Nobody had “Deshaun Watson gets traded before the deadline” on their bingo card for the 2021 NFL season, but here we are. The idea of the Texans finding a trade partner for the quarterback essentially died as soon as the breadth of investigations into alleged sexual assault began. Now there are fresh, legitimate rumors Watson could be dealt as early as this week — and it’s one of the most mystifying trade scenarios in recent memory.
Let’s start by saying that very little is known about the exact details of the trade at this time. It began early on Wednesday afternoon with respected Texans beat writer John McClain saying Watson could be traded to the Miami Dolphins “as early as this week,” with another beat writer, Coty M. Davis, later saying it’s believed to be a three team deal that would send Tua Tagovailoa to the Washington Football Team as well.
It’s abundantly clear with Watson’s status being so tenuous and pending extremely serious investigations that Houston will not get the bevy of first rounds picks and players they once hoped to obtain in a trade. Adding Washington to the mix is a wrinkle, presumably to add some picks and lessen the future cost for Miami. For sake of discussion let’s operate under the assumption that the trade would look like this:
Miami Dolphins receive: QB Deshaun Watson
Washington Football Team receive: QB Tua Tagovailoa
Houston Texans receive: 2022 1st round pick (from Miami), 2022 2nd round pick (from Miami), 2022 2nd round pick (from Washington), 2022 3rd round pick (from Miami)
I expect there will be additional conditional picks in. For example perhaps another pick moves to Miami if Tua makes a Pro Bowl, or the Dolphins need to send another first to Houston if Watson plays 80 percent of snaps in 2022.
Those are all the fine details which are too difficult to work out. The real question is: Does any of this make sense?
What does Houston gain?
This part is the most obvious: They offload a headache. The relationship between Watson and the Texans was bad before the allegations emerged, and there was a real chance Houston would have looked to trade him anyway.
Naturally the hope would be they can get a bigger return for a player who, when on the field, is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL without question. However, his off-field issues have made it utterly untenable — which likely results in getting far less than they hoped for.
What does Miami gain?
Honestly it feels gross to really look at this like a “win.” There are so many parts to the investigation into Watson that any trade would immediately be met by NFL intervention, should the Dolphins try to put Watson on the field.
The idea here would be that Miami is taking a mulligan on the year after utterly failing to build off their 2020 campaign that almost took the team to the playoffs. The expectation is the team could surge forward, and instead they’re 1-5 and coming off a loss to the Jaguars.
Trading for Watson would essentially be a gamble that he can return to the field, and an admission that Tagovailoa isn’t the player the Dolphins hoped he’d be. It would also cut off comparisons to Justin Herbert, who was selected after Tua and has quickly become one of the best young quarterbacks in the league.
However, it’s unclear when Watson would even be able to play. If he was added to the active roster the NFL would surely step in and immediately suspend him. This reeks of a panic move designed to save face with no clear vision for the future, and one that could absolutely backfire and result in the Dolphins sending picks, and their quarterback away — getting nothing in return.
What does Washington gain?
The Washington Football Team elected to pass on quarterbacks each of the last two drafts, instead leaning on Ryan Fitzpatrick and Taylor Heinicke to carry the load. That’s gone really poorly.
We have to assume the team believes Tagovailoa is being misused in Miami, and they can coax the talent out of him so many saw prior to the draft. Remember: Tua was the most coveted quarterback during 2019, and was a lock to be the No. 1 pick prior to being injured.
So, the team is essentially seeking a high-upside win for a fairly low investment. Considering they need a quarterback for the future, they could do a lot worse.
What do we make of all this?
It’s weird. It’s weird as hell. I don’t understand the desire to push this through now by any party considering the risks at play from a football perspective, or the PR nightmare for actively trading for a player under investigation for sexual assault.
If wild scenario come to pass we’ll be ready to break it down as it happens.