The New England Patriots are riding a hot streak. But after two extremely productive days of gathering chips in free agency, one of New England’s biggest need remains at quarterback.
With the third-most salary cap space in the NFL, the Patriots added tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, outside linebacker Matt Judon, wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, offensive tackle Trent Brown, defensive back Jalen Mills and defensive linemen Davon Godchaux and Henry Anderson over the last several days.
So, they should put four first-round picks on the table and snag discontented quarterback Deshaun Watson in a trade with the Houston Texans while they’re at it, right?
In theory, absolutely. Most NFL teams should be trying to trade for Watson. The Patriots are quarterback-needy despite re-signing Cam Newton and should still have plenty of room to fit Watson’s $10.4 million salary-cap hit in 2021. After all of those additions, New England truly might be a quarterback of Watson’s caliber away from competing for a Super Bowl in 2021.
But not to rain on anyone’s parade celebrating the Patriots’ free agency win, but New England’s chances of acquiring Watson are viewed as slim-to-none in NFL circles. League sources were adamant a deal that would land Watson in New England is extremely unlikely.
— The Patriots, who pick 15th overall and almost certainly would be a playoff team with Watson, would need to outbid quarterback-needy teams who possess Top 10 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft.
— Texans general manager Nick Caserio would have to accept the optics of trading a franchise quarterback to complete his former team’s rebuild.
— Watson would need to waive his no-trade clause to join the team that employed and empowered Jack Easterby, the executive in Houston he’s trying to escape.
Well, when you put it that way, right?
Even after bringing aboard Smith, Henry, Agholor and Bourne, New England still isn’t thought to be an attractive destination for Watson. Instead, his ideal landing spots would be the Denver Broncos or San Francisco 49ers, according to former NFL executive Michael Lombardi.
Is it possible for the Patriots to acquire Watson? Anything is possible. The QB signed a long-term extension with the Texans less than seven months ago. No one in their wildest dreams could have imagined the quarterback would be in the situation that he’s in right now, unhappy and demanding a trade.
Should the Patriots try to trade for Watson? Absolutely. Without a doubt.
Will they acquire him? Almost certainly not. The Patriots have a higher probability of acquiring 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in a trade even though he’s not even currently available, and they don’t have the cap space to fit him on their roster. Otherwise, the Patriots’ best chances of finding a quarterback would come through the draft.
And those are the two most realistic avenues New England should be exploring. If Watson (or another available quarterback) does go to San Francisco, that would free up Garoppolo to come to New England (on a restructured contract). The Patriots still like and want Garoppolo, according to a source, but they’re cognizant of the fact that the 49ers might never be willing to trade him. That is why they kept Newton on a team-friendly deal. Otherwise, the Patriots either need to wait for a quarterback to fall to them at No. 15 overall or move up to get their guy.
Adding Watson would be the ultimate boon for New England this offseason. It would transform them from also rans to favorites. It would complete what’s already been a successful offseason. But don’t hold your breath for a deal. It would be bad for your health and wellness.