There have been rumors around the NFL water cooler that Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson is not happy about the direction of the organization. Bill O’Brien’s decision to trade All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for pennies on the dollar just recently underscores this.
Could Watson be traded? This depends on several variables, chief among them his relationship with O’Brien and whether Watson will, in fact, demand a trade.
Following a humiliating loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in last season’s AFC divisional round, O’Brien came under scrutiny for his head-coaching performance. Instead of moving on from the embattled head man, Houston decided to add the general manager title to O’Brien’s resume.
This lends credence to the idea that the longtime head coach will win any battle of egos between him and his players — as we’ve seen with Hopkins, Jadeveon Clowney and Duane Brown.
If this is indeed the case, and given Watson’s status as a player eligible for an extension for the first time, rumors of his departure from Houston might not be overblown. Here’s what a trade might look like should that come to fruition either this spring or next offseason.
New England Patriots: The Pats have been linked to Watson more than any other team. Whether it’s reckless speculation or something else remains to be seen.
What we do know is that New England is in the market for a quarterback of the future. It has to replace six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, who departed for the Buccaneers in free agency. Whether it happens during the 2020 NFL Draft next month or following this coming NFL season remains to be seen, but the 67-year-old Bill Belichick is not going to wait too long to get a franchise guy.
A trade of this ilk would be difficult for New England to pull off. It does not have young assets to entice the Texans. As it relates to April’s draft, the Pats boast a first-round pick and three third-round picks as their major trade chips.
A move for Watson this spring (highly unlikely) would likely require New England giving up its first-round picks the next two years, a young player and two of those third-round selections. Would Houston bite? I am not too sure.
Dallas Cowboys: While seemingly unfathomable, a Watson for Dak Prescott trade could make sense for both the Cowboys and Texans.
Dallas is currently in the midst of a prolonged contract stalemate with Prescott that led the team to place the franchise tag on him.
On the other end, the relationship between Watson and O’Brien could very well be deteriorating behind the scenes. That's pure conjecture, but it could get to the point of no return — and Watson’s tweets add fuel to the speculation.
Could Dallas offer Prescott and its first-round pick to Houston for Watson? At this point, anything is possible. Watson is seen as a more complete quarterback than his counterpart in Big D. Any deal would have to include Dallas sweetening the pot.
Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins just signed a contract extension with Minnesota after a tremendously successful statistical season with the Vikings. That doesn’t change the dynamic in Minneapolis.
Minnesota just dealt star receiver Stefon Diggs after his relationship with Cousins took a major hit this past season. Cousins simply might not have the pieces in place to have success next season.
The same could be said for a Texans squad that just traded Hopkins for pennies on the dollar, much to the chagrin of fans in Houston.
If the 2020-21 seasons don’t play out to the expectation of these two front offices, I can easily envision a trade coming to fruition. Cousins is the more prototypical quarterback that O’Brien prefers, dating back to his days with both the Patriots and Penn State.
San Francisco 49ers: San Francisco was linked to Tom Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo struggled in the playoffs last season. There’s a small window for Garoppolo to prove himself.
Even if San Francisco’s supposed interest in Brady was not real, the team will soon face a tough decision with Garoppolo. Despite putting up good numbers in last season’s run to the Super Bowl, he has his faults.
On the other end of the spectrum sits a Texans squad that is likely in for a sorely disappointing 2020 season. Should Watson’s relationship with O’Brien pass the point of no return, a trade of this ilk makes sense.
San Francisco would hypothetically send Garoppolo and a 2021 first-round pick for a player in Watson the team passed up on early in the 2017 NFL Draft. It would be a way for general manager John Lynch to right that wrong.
Aside from this, Garoppolo’s skill set fits what O’Brien likes to do on offense. While the two never crossed paths in New England, the offenses are the essentially same. It's something to look at depending on how the 2020 season plays out.
Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. There are rumors suggesting Watson could be on his way to New England. This has only been magnified since O’Brien shockingly traded Watson’s No. 1 receiver to Arizona for a running back with recent injury concerns and pennies.
While I don’t expect anything to come to fruition this spring, stranger things have happened — such as the trade of Hopkins.
O’Brien is a true wild card. He beats to the sound of his own drum. It has turned some former Texans players against him. Could Watson be next?
Whether this spring or following the 2020 season, I would not be surprised if this marriage ended with a shocking trade.
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