he’s older (33 next season), but he is a proven Pro-Bowl-caliber quarterback with Texas ties.
The Lions could persuade Houston to make a deal by offering Stafford, their first-round pick this year, (No. 7) and potentially additional picks and a player.
From the Lions’ standpoint, why wouldn’t you make this deal? Watson is a transcendent talent who would instantly make Detroit relevant.
Much like the Carolina Panthers’ example before this, the sticking point to this deal is whether or not Watson would waive his no-trade clause and agree to save Detroit.
If he were to do so, Watson would be an instant hero the moment he put on a Lions uniform, and he would be embraced like no player in that franchise’s history since Barry Sanders.
Is that enough to entice Watson to head to the Motor City?
The Lions do not have a lot of cap space to improve the weapons around Watson, so the Lions may not be as enticing as some other teams to join.
Next: 2. Washington Football Team
NY Jets, Deshaun Watson Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
2. The Washington Football Team could rival the NY Jets for Deshaun Watson
On the surface, this seems way out there and implausible. Watson to Washington would get the same reaction that casual football fans are giving Jets fans right now. The ‘Why would Watson want to go there?’ crowd would be in full force.
However, upon further inspection. Washington, like the Jets, has a lot of strong qualities and room for improvement. The franchise has a chance to be a marquee destination once again — much the same way the Jets do. Despite detractors believing otherwise.
Washington has a player’s coach in Ron Rivera who is very respected and an offensive system that once saw Cam Newton win league MVP and get to a Super Bowl.
Washington also has good young players to throw to in Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas as well as a very good young running back in Antonio Gibson. Washington has one of the league’s very best young defenses too.
Another key factor is that the team also has plenty of cap room to build around Watson, especially when Alex Smith comes off the books. The cap room will help Watson get whomever he desires in free agency (Will Fuller/Allen Robinson etc.).
The issue is whether or not Washington can present a formidable enough trade offer to entice Houston. They have the 19th pick in this year’s draft, which won’t get the job done. It will take a lot more to get Houston to trade Watson to them.
Washington will most likely have to part with multiple first-round picks to make this happen. And I believe that they would consider doing it because Washington now sees itself as a legit playoff contender. Watson’s acquisition would firmly strengthen that position for years to come.
It’s possible that Houston could ask for a young star player in return, in addition to the multiple No. 1’s, like a Montez Sweat, for example.
When it comes to acquiring a franchise QB in his prime like Deshaun Watson, I believe that Washington would be willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
After experiencing what they did with Dwayne Haskins, Washington wants a sure thing, and that’s exactly what Watson is.
The entire Washington organization has experienced a facelift in the last year — the last piece of the puzzle is getting their quarterback. Don’t discount motivation.
Next: 1. Miami Dolphins
NY Jets, Deshaun Watson Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
1. The Miami Dolphins could rival the NY Jets for Deshaun Watson
Lost in the hysteria that Deshaun Watson prefers playing for the Jets over anyone else is the fact that Miami is his second choice out of all the teams in the NFL. The report that came out on Saturday wasn’t the Jets or bust.
It was the Jets, or Miami, or bust.
The fact that the story comes out of a Miami publication is a warning shot, in some ways, to the Dolphins. In many respects, it’s a wake-up call that if the Dolphins don’t get aggressive to obtain Watson, they will have to compete against him in their own division for the next 10-plus years.
If they choose to overlook the idea of keeping Watson in the same conference, the Texans could set up a bidding war between Miami and New York. With both teams bending over backward to prevent their rival from getting him.
Let’s face it, in the potential race to get Watson, Miami has as much to offer as the Jets do. Notwithstanding the draw of what the city of Miami provides — location and no state income tax.
The Dolphins have a good young team with excellent leadership from Brian Flores. They also have plenty of cap space to get Watson the weapons he desires. There are valid reasons why Watson reportedly has Miami as one of his top two destinations.
Most NFL players want to play and reside in Miami. Offensive players will sign up to play for the Dolphins in a heartbeat if Watson is their quarterback. They’ll even take less than market value.
In a bidding war that could be staged by Houston, Miami has the ammunition to entice Houston to trade Watson to them. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa would most likely be a part of the deal, but he might be the sweetener on top.
For starters, the Dolphins can offer the Texans the third overall selection in this year’s draft and the 18th overall pick in the draft. To go along with maybe even their second pick (No. 36) and their first-rounder next season.
The Jets would be hard-pressed to top that offer. They might have to relinquish 2, 23, and 34 in this year’s draft, along with a No. 1 next year, and that could still not be enough to get Watson. It could take multiple first and second-round picks to get Deshaun Watson.
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Which team is willing to take that plunge? Miami might have to.
The one drawback to this deal for Houston is losing face because what this trade will represent, in essence, is them getting back what they gave up for Laremy Tunsil.
The prospect of competing with Josh Allen and Deshaun Waston every single year is enough to drive fear into the hearts of Dolphins or Jets fans.
Miami and New York are two franchises with championship aspirations. So having to overcome the hurdles of facing two of the game’s very best quarterbacks every year in their division would make that goal that much more challenging.
Not to mention whatever the evil genius in New England, Bill Belichick, has planned for his redemption tour next season.
As a colleague recently pointed out to me, perhaps Belichick could persuade his old pal Nick Caserio to trade Watson to him instead.