It sounds as if Deshaun Watson could be a Miami Dolphin in a matter of days. Obviously, that’s a potentially major development for all other AFC Teams — including the New England Patriots.
John McClain of the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday reported the Texans are nearing a blockbuster that would send Watson to Miami, with a trade possibly completed by the end of this week. He also reported that both teams are intent on finalizing a deal before the Nov. 2 NFL trade deadline.
McClain did not offer insight into potential compensation for Watson, though the price for the superstar quarterback reportedly has been steep since he first requested a trade. Miami’s interest in a Watson trade dates back to last spring when the 26-year-old went public with his desire to leave Houston.
Most Watson trade speculation subsided after he was hit with 22 civil lawsuits alleging varying degrees of sexual abuse. Watson’s legal situation remains under investigation by both authorities and the NFL, but he nevertheless is on Houston’s 53-man roster and not on the commissioner’s exempt list. He has not played in a game this season.
At this point, there has been no indication that the NFL would prevent Watson from playing this season for any team, including the Texans. So, we’re going to proceed with the assumption that he’d be eligible to play for the Dolphins.
(By the way: We’re not going to talk much about current Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Obviously, a Watson trade would signal the end of his run in Miami. There reportedly is no guarantee he’d be part of the package sent to the Texans.)
So, what would a Watson-Dolphins trade mean for the rebuilding, 2-4 Patriots? First, let’s start with the on-field ramifications for this season.
The Dolphins obviously would become a better team with Watson, one of the best quarterbacks in football, controlling the offense. But Miami is 1-5 and in all likelihood has no chance of making the playoffs this season. So, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which the Patriots are directly competing with the Dolphins for the final AFC Wild Card spot.
However, as we laid out Wednesday, the Patriots face an awfully difficult road to playoff contention. Basically, if you assume they beat the New York Jets on Sunday, and later the Atlanta Falcons and the Jacksonville Jaguars, then they probably have to win five of their other eight games to have a shot at the playoffs.
One of those games: facing the Dolphins in the regular season finale. That might be a must-win game for the Patriots, and facing Watson obviously would make winning in Miami — something New England annually has trouble with — an even taller task.
But this really is about the long-term ramifications.
With Mac Jones looking like the real deal, there’s reason to believe the future is bright in New England. The Patriots, with the necessary roster adjustments, have enough in-house talent and coaching ability to be a very good team in 2022.
But, until further notice, Mac Jones is not Deshaun Watson. And, with the NFL a quarterback-driven league, you at least would have to put Miami on par with New England when handicapping the AFC East in 2022 and, potentially, beyond. Plus, with Josh Allen doing his thing in Buffalo, the Patriots suddenly would be closer to the third-best team in the division than they would the top dog. We’ll see what happens with Zack Wilson in New York, but the 2021 No. 2 pick is freakishly talented.
If nothing else, an AFC East quarterback depth chart of Jones, Watson, Allen and Wilson would look much different than, say, the 2015 group of Tom Brady, Trent Edwards, Chad Henne and Mark Sanchez.
One final thing to consider: The possibility of Miami becoming a more desirable free-agent destination than New England.
Yes, Watson’s off-field issues are concerning, but he’s an incredible talent with a ton of star power. You might not like him, but players would want to team up with him, especially if the Dolphins look like a playoff-caliber team. Remember: It was only a couple of months ago that many experts projected the Dolphins as legitimate contenders for the AFC East crown. The Dolphins still have a lot of young, promising talent.
If they finish this campaign strongly with Watson at the helm, while the Patriots limp to the finish line, New England might struggle in convincing top free agents to choose Massachusetts over South Beach. That’s the unfortunate reality of post-Tom Brady life for the Patriots.
Obviously, talks between Miami and Houston could fall apart and Watson could land with the Denver Broncos, or something. As of Wednesday night, Watson still was a member of the Texans.
But, if he eventually joins the Dolphins, it would be more bad news for a Patriots team that suddenly is running short on things to feel good about.