The Miami Dolphins and Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson have been linked for months. As the time approaches for the Texans to move him off the roster via trade or pay him $10.54 million to not play, two important things have not happened.
First, the Texans have not said unequivocally and unconditionally that they’ll keep him on the team this year and not pay him. (They reportedly are “prepared” to keep him on the 53-man roster, pay him, and deactivate him every week. That sounds like an effort to create leverage, not a clear statement of intent.) Second, the Dolphins have not said that they have no interest in Watson.
The tampering rules prevent teams from expressing interest in a player under contract with another team. The tampering rules do not forbid a team from saying, “We have no interest in that player.” The Dolphins, fully aware of the reports linking the team to Watson, could easily put out the fire by saying, “We have no interest in that player.”
The heat didn’t increase over the weekend regarding a possible trade because people were bored. At a time when I already was hearing chatter that a trade could happen, I reached out to a high-level source with an NFL team to obtain confirmation that, in order to put Watson on revocable IR, the Texans would have to put him on the initial 53-man roster. The response was, “Yes.” Followed by, “He’s getting traded next week,” with the Dolphins and Panthers believed to be the two finalists.
While we didn’t couch it with the same clarity that the source did in our story on the subject, that’s why we wrote what we wrote on Saturday. Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports took it a step farther, reporting that the Dolphins have emerged as the frontrunners to land Watson.
Robinson applied more clarity today. “My Watson reporting is from high-level sourcing in five teams: #Dolphins, #Texans, #Broncos, #Eagles, #Panthers and inside Watson’s camp. I challenge the Dolphins to state on the record that they haven’t spoken to Houston about a Watson deal in camp.”
The question isn’t whether the Dolphins want Watson. They do, for the right price. The Texans want to unload Watson, for the right price. For now, the two circles on the Venn diagram remain separated. Soon, they’ll either move toward each other or they won’t.
The most fair outcome continues to be the simple formula expressed earlier today on PFT Live. For 2022, the Texans get a third-round pick if Watson is available to play in fewer than eight regular-season games in 2021. They get a second round pick if he’s available to play in eight to 12 regular-season games in 2021. They get a first-round pick if he’s available to play in 13 or more regular-season games in 2021. That same conditional approach would apply to the 2023 draft based on the 2022 season, and to the 2024 draft based on the 2023 season.
That would give Houston up to three first-round picks, and it would account for the inherent uncertainty created by the legal proceedings. That uncertainty remains, whether Watson stays with the Texans or gets traded. The best way to account for the potential impact of the civil cases, the criminal complaints, and the likelihood of a league-imposed suspension even if everything is resolved in his favor (Watson’s camp expects something in the range of six to eight games) is to tie the picks to availability, over multiple seasons.
If the Texans want to trade Watson and if the Dolphins want to secure his services, a compromise like this seems necessary. Whether a compromise like that happens remains to be seen.