The Texans want to trade quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson wants to be traded. Eventually, it will happen.
As explained by John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, it will happen “when somebody makes [G.M. Nick] Caserio the offer he wants.”
“The Texans’ plan for Watson hasn’t changed since March,” McClain added. “Trade him when someone meets their demand, whenever that is. I think Caserio will get close to what he wants after the season if there’s clarity about Watson’s legal situation.”
The Texans, who per McClain are content to keep him on the active roster all year and pay him, reportedly want three first-round picks and two second-round picks for Watson. Teams have objected to that demand, given that his unresolved legal issues (22 civil lawsuits, 10 criminal complaints, and a vague FBI investigation) make his unavailability uncertain for 2021 and beyond.
Caserio’s position necessarily implies that the Texans view this not as a short-term transaction for Watson’s next team but a 10-year investment. Notwithstanding any absences in the short term, whether paid leave or an eventual unpaid suspension or both, this situation eventually will be resolved and Watson’s career will continue. Just as Ben Roethlisberger‘s did after allegations of off-field sexual misconduct. Just as Mike Vick’s did after two years in prison for dogfighting.
By March 2022 there should be more clarity regarding Watson’s legal situation. There’s also a chance things will remain murky. This year, it costs the Texans $10.54 million to pay him to not play while they wait for the offer Caserio wants. Next year, it will cost $35 million to continue to kick the can, if Caserio doesn’t get the offer he wants.
Assuming that the passage of six months leads to some clarity (the biggest concern at this point comes from potential indictment, prosecution, conviction, and incarceration on felony charges), the Texans become far more likely to get what they want, and perhaps more. After the season, more teams will be looking for new quarterbacks. Those teams could bid the package up to even more than three ones and two twos, potentially.
That’s the primary reason for a team like the Dolphins to move now. As Simms and I discussed on Wednesday’s PFT Live, at some point Watson’s arrival in Miami won’t do much to help the team win in 2021. But at some point it wouldn’t be a move for 2021. It would be a move for 2031 and every year in between.
In the deadline-driven NFL, the deadline is the closing of the trade window, on the Tuesday after Week Eight. If Tua Tagovailoa fails to show signs of becoming the franchise quarterback he was drafted to be, the Dolphins could make an offer close to what Caserio wants in the hopes of getting Watson before the bidding begins in the offseason, with perhaps seven or eight teams vying to get him.
The other wrinkle in all of this is Watson. Even if the Texans are willing to carry Watson on the active roster, pay him $10.54 million, and make him inactive every week, Watson may not be happy about being placed on ice for so long, even though he had a clear role in the creation of the current mess. He wants out now, not later. As 32 teams start playing football, he could get antsy. While T.O.-style shirtless driveway situps likely aren’t in the offing, an awkward relationship could get even more tense.
Both Caserio and coach David Culley have declared Watson’s status as a one-day-at-a-time proposition. That approach may work for only so many days, from Watson’s perspective.
And so maybe it ends not when the Dolphins make the Texans an offer they can’t refuse, but when the Dolphins make the Texans an offer they won’t refuse. Even if it’s less than three first-round picks and two second-round picks, there’s a chance it will be close enough that the Texans will take it, if only to finally be done with it.