On Friday, much will potentially be learned about the criminal cases pending against Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Quite possibly, the door finally will swing open for a trade.
As we previously have reported, multiple teams are willing to trade for Watson without the 22 civil cases pending against him resolved. The current impediment continues to be the possibility that Watson will be indicted on one or more felony charges, and then placed on paid leave pending the resolution of the prosecution. (Last season, the Panthers were willing to trade for him despite the criminal investigation, but Watson wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause.)
If the grand jury does not indict Watson on felony charges, he could be traded when the new league year begins next week. So which teams would be interested?
As we previously explained, he could be looking at a suspension even without criminal charges, under the Ben Roethlisberger precedent. Thus, whoever gets Watson may not get him for several weeks of the regular season.
Still, it’s not a one-year move but a 10-year effort with Watson. So which teams should be watched? Here’s our list.
Panthers: They’re desperate to find a franchise quarterback. As mentioned above, they were willing to do the deal last year, with no clarity as to his various legal entanglements. That said, the tenuous status of coach Matt Rhule should give Watson pause, given that he possibly would have a new coach as soon as next year.
Seahawks: In 2017, Watson had a spectacular game in Seattle. He believes he suffered his torn ACL during that performance, with the ligament fully ripping apart at practice four days later. Now, the Seahawks have an obvious need at quarterback. They have the assets to get a deal done, given the Russell Wilson trade. However, does Watson see Seattle as a place where he can contend sooner than later? The team is clearly in rebuilding mode.
Eagles: Linked at times to Watson chatter last year, it never seemed that Watson was interested. Maybe he should be. The Eagles made it to the playoffs in 2021, and in a depleted NFC they could become a significant contender — especially with Watson at quarterback. And they could stick with Jalen Hurts (or Gardner Minshew) during a short-term suspension.
Vikings: If they find a trade partner for Kirk Cousins, Watson is the only available upgrade. However, they’d need a reliable bridge quarterback during a potential suspension. Kellen Mond doesn’t seem to be ready to play.
Buccaneers: Even without Tom Brady, the Bucs can contend at a high level. It makes plenty of sense, and it definitely would close the door on a Brady return. (He’s not coming back to the Buccaneers, anyway.)
Steelers: Although former Bucs quarterback Shaun King continues to push the idea that Watson is interested in the Steelers, the force of the all-caps “ARE NOT” interested report from Wednesday suggests that the source goes as high in the front office as possible.
Cardinals: If the Cards and Kyler Murray are at a contractual impasse, why not swap Murray for Watson? It would make plenty of sense for everyone, if Houston would be ready to pay Kyler big money.