Now that Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has officially asked for a trade, the ball has moved to Nick Caserio’s court. What will Caserio, and thus the Texans, do?
The choices are simple: (1) say they’re not trading him and mean it; (2) say they’re not trading him and not mean it; or (3) say they’re trading him.
They’re already putting out the word that they won’t trade him. Just like the Vikings did when they declared that they have “no intent” to trade Percy Harvin. The question becomes whether the Texans mean it.
If they do, Watson needs to be ready to dig in. Apart from daily fines of $50,000 per day for skipping training camp, Watson would owe the Texans $5.4 million per year for each of the next four years for $21.6 million in unearned signing bonus money. He also would sacrifice $10.54 million in 2021 salary, if he doesn’t play.
Some believe that Watson’s hesitation to say “trade me” until early last week means that he has considered all angles and that he has decided to proceed with the formal demand for a trade only after concluding that he’s willing to not show up, no matter what it may cost.
The Texans can opt for stubbornness in order to prove a point (such as, for example, “we can’t have the inmates running the prison“). But they’d be doing that through a likely storm of offers from other teams of tangible assets that could be used to turn the page on a player who doesn’t want to be there. And it would be stupid for the Texans to not listen to the offers that undoubtedly will arrive.
The Texans surely won’t be happy that the news of a new head coach was undermined by leaks of Watson’s trade request. But the Texans should have known that reporters would quickly start asking whether the hiring of David Culley would make a difference for Deshaun Watson, and that those reporters would be told, “Nope, he’s already asked for a trade.”
Watson indeed made it known not long after the season ended that he had become disenchanted with the team. His feelings grew as his recommended head-coaching candidates (Eric Bieniemy and Robert Saleh) weren’t interviewed. Early last week, he communicated the official trade request.
Somehow, it stayed under wraps. That created the impression that the coaching hire could turn things around. And so, by not leaking it themselves at the time, the Texans stepped on a rake by hiring Culley and necessarily triggering a land rush for Watson’s reaction, when the Texans already knew the reaction would be, “He asked for a trade before they hired Culley.”
The Texans now need to formulate a plan and implement it. More specifically, they should already have a plan, and they already should be implementing it. The question is whether any private insistence that they won’t trade Watson is real, or whether it’s part of an effort to maximize the return that they get for one of the best quarterbacks in football.