The Deshaun Watson trade that absolutely needs to happen
No, the star quarterback is not going to budge. He's dug in, a source tells Go Long. Eventually, the Texans will need to wise up and make this deal that works for all parties involved.
The Houston Texans are calling Deshaun Watson. And calling. And calling. Multiple times per day, one source says.
And Deshaun Watson is ignoring every call.
Watson isn’t budging.
Nor should he.
The Texans franchise is currently an unmitigated disaster so — as the world knows by now — Watson wants out. This NFL offseason could be the wildest ever and the No. 1 reason is that one of the best players of this generation could be on the move. Should be on the move. Make no mistake: The Texans only have themselves to blame. The fact that Watson wants out five months after signing a four-year, $156 million contract says everything you need to know about the Texans.
If you somehow land Watson and he is this unhappy this soon, that’s on you. Not Watson. Not someone whose reputation as a player and a person is impeccable.
So, good on Watson refusing to waste away with a franchise in total free fall.
He’s taking control of his own future and make no mistake about this, either: He is dug in. He is in a fantastic mental space, per one source close to the QB, and he is fully prepared to see this through. It’s doubtful that anything happens this second. New Texans GM Nick Caserio has insisted he has zero plans to trade Watson. But as days turn to weeks and weeks turn to months — and Watson continues to ignore those phone calls — there’s one trade that simply makes too much sense for all parties involved.
One trade that must happen for the good of the game.
If there is a football god.
Deshaun Watson to the Miami Dolphins.
One team is in total disarray. The Texans’ president (Jamey Rootes) resigned just this week after 20-plus years with the team. And the Texans are not going to win anything any time soon — they have zero running game, the defense is a sieve, the fired Bill O’Brien gutted the team’s draft capital, DeAndre Hopkins is hauling in Hail Marys elsewhere and, correct, the face of the franchise wants absolutely nothing to do with all the dysfunction. Quite a change from leading the Kansas City Chiefs, 24-0, in the divisional playoff round 13 months ago. This is the definition of rock bottom.
One team is in win-now mode and loaded with draft ammo. Head coach Brian Flores made a bad team believe in 2019, GM Chris Grier went on a free agency shopping spree that paid off in a big way in 2020 and, now, the Dolphins are one star quarterback away from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2021. One Watson away. You cannot dream up a turnaround cleaner than this. The thinking is pretty simple on their end: All Grier and Flores need to do is admit their colossal mistake in drafting Tua Tagovailoa (over Justin Herbert) and make an offer the Texans cannot refuse.
Here’s an educated guess of what it will take: Tagovailoa, the No. 3 overall pick this year (Houston’s original pick), the No. 18 overall pick and a first-rounder next year.
Everybody gets exactly what they need.
Right now, the Texans aren’t blinking but that could change.
“I think they’re going to have to do something,” says one person close to Watson. “I don’t think they can not do something, and not have him play this year. That’d be silly on their part. Especially with the draft capitol you have. They’re a really bad team. The Miami Dolphins are a good team and have an early pick. That would make sense.”
Here’s a kicker, too. Watson has a no-trade clause in his contract so he has a say in where he lands.
This source indicates that Miami and San Francisco would be at the top of his list. Kyle Shanahan can dangle a package of talented players in a deal while Miami, obviously, has the ability to blow Houston away with its boatload of draft picks and an asset, in Tagovailoa, that Caserio was reportedly high on out of Alabama. Given the circumstances, it’s actually a damn good situation to be in if you’re Houston. It’s a chance to instantly rebuild.
That being said, one high-ranking AFC personnel exec isn’t holding his breath. He believes the Texans will find a way to completely screw this up.
“Nothing Houston has done has followed a line of logic,” this exec says. “Common sense isn’t common.”
So, how did the Texans royally screw this up to begin with? It’s not too complicated. They made it clear to Watson when he signed his contract back in September that he’d have a voice when it comes to major decisions like the hiring of a general manager and a head coach. That opportunity arose amid this calamity of a 4-12 season and he was basically ignored. Jack Easterby, the Patriots’ “character coach” from 2013-18, had seized power by then. And Easterby hired Caserio, who’s been with the Patriots since 2002, as his GM. All signs point toward Houston becoming Patriots South.
Says one source: “That’s not what Deshaun wants to deal with.”
No, Watson was not looking for the Texans to do whatever he said. He was just hoping to have the input that the franchise told him he’d have all along. If the Texans never said he’d have input in such matters to begin with, then Watson wouldn’t have had any expectations.
Essentially, he feels lied to.
Any employee for any boss would feel betrayed by such a bait and switch.
The Texans never seriously considered hiring a head coach first, a smart order of operations that has proven to be successful and is working out quite well for the best player in football: Patrick Mahomes. Hiring a head coach, first, who builds a team through the lens of always taking full advantage of Watson’s transcendent ability sure could’ve salvaged this situation from the get-go. To do anything but maximize the gifts of a talent like this feels objectively preposterous. Of course, Watson was a little busy through December when the Texans were formulating a plan, too. Watson was putting the finishing touches on a career season — 4,832 yards, 33 touchdowns, seven picks, 70.2 completion percentage. But, at one point, he did ask the Texans if they’d at least take a look at Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
He didn’t demand anything. Rather, Watson said he had heard good things about Bieniemy and was hopeful Houston would at least interview him. After all, Bieniemy was there in KC with Mahomes.
Houston never did, of course.
Caserio was named GM and David Culley was named head coach.
You’ll hear very good things said about the 65-year-old Culley as a person throughout the NFL. What you won’t hear is many good things said about Culley as a coach.
To recap, he was the wide receivers coach on Chiefs team that became the first ever in the 16-game era to go all season without its wide receivers catching a single touchdown. (The last team to do so, period, was the Y.A. Tittle-led 1964 New York Giants.)
He drew miserable reviews as a first-time quarterbacks coach in Buffalo in 2017. Many in the building believe there’s a good chance Culley and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison could’ve ruined Mahomes that first season if, in fact, the Bills drafted the Texas Tech swashbuckler at No. 10 overall. (Here’s the back story on the Bills’ owner falling in love with Mahomes, too, in case you missed it.)
And last year, Culley was the passing game coordinator on a Baltimore offense that finished last in passing.
One source close to Watson even believes the Texans’ brass is well aware that they’ll be terrible and plans to fire Culley and hire Josh McDaniels in two years when McDaniels is free from his Patriots contract. That may be a stretch but, hey, anything is possible in Houston with Easterby running the show. He didn’t rise to power like most do in the NFL. While this is all new territory for Easterby, it most certainly is not for Watson’s agent: David Mulugheta.
Mulugheta has been extremely successful in these exact situations and has quickly become one of the most powerful figures in the sport.
Surely, Watson’s camp has a playbook for this all. Caserio may say he looks forward to seeing Watson in the spring when the team reconvenes but you can bet Mulugheta will be strategic with every step.
We’re seeing players take more control of their careers. Watson has the patience and, frankly, the money to stand his ground here. And it’s worth standing his ground in the long term. The 25-year-old certainly sees Mahomes’ career blowing up and knows for a fact that — in the right situation — he can do the same thing. He arguably had the best statistical season of any quarterback in the NFL last season despite losing Hopkins in a historically dreadful trade and despite the worst defense in football.
What could Watson do with a mastermind of a coach? And a better supporting cast? His career is on the line so, no, don’t expect Watson to blink. Do expect Watson to work his ass off this offseason. He’ll follow the same regiment he always has — there aren’t many professionals wired like this guy, as you can read in this story from our chat a couple years ago.
Silence is a powerful chess move right now.
One source close to the QB sees zero chance the Texans will be able to convince Watson to play.
As the draft nears, the Texans will have every reason to start taking calls on Watson.
The Dolphins should be first in line, too.
It may not be easy for Flores and Grier to give up on Tua Tagovailoa but multiple scouts around the NFL believe they should do exactly that — more and more believe Tagovailoa will never be a franchise QB. What a prime opportunity this is for the Dolphins to cut bait. And while it may not be easy to part with three first-rounders, Watson is worth the king’s ransom. Because, with Watson, this team instantly becomes a Super Bowl contender. It’s hard to imagine Tagovailoa going toe to toe with Josh Allen for a generation. His rookie year consisted of simple reads and playing small. With Tagovailoa, there’s a very good chance the Dolphins are starting over again at quarterback in a year or two. (You know, what they’ve done at the position for 20 years.)
These AFC East battles will bring back memories of Dan Marino and Jim Kelly battling for a decade-plus.
And, obviously, the Texans have every reason to pull the trigger. When you have needs everywhere, acquiring three first-rounders is the perfect place to start. If they salvage Tua, great. If not, they still get a ton for a player who doesn’t even want to play for them. The more Caserio examines his talent-barren roster… the more times he calls Watson and Watson doesn’t answer… the more you have to think he warms up to the idea of this absolute perfect trade scenario.
For the love of the game, let’s hope so. There are few things sadder in sports than seeing a truly special talent rot away.
Maybe Caserio is able to turn things around in Houston. Right now, there’s not much hope. Which sure makes you wonder how the quarterback himself is holding up right now, right? How in the hell is Watson day to day with his own future hanging in the balance?
If you’re worried about Watson, please, don’t be.
He’s doing just fine.
“If there is one person that’s good, it’s him,” said this source close to the QB. “He’s not even tripping.
“He has an amazing ability to always be in a good mood.”
I would love to see a long form story about the accusations against Watson, seems completely out of character for him, but do we really know these guys?
It is an interesting thought but it would be hard to see the Texans doing something this strategic. Most of their other moves seem to follow a lack of strategy. At least they gave JJ Watt a separation he wanted (instead of some kind of acrimonious split where the Texans get, maybe, a high round draft pick).
But if I was Watson, I would just let it play out. He has nothing but time in this scenario.