Deshaun Watson won’t even be 26 years old when the next NFL season starts. In four NFL seasons, he’s thrown for 104 touchdowns and has made the Pro Bowl each of the last three years, which is a roundabout and pretty mild way of saying that he’s very good. The Houston Texans have their franchise quarterback under contract for a pretty reasonable price, given his age and production, and if they were like most teams in the NFL they’d be working hard to build the kind of organization Watson would want to lead for the next decade.
The Texan are not, however, like most teams. After a puzzling couple of years where owner Cal McNair let Bill O’Brien amass power and do a series of profoundly stupid things like trading DeAndre Hopkins for a pittance, the team pushed him out and things seemed brighter again, even though Houston doesn’t have much cap space and their #3 overall pick is with Miami thanks a big trade for Laremy Tunsil deal. Yet things have not gotten better, and Deshaun Watson now seems to want out.
That has a lot to do with Jack Easterby, the powerful executive vice president of football operations who has somehow wormed his way into a huge role in the Texans organization and appears to have pulled the necessary strings to get former Patriots director of player personnel in as the general manager. That move, which reportedly blindsided many in Houston, appears to also angered Watson, as well as the team’s belated move to interview Eric Bieniemy after the window for doing so until the Chiefs exit the playoffs closed. There were reports that Josh McDaniels might be the next head coach before that, and after being promised his input mattered, Watson now evidently feels it did not.
The upshot here is that the 25-year-old franchise quarterback is furious and reportedly does not want to be on the Texans any longer, and it appears Houston is going to try to accommodate that. I have seen plenty of fans say that they think Watson is shooting himself in the foot here by drawing a line in the sand, but I have a feeling about 20 teams checking in on his availability likely will not care about that because they’ll feel confident they can avoid screwing things up as badly as Houston has.
There is a growing sense from people in and around the Texans’ organization that Deshaun Watson has played his last snap for the team. It’s early in the off-season, there’s a lot of time left, but Watson’s feelings cannot and should not be underestimated.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 17, 2021
That brings us to a question I’ve been fielding a lot on social media: Should the Falcons trade for him? That leads us to a second, more important question: Will the Falcons trade for him? The answer to the first one is yes, if the dollars and assets worked out, because 25-year-old quarterbacks as good as Watson almost never shake loose from another organization, especially ones who were once Falcons ball boys and still love the team. The answer to the second question, of course, is no.
Atlanta would have to move Matt Ryan to make the acquisition of Watson work, because otherwise the team would have two starting quarterbacks and effectively zero dollars to make any moves, something that veteran cuts are necessary to solve for today without adding $20-plus million to the cap from Watson’s contract. The problem is that Houston may not have any interest in adding Ryan, given how expensive his contract is and the fact that they’re in trouble cap-wise as well, and the Falcons would have to surrender the #4 pick, multiple additional 2021 picks, and multiple 2022 picks even with Ryan going back to Houston. Watson is worth a lot, but is he worth all of that to a Falcons team with a capable franchise quarterback and/or an opportunity to pick up his successor with the #4 pick? Your opinion on that may vary—Watson’s that good—but Atlanta’s unlikely to kick off life under a new regime by further complicating their cap picture and emptying their coffers of early round draft picks. Remember, this team needs major upgrades at several positions, and better depth at nearly all of them.
Watson may well find himself on the move this offseason, but the chances are vansihingly slim that he’ll wind up with the Falcons, given their cap challenges and overall situation. I just hope he doesn’t land anywhere else in the NFC South.