The Houston Texans have had one hell of a year. Amid a season full of disappointment, the Texans lost their star quarterback and head coach in the process. After being only one season removed from the playoffs, Houston's entire franchise has fallen apart. Now, the organization has to look to the future beyond the irreparable Deshaun Watson-era and start rebuilding toward a new future.
If you didn't hear, Watson's request on input for the new GM and HC was denied, and he requested a trade. Andre Johnson tweeted this in support of Deshaun, speaking more to the organizational issues than him wanting off a bad team.
Out of the quarterbacks in the conference championship games (Rodgers, Allen, Brady, and Mahomes), all of them were in the top five of highest-graded quarterbacks per PFF. The only quarterback to not make the playoffs in that top five was Deshaun Watson. A quarterback of Watson's caliber being put on the market has never happened before; this is a player that launches bottom feeder teams into the playoffs, and middle-of-the-pack teams into Super Bowl contention. If I were a part of a front office without a solidified franchise quarterback, I would put together every trade package imaginable to get Deshaun. Teams I believe to be in that range are:
- New York Jets
- Washington Football Team
- Miami Dolphins
- Indianapolis Colts
- New England Patriots
- Detroit Lions
- New York Giants
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Carolina Panthers
- Denver Broncos
- San Fransisco 49ers
- Chicago Bears
- New Orleans Saints
For this piece, I looked at the top options to trade for Deshaun:
1. Miami Dolphins
Miami's in first place in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, and for good reason. Not only do they have a lot of cap space and a ton of draft picks, but they also have the most leverage out of the group of teams. They have Tua Tagovailoa, who is at the start of his rookie deal—giving Houston more cap space to work with and a centerpiece to build around. This is the most realistic outcome for Deshaun that would put him right back into the playoffs, playing for a title—as he should be. If they rebuild their offensive line and retain and draft more offensive weapons, then the Dolphins would be a top team in the AFC.
The thing that makes Miami so exciting is that Deshaun would have a great defense for the first time in his career—mostly speaking about the secondary. Their defense has flourished under the defensive mastermind of Brian Flores, and I think it's important to note that out of the Bill Belichick coaching tree, he's been the most successful. If Deshaun Watson is traded to Miami, then the entire power structure of the NFL landscape will shift. The AFC East will have dethroned New England as king, and oh, what a sweet sweet change that will be. Miami will be battling Buffalo for years to come for the AFC East title.
2. New York Jets
At the simple mention of the name "The New York Jets,'' everyone scowls in anguish and disregards the mere thought of putting Deshaun in this hellhole of a franchise. Let me play devil’s advocate for you and say why this is actually a better situation than advertised. For all of this to work, the first thing that has to happen is that New York must trade their #2 pick and embrace the rebuild. Now, I bet you're thinking, "Why would Deshaun want to be a part of a rebuild?" The answer is because of the foundation.
The Jets went out and got an excellent coach in Robert Saleh who’s also bringing a great offensive scheme and play-caller in Mike LaFleur—a system that Deshaun could put up even better numbers under opposed to Bill O’Brien and Romeo Cronell’s bland schemes. Not only is the coaching foundation solid, but they have three potential stars in Quinnen Williams, Mehki Becton, and Denzel Mims all at important positions. Teams that prioritize building a franchise around a quarterback, offensive tackles, receivers, and a premier pass rusher (in this case a defensive tackle) often find the most success in the NFL. Think about it—what other team is built in this way? I’ll give you a hint: Mahomes, Schwartz, Hill/Kelce, and Chris Jones. Now that’s quite the comparison, but the point of it is to show what the recipe for success is.
3. Washington Football Team
The WFT's advantage over the two teams prior is that they’re in the NFC East. If the Texans want to limit their chances of seeing Deshaun in the playoffs down the road, they'll ship him to an NFC team. The Football Team has enough cap room and draft picks to make this deal happen, and it’s also the environment that Watson wants to be in as far as coaches and players are concerned. He's spoken cryptically on Twitter, saying what I think spoke to his desire to play for a good head coach. There aren't many better options than former Coach of the Year in Ron Rivera, who has already changed the entire culture in Washington in only a year’s time. Rivera also has gone for it on 4th-and-go situations at one of the highest rates this season. After this past championship weekend, it’s seemingly more important than ever for the success of NFL teams to take chances in these situations. Deshaun could be the key piece into converting at a much higher rate for an offense without a stable quarterback.
4. Denver Broncos
The reason I think Denver could pull this off is their talent-to-youth ratio. The team has been built extremely well under John Elway with talent at every position. Their offensive weapons are all 25-and-under, and Garrett Bolles was one of the best LTs in football last year. If Vic Fangio can manage an aging defense with the lack of picks that the trade would entail, the Broncos become immediate Super Bowl contenders. While they don't have the cap space the other teams have, they are known to throw every resource available when they have a Super Bowl window (*cough* Peyton Manning *cough*), and I truly think this team is one piece away from contending in the postseason. With Deshaun Watson in that offense, Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and Noah Fant would catapult to top pass catchers in the league. It's an offense that could compete with Kansas City and would make for a spectacular two-game series every year.
5. Chicago Bears
The Bears getting Watson is a stretch. It's a fantasy. I won’t cheat myself into believing it, but I wanted to talk about the implications anyway. The organization announced shortly after the season that they'd be returning Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace as HC and GM. For what feels like a make-or-break season, the duo needs to address the QB problem first and foremost. The good news is this:
This brings in a lot of speculation as to who they would be in play for. Could they reverse the Trubisky over Mahomes and Watson narrative? I think I speak for all Bears fans when I say that in a perfect world, I would never see another graphic with those three or the 2017 draft ever again. Trading for Watson would be the single greatest move in all of Chicago sports history, next to drafting Michael Jordan. Watson would break every Bears QB record—with ease—becoming the savior for a disappointing franchise. It’ll be a very tough trade to pull off, but damn it, I've already sold myself on it when I said I wouldn't. I apologize in advance if I got your hopes up, too, but... keep your fingers crossed!