It has been no secret that Deshaun Watson, the quarterback for the Houston Texans, is wanting a trade from the team he grew up in. Ever since the Texans hired Nick Caserio as their general manager in early January 2021, it seems like the relationship between Watson and the Texans organization has gotten to the point beyond repair. Most QBs don’t have much say in the hiring process of general managers, or even some coaches, but it seems like Watson was promised he would be a central part to the hiring process of a new front office in Houston. This leads us all to wonder: Is Deshaun Watson Untradable?
With Watson already unhappy with how the previous management ran the organization, including the surprise trade of DeAndre Hopkins, it seems the promise of being involved in future decisions is the small string that kept Watson on-board.
The drama between Watson and the Texans aside, the totality of trading a player like Watson would be almost unprecedented in not just the NFL, but in all sports. Because of this, the likelihood of Watson being traded this year is virtually zero.
Before the 2020 season started, Watson signed a massive four-year contract extension with the Texans, making him the second highest paid QB in terms of total money only behind Patrick Mahomes. The structure of the contract Watson signed alone would make him untradeable.
While Watson signed a massive contract that averages out to $39 million a year, his 2021 cap hit is actually a surprisingly low $15.9 million. That is because the contract he signed is technically an extension off his rookie contract, and the $15.9 million is the fifth-year option the Texans would be picking up off the rookie deal. Therefor, the $39 million cap hit wouldn’t come into play until the 2022 season. This value is absolutely amazing for a top QB in the NFL, especially given the fact that the salary cap is expected to decrease in 2021 from COVID.
Because the value of getting a QB with MVP potential for only $15 million in 2021, the Houston Texans can demand a king’s ransom for trading Watson. We aren’t talking about the first-round picks of the 2021, 2022 and 2023 drafts. We are looking at something along the lines of every pick in the 2021, 2022 and 2023 drafts. Even though Watson would have a near $40 million cap hit in 2022, the idea that a contender team could get Watson for only $15 million is so attractive it might be worth an “all in” mentality.
Also, with QBs like Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen soon getting massive contracts themselves, along with young QBs like Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow most likely getting massive contracts in the next 2-3 years, Watson’s $39 million per year cap hit might be fair market value. A team can get Watson knowing they have an MVP caliber QB, and he might end up not even being in the top five of paid QBs by the end of his contract.
Again, because of the value of Watson’s contract, that alone makes it extremely unlikely he will get traded. Teams that are considered “contenders”, who might just be one or two pieces away from a Super Bowl run, probably can’t afford the cap hit that Watson would bring with him. Team that do have the cap room, to be frank, are so bad that Watson would never agree to break his No-Trade clause to join them. Think: New York Jets.
Even on a team that ended up being flat-out bad, Watson had a great statistical season in 2020 despite a 4-12 record. Throwing 33 TDs to only 7 interceptions, Watson ended the season with completing 70% of his passes for a league high 4,823 yards. Statistically by far his best season despite the worst winning record of his career.
Having these stats on such a bad 2020 Texans team, Watson has showed he has MVP potential in him, and previous seasons has shown he can take a team to the playoffs. With this in mind, most teams around the NFL would be getting an “upgrade” by having a Deshaun Watson on their team. Even in Baltimore, there was spirited discussion in the media if the Ravens should trade their MVP QB Lamar Jackson for Deshaun Watson.
In terms of his age and skill, the only better position a team could have in terms of QB is arguably Patrick Mahomes. QBs like Aaron Rogers and Tom Brady are at the end of their careers, and are most likely not worth bankrupting a team’s future draft capital to trade for. Younger QBs like Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen are doing great for the systems they are in, but it would require a team to change their offensive philosophy to acquire them.
Acquiring Watson though? It would be a simple “plug and play” for whatever team added him. Because of his ability and potential, even without considering the contract, the value applied to Watson in a trade would almost be unquantifiable.
Is There Anything A Team Could Pay for Watson?
Honestly, we are looking at the Hershcel Walker trade in terms of what the Texans could get for moving Watson. In that Hershcel Walker trade, the Dallas Cowboys got four defensive players, along with eight draft picks from the Minnesota Vikings. Originally, Dallas was supposed to cut those defensive players to get all the draft picks, but was able to work out keeping both the picks and the players.
Four players and eight draft picks might be something along the lines what the Texans could get. History has shown that these trades rarely work out. These “grand bargain” trades usually end up with a team overpaying for a player, while the other team reaps the rewards of the draft picks they got.
Because of this, the price tag for Watson would be too high. It would be so large it would most likely be even bigger than what the Vikings paid in the Walker trade. In all reality, the only teams that had both the draft capital and the cap space to trade for Watson are most likely teams Watson doesn’t want to play for.
Watson didn’t spend his whole life preparing and getting better, to accept a trade to the hapless Jets or Jaguars and have another four win season. This is a chance for the Texan’s new management to rebuild their relationship with Watson, and try to get the team back on a winning track.
It’s somewhat ironic, that Watson is so successful and worth so much, he most likely can’t get the trade he is looking for. If he was worth less on his contract, or had a very bad year, he most likely could be traded. But for now, Watson needs to find a way to work with the team he just signed an extension with, the team he just led to the playoffs last season.