After weeks of mounting speculation around Deshaun Watson's deteriorating relationship with the Houston Texans, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Thursday that the superstar quarterback has indeed requested a trade.
While the Texans stumbled to a 4-12 record in 2020, Watson operated as a one-man army, leading the NFL in passing yards (4,823) and yards per attempt (8.9) while also setting career highs in completion percentage (70.2), touchdown passes (33, against just seven picks) and passer rating (112.4).
Still just 25 years old with three consecutive Pro Bowl bids under his belt, Watson is squarely in his prime -- and under contract through the 2025 season. Watson received a no-trade clause in the four-year extension he signed last September, so the quarterback has leverage in any potential deal. With all this in mind ...
What is the best landing spot for Watson? And what kind of compensation could get your hypothetical trade done?
JEFFRI CHADIHA: The one team that makes the most sense in a trade for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is the New York Jets. The most obvious reason is that Watson reportedly likes the idea of going there. Apparently, he's a big fan of new Jets head coach Robert Saleh, and he'd have plenty of marketing opportunities in the Big Apple. The Jets also haven't figured out if Sam Darnold is their long-term answer at quarterback.
The Jets are even more compelling because of their draft capital. They have the Nos. 2 and 23 overall picks in this year's draft, and the trade that sent safely Jamal Adams to Seattle netted them an extra first-round pick in 2022. That's enough to make the Texans feel good about some kind of deal that could give them the chance to find another young quarterback prospect in this year's draft. It's also more than any other team can offer at this point.
The bottom line here is that there are only so many teams that can create a package worthy of making the Texans trade Watson. Some other franchises sound intriguing -- like Chicago, Miami, Carolina and even Dallas -- but there are far more challenges in those places when it comes to creating a viable deal. The Jets have the picks along with Watson's interest. The only question now is whether they want to make it happen.
MARC ROSS: Having lived in (or near) the cellar of the AFC East for the last half-decade, the New York Jets must make some drastic moves this offseason to start the Robert Saleh era off on the right foot. Bringing in a top-tier quarterback like Watson wouldn't be a bad place to begin. Remember, the Jets traded away Jamal Adams and a fourth-rounder to the Seahawks in exchange for a pair of first-round picks, a third-rounder and safety Bradley McDougald. It costs a pretty penny to get elite players, and the Jets know it. To get Watson, they'd have to send all FOUR of their first-round picks and both seconds over the next two years PLUS Sam Darnold.
JOE THOMAS: I see Watson landing in the Bay Area, as he'd be a perfect fit in Kyle Shanahan's offense, which utilizes athletic quarterbacks who can throw on the move and dynamic playmakers who stretch the field from sideline to sideline. Generally, a quarterback of Watson's age (25) and talent would garner at least two first-round picks, but this year's free agency market offers an inordinate supply of good-to-very-good quarterbacks. With a pool like this, I believe trade values will be lower than the historical trend.
The 49ers don't have a surplus of draft picks to send to Houston, but I expect them to trade a first-round pick and QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who's quite familiar with new Texans general manager Nick Caserio. (Caserio was New England's director of player personnel when the Patriots drafted Jimmy G back in 2014.) The reason this kind of trade is good for the NFL is that it's a win-win solution to a problem. The Texans need to ship Watson, who wants to go to a winner with a good offense and great offensive-minded head coach. The 49ers provide him with that. The Texans and Caserio would love to bring in Garoppolo to start rebuilding the franchise with a Patriots-looking team, which is what every New England disciple tries to do. No better way to do that then secure a former Pats quarterback.
NATE BURLESON: The best spot for both the acquiring team and Watson would be Indianapolis. Inserting Watson into Chris Ballard's roster -- which is already built to win -- would be a thing of beauty, especially behind this offensive line. That said, obviously trading within the division is always tough. The Colts would have to give up two first-round picks and a premium player (take your pick).
KEVIN PATRA: If I'm Deshaun Watson, do I want to keep facing Patrick Mahomes in the Divisional Round or on Championship Sunday, or would I prefer to meet him in the Super Bowl? The AFC is chock-full of young stud QBs in Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow and (soon) Trevor Lawrence. Meanwhile, the NFC is the AARP conference, with Drew Brees likely walking away, 79-year-old Tom Brady clinging to Melisandre's ruby necklace and 37-year-old Aaron Rodgers (who sees the end of the line in Green Bay) leading the way as presumptive league MVP. Outside of Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray, much of the conference is currently unsettled long-term at the position. A move to the NFC would immediately make Watson the top young gun on that side of the bracket. An easier path to Super Bowls can buoy a career. So, which team fits?
The Carolina Panthers boast young talent to grow with Watson. There are pieces on defense (Brian Burns, Jeremy Chinn) and offense (Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson). Matt Rhule represents an open-minded, motivational coach. And, perhaps most vital in this circumstance, Carolina has an owner in David Tepper who has the wherewithal and motivation to surround Watson with the right pieces.
The No. 8 overall pick isn't a terrible starting place in trade talks. If I have to add CMC to give Houston a marketable, face-of-the-franchise type in return, so be it. McCaffrey, two firsts and a second isn't too much. If the Texans don't care to add another RB and instead ask for my next three firsts, I'm doing that, too. There isn't too hefty a price I can pay to get a player of Watson's caliber. Other teams might offer more in the short term -- Jets and Dolphins, to name two -- but each resides in the AFC. If the goal is to see Watson as few times as possible in the future -- meetings that would inevitably dredge up national stories about how Houston botched this situation -- shipping him to the NFC benefits all.
MAURICE JONES-DREW: If I'm the Texans, knowing just how talented Watson is, I would want him far, far away from the AFC South. So why not accept a trade from the Chicago Bears in the NFC North? The Bears have had quarterback issues of their own and will jump at the chance to bring in a consistent playmaker at the position. To win the Watson sweepstakes, Chicago agrees to send their 2021 and '22 first-rounders, this year's third and Nick Foles to Houston. Bear down!
NICK SHOOK: The most ideal landing spot in terms of setup for instant success is likely Indianapolis, but it would require significant capital and the Colts have only their standard allotment of picks for 2021. Owner Jim Irsay also said this week that the club needs to be sure that it does not set itself back by giving up too many picks to acquire a quarterback, which makes such a dream scenario less likely.
The Jets are equipped to send picks west for Watson, thanks to the haul they received in the Jamal Adams trade, but we'll go with the Dolphins because of their war chest of draft capital that includes first- and second-round picks previously sent to them by the Texans in the Laremy Tunsil trade. Houston can recoup its high first- and second-rounders immediately, demand Tua Tagovailoa to fill the need for a quarterback of the future, and also request a collection of later-round picks to get a potential transaction done. Watson makes Miami an instant contender for the AFC East and bolsters a Dolphins offense that needs to catch up to its defense to make the postseason -- and perhaps make a run.