Quarterback Deshaun Watson has plenty of control over his current situation, thanks to a no-trade clause that gives him the absolute right to veto any proposed transaction.
So the news that’s constantly emerging regarding teams interested in Watson means nothing. What ultimately matters are the teams in which Watson is interested.
That’s why the Texans first need to gather the full universe of interested teams. Next, they need to find out which of those teams Watson would play for. Then, they need to work the best possible deal from that group of teams.
Surely, the Texans would love to leverage teams against each other without knowing whether Watson would play for any of the teams to whom offers are being shopped. That’s ultimately a waste of time, however, if the Texans are getting offers from teams for which Watson wouldn’t authorize a trade.
So where should Watson want to play? Presumably, he’ll consider various factors.
First, stability of coaching staff. Will he want to join a team with a coach that could be gone after (or during) the 2022 season?
Second, quality of team — specifically weapons and offensive line. Recently, one of Watson’s personal quarterback coaches groused publicly about the receivers available to Watson in 2020. The quality of the blocking also is important. Watson won’t want to be the one man band that he was during his final season in Houston.
Third, contract offer. Any team that signs Watson presumably will want to restructure his deal, which has a $35 million guaranteed base salary in 2022 and a $17 million March 2023 roster bonus that becomes fully guaranteed later this month. Watson can use the occasion of the trade to get more money up front, reducing the impact of a potential suspension in 2022 or, if the league waits for the civil cases pending against him to be resolved, 2023. And it may not just be an issue of money moving around; Watson could use the occasion of the trade to try to get more.
Fourth, overall viability of the team as a contender. Currently, the best teams are in the AFC. Watson may (should) be very inclined to play for an NFC team. The Eagles just made it to the playoffs, and they’re in a relatively weak division. The Buccaneers have a high-level roster, even without Tom Brady. Watson, like other great quarterbacks who have changed teams in recent years, will be looking for a place where he can win games and compete for championships. The Vikings have a brand-new regime with a quarterback-friendly head coach, who once was an NFL quarterback. The Saints have a solid roster and plenty of weapons, along with a new coach who kept much of a successful staff in place.
Only Watson knows where he’s willing to play. As you see report after report after report throwing out name after name after name of possible destination, remember that no amount of interest in Watson matters if Watson isn’t interested back.