Moments after it was reported that Nick Caserio would be hired as the Texans’ new general manager, franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson sent the greater Houston area into unrest when he fired off a since-deleted vague tweet:
“some things never change…”
No one knows exactly what Watson was tweeting about. Perhaps he was watching “Frozen 2” and really related to Olaf the snowman. Some have theorized Watson was tweeting about social justice or even something personal.
But ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio reported Thursday: “Rumors already are circulating, and we’ve already heard them from multiple different people, that Watson has quietly broached with teammates the possibility of requesting a trade.”
This is relevant in New England because the Patriots need a quarterback for the second straight offseason, and Watson is a pretty damn good one.
Only Jarrett Stidham and Jake Dolegala are under contract for the 2021 season with Cam Newton and Brian Hoyer hitting free agency. The Patriots select 15th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, and there’s no guarantee that a top quarterback still will be available in that slot.
Caserio was hired away from the Patriots, where he’s spent the first 20 years of his NFL front-office career. The Texans don’t have a first- or second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
So, there are a lot of puzzle pieces that fit here.
Some details: Watson signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension in September. The Texans would lose cap space ($5.7 million) by trading Watson before June 1. They’d only absorb a $21.6 million dead cap hit, however.
Here’s how much Watson would cost his new team per season:
2021: $10.54 million
2022: $35 million
2023: $37 million
2024: $32 million
2025: $32 million
That’s a lot of money, especially after 2021, but considering the Texans already have handed out his $27 million signing bonus, it still would come in below market value for a quarterback of Watson’s caliber. The Patriots have boatloads of cap space, so money isn’t an issue.
The cost to acquire Watson might be a significant impediment, however, as New England presumably would like to build a competitive team around its new quarterback.
The Texans could command multiple first-round picks — as in more than two — for Watson. Safety Jamal Adams, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, pass rusher Khalil Mack, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and quarterback Jay Cutler (seriously) are the most recent players traded for two first-round picks. Watson is on a whole other level.
So, would the Patriots deal their next three first-round picks, plus probably more, for Watson? What about their 2021 and 2022 first-round picks, their 2021 second-round pick, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and more?
The Patriots have significant needs at wide receiver, tight end, defensive line, linebacker and cornerback. And the cheapest way to acquire those players is through the draft.
Acquiring a player like Watson usually is a no-brainer. But if Watson would just be placed into a disadvantageous situation over the next three, four or five years, then what is truly the benefit of such a deal? What if he still doesn’t have any weapons or if the defense still can’t stop the run?
The Patriots are not currently one quarterback away from being a Super Bowl contender, and that’s where they would have to be to consider trading away three first-round picks for a passer.
It’s possible the Patriots could build a team around Watson with free agents and late-round picks, but that’s tough. Quality free agents cost a lot of money, and Watson would be eating up significant cap space in 2022 and beyond.
Trading for Watson would be fun. He’s one of the best quarterbacks with one of the brightest futures in the NFL. But Watson alone wouldn’t fix the Patriots, and New England ultimately might be better off trying to find its own franchise quarterback in the draft.
Sorry. It’s not fun to rain on a parade.