UPDATE (8:55 p.m. ET): The Deshaun Watson saga looks like it’s going to go into the weekend.
NFL reporter Aaron Wilson, who has been constantly updating on Watson’s situation, shared Thursday night that the quarterback, who has been accused of 22 counts of harassment or sexual assault, will be weighing his options this weekend as to what his next destination will be.
Deshaun Watson currently expected to take next few days and contemplate his decision over weekend, per league sources, over which team he'll waive his no-trade clause for, and Falcons have pushed back Matt Ryan's $7.5 million roster bonus from Friday to Tuesday— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 18, 2022
As Wilson notes, the Falcons will move franchise quarterback Matt Ryan’s $7.5 million roster bonus into next Tuesday to give the team time to, hypothetically, either wait for Watson’s answer or begin to negotiate a trade destination for Ryan if Watson’s answer is already in.
There are some murmurings that the Falcons are the pick, but that has yet to be confirmed by a national media outlet. We’ll continue to follow the Watson saga in the days ahead, with a franchise-altering, deeply controversial trade potentially on the horizon.
Original story is as follows:
The Deshaun Watson story sprung to life just a few days ago after the Falcons surprisingly joined in the bidding war for the quarterback still facing 22 civil cases alleging, among other things, sexual assault. Atlanta quickly went from a long-shot to one of Watson’s top destinations.
While things were unclear Wednesday night, a series of updates points towards the Saints being the likely destination for Watson.
The first? A flurry of cap moves which coincidentally can help New Orleans fit Watson’s $35 million cap hit.
Saints are closing in on having enough room to absorb Deshaun Watson’s $35 million base (which would also be his cap hit for a new team upon a trade) for 2022. https://t.co/M7Iy2Nurf0— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 17, 2022
The Falcons, on the other hand, have only about $5 million in cap space with Matt Ryan’s restructure still unprocessed. Atlanta has a way to clear that much cap space, but it would include trading players like Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones, and Matt Ryan.
Watson had previously met with each of four teams one time each. But concurrent to the Saints’ restructuring, the franchise was having a second meeting with Watson.
The Saints brass met with Deshaun Watson a second time last night, according to sources.— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) March 17, 2022
The Saints, if not Watson’s top option, clearly appear to be in the running for his top option. It is not too hard to figure out why. The Saints have a pretty stout team. Having gone through some bad seasons with the Texans, Watson may want to go to a place he can win. That said, it appears the Falcons are still in the running, and it will come down to those two teams.
Aaron Wilson, the former Houston Texans beat writer, has been all over the Watson story. He also thinks the Saints have an advantage for Watson.
Saints are working hard to convince Deshaun Watson to waive his no-trade clause for them, per league sources. Decision is expected to ultimately come down to Saints vs. Falcons. Saints have been characterized as a leader for Watson. Maintained dialogue since first meeting— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 17, 2022
The Falcons are, quite simply, unable to compete here. The team’s only chance is Watson wants to head to Atlanta because of his connection to the city and the Falcons selling him on a long-term vision for building a winner. The Saints, Browns, and Panthers all have better cap situations and better rosters.
For the Falcons, there is a good chance this turns from a perplexing team-building move to a disaster. The relationship with Matt Ryan may be officially burned. The Falcons also have almost no time left for a decision with Matt Ryan’s roster bonus due on Friday. Either the Falcons trade Ryan before then or eat an additional $7.5 million. If Ryan forces his way out of Atlanta after Terry Fontenot ignored the first few waves of free agency, the Falcons could reach Pop Warner levels of talent for 2022.
This has the makings of a giant mess, but we’re still waiting on a decision.