Chaos Scenarios: What is Deshaun Watson Worth?

The Houston Texans' QB has asked for a trade. What is he worth?

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Deshaun Watson has requested a trade from the Houston Texans. The team, led by owner Cal McNair and new general manager Nick Caserio, have consistently said they have no desire to trade “the player”.

But what if Watson’s lengthy displeasure with the team—beginning with poor roster management (remember that DeAndre Hopkins trade?), ownership telling Watson he would be involved in off-season regime changes and then making hires without him, and ownership aligning with Jack Easterby instead of searching outside the building for new leadership.

Should the Texans trade Watson? No. Of course not. You don’t trade the second-best young quarterback in football. Not when he’s 25 years old, locked up through the 2025 season and only getting better.

But this isn’t about should. It’s about Watson forcing the Texans to make a trade after multiple decisions that have pushed their franchise star farther away from coming back to the table.

So, what would a player who just led the NFL in passing yardage with a cast of skill players around him that might not have started at the University of Alabama this year?

If Watson truly hits the market, there will be a long list of suitors. Every team outside of Kansas City, Buffalo and maybe Baltimore should make the call—yes, even Seattle with Russell Wilson allegedly unhappy and Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers now 37-years-old.

But who could make the best offers—not taking into consideration Watson’s no-trade clause?

Carolina Panthers

Offer: QB Teddy Bridgewater, RB Christian McCaffrey, No. 8 overall (2021), 2022 1st Round; 2023 3rd Round

The Carolina Panthers have been very aggressive in attempting to add a quarterback this off-season. They went hard after Matthew Stafford and have been rumored to be poking around a trade up the board in Round 1.

If owner David Tepper, general manager Scott Fitterer and head coach Matt Rhule decide to go all-in, the fact that they are an NFC team with a selection in the top 10 picks this year could benefit their cause in obtaining Watson.

But, would they be willing to give up one of the NFL’s best young running backs to do it? McCaffrey would be an attractive piece in the trade package and help offset future picks the Panthers must send for Watson.

And while no fan wants to lose a favorite player like McCaffrey—would you rather have the NFL’s best running back or its second-best quarterback?

Likelihood: 25% chance

Chicago Bears

Offer: No. 20 overall, No. 52 overall (2021); 2022 1st round; 2023 1st round and 3rd round; QB Nick Foles

That’s a lot to give up, but the Bears aren’t drafting in the early stages of the first round this year and don’t have multiple firsts in 2021 to offer, so that drives the price way up. Could general manager Ryan Pace avenge his draft day mistake of trading up to select Mitchell Trubisky over Watson (and Mahomes)?

For what it’s worth, I would be shocked if Watson waived his no-trade clause to play in Chicago (brrr — and no weapons) and the team has not shown itself to be aggressively pursuing quarterbacks outside of Carson Wentz this off-season.

Likelihood: 5% chance

Dallas Cowboys

Offer: QB Dak Prescott, No. 10 overall (2021); 2022 1st round; 2023 4th round

I actually think this deal makes more sense for Houston than many that are floated on social media, but Dallas owner Jerry Jones would have to surrender precious draft picks to get the deal done.

When I floated this one on Twitter recently, Dallas fans were irate at the idea that Watson was worth so much more than Dak. He is. Sorry.

Dak is a very good quarterback. Watson is a great one. And that difference is expensive. Not to mention the fact that Prescott needs a new contract and is coming off a gruesome season-ending injury.

Likelihood: 1% chance

Denver Broncos

Offer: QB Drew Lock, WR K.J. Hamler, No. 9 overall and No. 40 overall (2021); 2022 1st round; 2023 2nd round

Two firsts, two seconds and a young quarterback with some developmental potential is a strong offer—especially with the 2021 first-rounder coming at No. 9 overall but Denver’s offer would come in below what teams like Miami and the New York Jets can offer on the AFC side of things.

For the Broncos to really get involved, they’d have to send more than just picks. Could one of their promising young receivers or tight ends be on the move to sweeten the pot? That makes the most sense given the emergence of Tim Patrick late in the season and the depth at the position overall.

Likelihood: 15% chance

Miami Dolphins

Offer: QB Tua Tagovailoa, No. 3 overall, No. 18 overall (2021); 2022 1st round; 2023 3rd round

Perhaps the most attractive team in terms of assets to offer the Houston Texans is the Miami Dolphins. Given the team’s bounty of picks (four selections in the top 50 this year), they can send a package of picks to Houston that could include a combination of firsts and seconds this year, future picks AND a second-year quarterback who was just selected No. 5 overall.

The tie here is that new GM Caserio is rumored to have loved Tagovailoa when he was leaving Alabama in the 2020 draft class. If Caserio believes Tua can be a legitimate franchise quarterback, accepting him and a big bounty of draft picks for a quarterback who is forcing his way out of town might be the best possible option.

Likelihood: 30%

New York Jets

Offer: QB Sam Darnold, No. 2 overall, No. 23 overall (2021); 2022 1st round; 2023 3rd round

I have reported before that Watson does not prefer to play for the Jets, so expect the no-trade clause to factor even if this deal were done; but the Jets do have a lot of assets to offer for Watson.

Darnold still has value (think Round 2 and 4 if traded) and the Jets have two first-rounders in 2021 which gives Houston immediate return on losing a star player. You immediately net a starting-level quarterback (Darnold), the No. 2 overall pick this year (which could be used or traded for more assets) and the No. 23 overall pick which can be used to bolster the skill group.

And you get a first next year. It’s a great deal for the Texans if they can get Watson to agree to playing for the Jets.

Likelihood: 10% chance

San Francisco 49ers

Offer: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, No. 12 overall and No. 43 overall (2021); 2022 1st round; 2023 1st round

Sending Watson to the NFC would be appealing, and the 49ers are rumored to be one of the teams he favors given the competitive roster and friendly coaching staff; but Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t a very attractive return so the 49ers must load up on draft picks to make this happen OR send a blue-chip player like George Kittle or Nick Bosa and less draft choices.

But if John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan—who didn’t do much work on Watson pre-draft and passed over him when they owned the No. 2 overall selection in 2017—decide to go for broke in acquiring a legitimate franchise quarterback, Watson is amenable to playing in The Bay and makes this roster a Super Bowl contender immediately.

Likelihood: 20% chance

Washington Football Team

Offer: No. 19 overall and No. 51 overall (2021); 2022 1st round; 2023 1st round and 2nd round

The Washington Football Team has no long-term plan at quarterback (sorry, Taylor Heinecke) and limited assets to send in return for Watson; but they do have future first-rounders, an owner (Daniel Snyder) who has given up large draft capital in the past for a quarterback, and a head coach with a ton of job security.

And like Chicago and San Francisco, Washington gets Watson out of the AFC.

It’s not the most logical of destinations with the Football Team selecting so late in Round 1, but if they are willing to mortgage the next three years worth of draft classes, it could happen.

Likelihood: 3% chance