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The latest on Deshaun Watson, including AJ Terrell as possible trade compensation

We try to answer what is going on with the Falcons and Deshaun Watson.

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Deshaun Watson is still a member of the Houston Texans for the moment. That is likely to change at some point after the Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, and Atlanta Falcons made offers to the Houston Texans and met with the quarterback. The flurry of activity started Friday after a Houston grand jury decided against criminal charges against Watson, but for clarity, he still faces both 22 civil cases for allegations of, among others, sexual assault, and a possible league suspension.

That is the extent of things we know for sure thanks to conflicting rumors surrounding the quarterback and his next destination.

Aaron Wilson, a former long-time Houston Texans beat writer, has been one of the top sources for all things Watson. He described Atlanta’s meeting with Watson as the team rolling out the red carpet for the 26-year-old quarterback. Watson, who put together a meager four wins in his 2020 despite stellar statistics and did not play at all in the 2021 season, reportedly has some level of desire to play for his hometown team Atlanta Falcons.

A.J. Terrell potentially part of the deal

Watson, despite the shocking allegations currently against him and potential looming suspension, is apparently still commanding major compensation. That includes, reportedly, a bevy of first-round picks as well as top players.

The Texans want three first-round draft picks, additional draft capital, and perhaps a player or two. The Falcons hold the eighth overall pick of the first round in addition to a pair of second-round selections: No. 43 overall and No. 58 overall. One player league sources theorize that could be part of a prospective trade with the Texans is Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell, a tall outside corner.

The Falcons are bordering on expansion-level team talent across the majority of its roster, meaning additional players (in addition to those future draft picks) will be important players. Terrell, a true All-Pro caliber player with three more seasons on his rookie deal (including an option year in there), is one of very few valuable players.

Terrell’s loss, of course, would be painful for the Falcons. The defense was terrible in 2021 and has already lost Foye Oluokun. Add in the team’s only competent defensive back and we may see, somehow, another step back.

From a team-building perspective, the Falcons are working backwards in a move that smacks of desperation. This offseason the brain trust pointed towards the Kansas City Chiefs as a model of building up a team then drafting a quarterback, a la Patrick Mahomes. The team can then make a strong push with a quarterback on his rookie contract, similar to what the Los Angeles Chargers are doing this offseason.

The Falcons apparently are trying to do the opposite, and trading away the present and future to improve from perhaps QB10 to QB5, albeit with a player who is 10 years younger. Grady Jarrett and Chris Lindstrom could also be valuable trade compensation who could be included in any package, given that this team has very few other options to send.

The Falcons may believe it can build around Watson, but losing valuable draft picks and players, in conjunction with the current cap limitations, suggest that to be extremely unlikely, at least in the short-term.

Wilson says no decision is imminent

The timeline for a decision has been all over the map. Early this week, when the Falcons were considered a long-shot for Watson, reports were the process would play out slowly. Then Watson had back-to-back-to-back interviews in Houston, an interview with the Falcons in Flowery Branch on Wednesday, and some teams expected a decision quickly.

Without any “strong” deadlines coming up outside of the NFL draft in over 40 days, this one can play out for quite some time.

Texans may push for even more compensation

Thanks to the complexity of this situation with Deshaun Watson holding a no-trade clause in his contract, a team like Atlanta needs the approval of both the Houston Texans and Deshaun Watson. Per Jay Glazer, that means things could get even costlier.

The Texans sat Watson all of 2021 instead of taking below-market on Watson. While Watson’s base salary is significantly higher in 2022, there is no reason to think that team is any rush to move Watson. Once a team is approved by Watson, the Texans could try to get a desperate team to sweeten the deal even more. After all, if a team is willing to mortgage its future for a player, what are a few extra picks in the grand scheme of things?

Who is leading the race?

There is no indication Watson is leaning in any direction. Per Mike Florio of Profootball Talk, Watson is “incredibly torn” between all the teams. It is tough to make too much sense out of that considering the wide variety of teams pushing for Watson. Florio also mentions that other teams may jump in on Watson, which may also be hopeful thinking from either the Texans or Watson. Watson was rumored to be interested in the San Francisco 49ers, a team who quickly denied its interest back, and the Eagles are rumored to be heavily interested but do not have a meeting. Watson may be looking for a playoff-caliber team to jump into the fray.

Until then, the NFL waits for some real movement on Watson.