Ranking Deshaun Watson’s Most Likely 2021 Destination (Fantasy Football)
After a lot of chatter, rumors, and rumblings over the last couple of weeks, Deshaun Watson formally requested a trade out of Houston today. He’s in the middle of a 4-year/$156M deal, and he certainly lived up to that salary in 2020. Last season, Watson led the NFL in passing yards (4,823) and posted career bests in touchdown throws (33), fewest interceptions (7) and passer rating (112.4). The market for him should be robust, and many teams are in play.
It’s worth noting that Watson’s current deal has a no-trade clause which gives him some power in deciding where he’ll land. Houston has him under contract through at least 2024, so the team certainly isn’t obligated to part ways with him. It seems unlikely Houston will want to begin its fresh start with a new coach, new GM, and disgruntled quarterback. I ultimately believe Watson will get his wish and be traded.
With this blockbuster trade news, it seemed prudent to rank each team’s chances of keeping/trading for Watson in 2021. Here are all 32 teams and their chances, in order, of landing Watson.
32. Houston Texans
He’s requesting to be traded away from this team… moving on.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
They just signed Patrick Mahomes (a guy taken in the same draft) to a half-billion dollar contract, and in just over a week the young phenom will play in his second straight Super Bowl. If there’s one team in the league with absolutely no interest in Watson, it’s the Chiefs.
30. Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen took an enormous third-year leap this season and took Buffalo to the AFC Championship game after the team hadn’t been there in nearly three decades. The Wyoming product will be the reason the Bills are a true title-contender for years to come. They don’t need Watson.
29. Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert made a legitimate run at Offensive Rookie of the Year this past season, but he’ll likely lose that award to another Justin – one who just broke two of Randy Moss’ rookie records up in Minnesota. Herbert played lights out for the Chargers as the team’s full-time starter, and it appears he’s far more NFL-ready than fans (or Los Angeles’ coaching staff) anticipated. His cheap rookie deal will allow the team to build around him, and trading for Watson only to pay his exorbitant contract wouldn’t be a smart move.
28. Seattle Seahawks
Just like Mahomes, Russell Wilson got PAID in the offseason, and Seattle has its franchise quarterback already in place. Russ was allowed to cook in the opening weeks of the season, and he put together a tremendous string of games. He’s been consistently excellent and always available for the ‘Hawks. Watson isn’t in this team’s sights.
27. Arizona Cardinals
The team swung and missed on Josh Rosen a couple years back, and after some large helpings of crow, the GM went back to the well for another signal-caller the following year. That dude was Kyler Murray, and he’s been electric for ‘Zona thus far into his short career, bringing the Cardinals to the cusp of a playoff berth in 2020. Reuniting Watson with DeAndre Hopkins would be the love connection we’d all be here for, but it ain’t gonna happen.
26. Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow was on a heater before a season-ending injury cut his season short. Last year’s No. 1 pick will be a Bengal for years to come, and this team has no need to trade for Watson.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Unless he chooses to retire, Tom Brady will be back with the Bucs to run it back for another Super Bowl appearance in 2021. This team is all in on Brady and the team they’ve put around him. A deal for Watson doesn’t make sense right now.
24. Baltimore Ravens
The future of the franchise is firmly in the hands of Lamar Jackson. Watson isn’t in Baltimore’s plans moving forward.
23. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers was a bit cryptic following his team’s loss at the hands of Tom Brady this past weekend, describing his future with the team as “uncertain.” Still, talk is cheap, and this isn’t the first time Rodgers (or other HOF quarterbacks from Green Bay) have teased this sort of thing. He’ll almost certainly be back with the Packers next season, and there’s no reason to believe the team would be in the market for Watson.
22. Cleveland Browns
Cleveland still has Baker Mayfield on his rookie contract, and the team made huge headways in 2020 with him at the helm. Trading for Watson right now wouldn’t make sense for the direction this team is headed, and it would give the squad less flexibility moving forward.
21. Las Vegas Raiders
This is a team with out a lot of cap space or good draft picks to offer. Watson would be an upgrade over Derek Carr, but this one doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
20. Dallas Cowboys
It wouldn’t be totally crazy to see Dallas make a move for Watson, but the Cowboys likely have their franchise quarterback of the future already on the roster in Dak Prescott. This doesn’t feel very realistic.
19. Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins just re-upped for two more years, Minnesota has been a respectable offensive team, and the needs here are on the defensive side of the ball. A trade for Watson doesn’t seem like a high priority.
18. Tennessee Titans
Tennessee has done quite well over the last two seasons with Ryan Tannehill under center, and it doesn’t seem likely the Titans will be clamoring for Watson’s services.
17. New Orleans Saints
Watson would be an immediate upgrade over either of Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston, but the Saints are in cap hell right now. There’s no way they can find the money for Watson, even if they search for loose change in every couch in the SuperDome. This team also made the NFC Divisional Round, so the draft picks they’ll have to offer won’t be nearly as appealing as a less-competitive team.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Big Ben era may continue for at least one more season, but if Pittsburgh wants to move on and begin a new era, trading for Watson makes a ton of sense.
15. New York Giants
The Giants appear committed to Daniel Jones, but Watson would be a huge upgrade. Is it possible the G-Men make a move for the superstar quarterback? Yes. Is it likely? Probably not.
14. New England Patriots
Let’s be honest. Bill Belichick is looking pretty silly right now. After several years of nudging Tom Brady out the door, the hoodied grouch finally got his wish. New England went 6-10 without Brady, and the goat is appearing in his 10th Super Bowl with his second team. The Patriots stunk last season and have fallen behind Buffalo and Miami in the AFC South. Cam Newton is clearly not the long-term fix. Does Belichick want to go through a total rebuild, or will he feel pressure to get his team back on top? The Pats have the cap space and the need for Watson, but the potential trade packages it could offer pale in comparison to others on this list.
13. Chicago Bears
The Mitchell Trubisky experiment has been a complete dud, but the Bears could try to right that egregious drafting by trading for a guy who was taken 10 spots after Trubisky in the 2017 draft. Chicago has a true No. 1 WR in Allen Robinson who may be looking to head out the door in free agency if he doesn’t get some help. Chicago would be a great landing spot for Watson, but the question is… what can the Bears offer? There’s no quarterback of note to trade. The Bears’ first-rounder this year isn’t a good one. The last time Chicago made a splash trade, the team traded away a ton of draft capital for Khalil Mack back in 2018, but this isn’t an elite pass-rusher we’re talking about. This is a franchise quarterback. Chicago would have to sell the farm to get Houston’s attention, so I think this will be really tough for the Bears to pull off – but not impossible.
12. Washington Football Team
And just like that, Dwayne Haskins is gone seemingly minutes after arriving in Washington. Alex Smith can’t stay healthy. Taylor Heinicke played solid football in Washington’s Wild Card loss to the Bucs, but is he the future of the franchise? Ron Rivera already has Washington moving in the right direction, and landing Watson could make this team a perennial playoff team. Imagine the connection with Terry McLaurin to go with an elite defense… that’s the stuff of legend. Washington will probably have a tough time matching the offers of some other teams in play, though, making a move to Washington seem like a reach.
11. Philadelphia Eagles
This one could work if Philly decides to trade its own disgruntled quarterback and a first-round draft pick. Carson Wentz has had problems staying on the field and issues with turnovers, but he flashed greatness just a few years back. Could Wentz give his career a kickstart in Houston? Could Watson lead Philly back to another Super Bowl?
10. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams committed a lot of money to Jared Goff, but he’s appeared limited in what he can do, and it’s possible we’ve seen his ceiling already. He’ll reportedly be competing for a starting job in 2021 if he isn’t traded. The Rams have taken some huge swings in free agency over the last few years, and maybe they decide that if they’re paying big money for a quarterback, he might as well have championship-winning upside. Watson with the Rams would be a lethal offense, both in real life and in fantasy.
9. Denver Broncos
Denver has been searching for an answer at QB since Peyton Manning retired, and John Elway still hasn’t delivered. Rather than taking another swing in the draft or testing the free-agent waters, maybe Elway and the Mile High crew will opt to trade for one of the best signal-callers in the NFL? Denver owns the ninth pick in this year’s draft.
8. Carolina Panthers
The elite skill-position trio of Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, and Christian McCaffrey would sure look a lot better with Watson getting them the ball. Teddy Bridgewater played fine last season, but he doesn’t have what it takes to get this team to the next level. Surround Watson with some good teammates and competent management, and he could bring the Panthers to the promise land. Carolina could potentially offer the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft as part of a potential package to acquire Watson.
7. Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan is under contract for at least two more seasons at a fairly steep price, but he’ll still come cheaper than Watson, and he’s a former league MVP. Sure, it’ll be a downgrade, but Ryan can still ball, and Houston could get some picks in the package, too. Atlanta – a team stuck in NFL purgatory since blowing a 28-3 Super Bowl lead – is likely open to shaking things up and starting anew. Trading for Watson would be the first major step in that direction. With Ryan as a trade piece, Atlanta has itself firmly in the trade discussion, though it’s unknown if the team will go in this direction.
6. San Francisco 49ers
Is it time to part ways with Jimmy G? After signing him to a massive deal back in 2018, Garoppolo delivered a Super Bowl berth to the Niners in 2019, but he’s been on IR in two of the three full seasons he’s spent with the team. Cutting him would cost the team just $2.8M in dead cap space, but including him in a trade for Deshaun Watson? That would be pretty sweet for SF. The team has a solid defense, a Pro-Bowl TE, an emerging star wideout in Brandon Aiyuk, and could really use some firepower to compete with the likes of Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray within the division. The team owns the 12th pick in the draft and could use that as the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal.
5. Detroit Lions
If Watson has any say in where he lands, it won’t be this disastrous franchise. Detroit is looking to part ways with Matthew Stafford, so a swap with some extra incentives thrown in by the Lions could get the job done. Detroit owns the seventh pick in this year’s draft, which would be a nice offer for Houston if packaged with Stafford.
4. Indianapolis Colts
We saw what the Colts were able to do with Philip Rivers in the final year of his career. Imagine what this team could do with a more talented passer in his prime. Better yet, imagine what Watson could do behind an elite offensive line. Indy seemingly has all the pieces in place except a franchise quarterback. Star running back? Check. Great line play on both sides of the ball? Check. Solid special teams? Check, again. Indy could use some help at receiver, but with so much available cap space, the Colts shouldn’t have a problem signing a top-tier free agent at that position.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Call me crazy, but the idea of Jacksonville trading the No.1 pick for Watson doesn’t seem so farfetched. The team is poised to draft Trevor Lawrence, who most believe will be a generational talent in the NFL. But we still haven’t seen the translation from college to the NFL. Watson has already proven that he’s a generational NFL talent, so the risk is minimized. Lawrence on a rookie deal will be cheaper than Watson at his current contract, but do we really think the rookie will be the better starting quarterback at any time within the next three seasons? Urban Meyer and Jags ownership may want to win now, and this move makes sense for both sides. Watson leaving would surely be an easier pill to swallow for Houston’s GM if he had the No. 1 pick in his back pocket. Would Watson agree to this? Would the Texans be comfortable trading him within the division?
2. Miami Dolphins
Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t the answer, and by all accounts, the Dolphins aren’t sold on Tua after seeing what he could do for the back-half of his rookie campaign. Could Houston and Miami do business for another blockbuster deal? The Texans traded away this year’s first and second-round picks (among other assets) for offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil last season. Those picks have turned into the third and 36th picks, and Miami owns its own 18th pick. A trade package centered around Tua and some combination of those picks seems pretty lucrative, and it’s likely one of the best deals the team will be able to realistically get. This deal makes a ton of sense for both sides, as Houston gets back some draft compensation and can begin a rebuild with a young, first-round talent. Miami instantly becomes title contenders, anchored by an up-and-coming offense and its star quarterback. ‘Fins up!
1. New York Jets
The Jets are apparently one of Watson’s preferred destinations, so that automatically puts this team in good position to make a deal. New York owns the second and 23rd (from SEA) picks in this year’s draft, and a package that includes Sam Darnold and those picks should be very, very attractive to Houston. Watson would land with new head coach Robert Saleh, who will look to shape the team into a playoff contender. With over $65M in available cap space this season, New York has the money to acquire some big-name talent in free agency, which could include an elite WR or TE for Watson. The availability of quality draft picks, a potential inclusion of Darnold, and Watson’s willingness to be traded there make New York the top potential landing spot for Watson.
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