No sport weaves soap opera storylines into its tapestry better than professional football. Watching shows like NFL Live
on ESPN each afternoon is as much about the drama surrounding the league's key stars as it is about X's and O's, on-the-field stuff, and if there's an NFL franchise that is the mecca of drama this past year, well by God, it's the Houston Texans.
The 2021 Houston Texans are a Days of Our Lives disguised
as a football team, and Deshaun Watson is the Stefano DiMera (Is Stefano still a character on Days
? Did he die? Did he die and come back with amnesia?) of the Texans drama factory. Watson is such a key figure to the NFL's soap opera that you can't watch NFL football on Sundays without wondering if about a dozen teams will be trying to trade for him this offseason.
Of course, there's the not so small matter of the 22 civil lawsuits pending against Watson — soap opera, baby! — that must be resolved before a team will forfeit a king's ransom to Nick Caserio for the quarterback's services. However, as the 2021 season winds down this weekend, here is the big board of teams that should be picking up the phone and dialing up Caserio as soon as the season ends, if for no other reason than to say "Call us before you make a move!"
The list includes the first round picks, as currently slotted
, owned by each team, as those picks would be the starting point in any Watson trade talks:
MIAMI DOLPHINS (22nd overall pick)
The Dolphins are the one team that Watson has publicly said he would approve a trade to. (NOTE: Watson has a "no trade" clause which gives him full control over where he lands.) Their seven game winning streak ended with a thud this past weekend, and Tua Tagovailoa has been mediocre this season. So yeah, the Dolphins are still in the mix. Worth noting, the first round pick they own in 2022 is actually San Francisco's pick, from the Trey Lance trade.
CAROLINA PANTHERS (6th overall pick)
The Panthers started the season 3-0, with Sam Darnold playing decently. Since then, they've won just two games, and Sam Darnold turned back into Sam Darnold, so much so that he was benched for a washed up Cam Newton. The Panthers' owner, Dave Tepper, reportedly wanted to trade for Watson, even WITH his legal troubles unresolved. The Panthers are the one non-Miami team to watch in all this.
A QB AWAY
DENVER BRONCOS (11th overall pick)
Denver was reportedly a preferred landing spot for Watson last offseason. Their QB situation is a mess, with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock, but the rest of the roster is ready to win NOW.
CLEVELAND BROWNS (13th overall pick)
The story in Cleveland coming into the season was whether or not Baker Mayfield would get a big contract extension. Now, after a horrific 2021 season, Mayfield might be on his way out in Cleveland. Like Denver, this is a deep roster with bad QB play.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (15th overall pick)
This would be a GREAT spot for Watson from a football standpoint — top tier head coach, good roster, rabid fan base. I suppose the only downside would the proliferation of sketchy massage joints near the French Quarter. Temptation is a tough thing.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (17th overall pick)
Another team that has somehow managed to finish around .500 with garbage QB play. Would a blue blood franchise like Pittsburgh take on the P.R. headache like Deshaun's situation?
INTRIGUING WILD CARD
NEW YORK GIANTS (5th and 8th overall picks)
Reportedly, Watson would have approved a trade to the Jets last offseason, so we can assume that New York is one of the places he would prefer to grow his brand. The Giants might have a new GM and head coach after this season. Would a new regime want to build from the ground up or get splashy with a trade? That's the question.
MITIGATING FACTORS GALORE
These are all teams that would make sense for the Texans to talk to based on a variety of factors, but for equally significant mitigating factors, a trade may not come to fruition:
DETROIT LIONS (2nd and 30th overall picks)
How nice would it be to have the second AND third picks in the draft? Well, it would be great, but I doubt Deshaun has visions of Detroit dancing in his head.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (14th, 18th, 21st overall picks)
This would be an ideal trade partner for the Texans, with THREE first round picks in THIS coming draft as a possible price. Two problems — first, Deshaun Watson reportedly does not want to go to Philadelphia, and second, the Eagles just qualified for the playoffs with second year QB Jalen Hurts. They may want to roll with Hurts going forward.
WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (9th overall pick)
Washington just went through a season where they started Taylor Heinickie all year, so yeah, they could use Deshaun Watson. The tricky thing here is how would an organization who was fined millions by the league for a toxic workplace (largely due to sexual harassment) handle a the P.R. quarterback accused of sexual misconduct by 22 women.
ATLANTA FALCONS (10th overall pick)
This one is a good fit because Watson is from the Atlanta area, so presumably he would approve a trade to the Falcons. The problem for the Falcons is that they would take a $40 million dead money cap hit from moving on from Matt Ryan, AND would have to pay Watson $35 million next season. That's some tough math.
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