Sean Pendergast

Deshaun Watson Reportedly "Incredibly Torn" In Choosing Trade Destination

Deshaun Watson is reportedly having difficulty deciding where to play next season.
Deshaun Watson is reportedly having difficulty deciding where to play next season. Photo by Eric Sauseda
The doors in the figurative Deshaun Watson Trade showroom opened up in full force on Saturday, one day after the Houston Texans' quarterback found out there would be no criminal prosecution for the ten criminal complaints filed against him by various massage therapists in the Houston area. Here we are, six days later, and the board seems to be narrow down to four teams — the Carolina Panthers, the New Orleans Saints, the Cleveland Browns, and the Atlanta Falcons.

After completing a meeting in Atlanta with Watson's hometown Falcons (the only meeting to take place outside Houston, for what that's worth), Watson is reportedly agonizing over this decision, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk:
All four teams seem to have put their best foot forward, both with their offers to the Texans and with Watson in presentations. Regarding the offers, the Texans and GM Nick Caserio would only give permission for these teams to meet with Watson AFTER they put forth their best offer. The minimum Caserio is seeking is a package consisting of three first round picks, more draft capital, and possibly a player or two. Thus, none of these teams would have gotten a meeting if they hadn't made a suitable offer to the Texans.

In terms of the respective presentations, each team brought their big guns to the party. Again, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk:
The reason Watson gets to choose where the Texans move him is because his contract gives him that level of veto power, via his "no trade" clause. That means he gets to approve any trade by waiving the "no trade" clause. I have to believe, even with Watson's being "incredibly torn," a decision must be coming soon. We've already ranked the four suitors from a Texans perspective in this space, earlier this week. However, from Watson's standpoint, what are the pros and cons of each one:

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

PROS:
Of these four teams, the Saints have historically been the best run franchise, in terms of the on field product. The roster is stocked full of Pro Bowl level veterans on both sides of the ball, and Watson would have elite weapons (when healthy) at running back (Alvin Kamara) and wide receiver (Michael Thomas). The offensive line is one of the bets in the league, if they can retain free agent tackle Terron Armstead.

CONS: Much of the success from the past decade and change occurred on the watch of former head coach Sean Payton. Payton is no longer the head coach. The new head coach is former defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, whose career record as a head coach in the NFL is 8-28. Also, the Saints are perennially having issues getting under the salary cap, and someday the credit card style spending they do will bite them.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

PROS: Of the four suitors, this is the one with the best overall roster (outside of quarterback, which Watson obviously cures). They have an outstanding offensive line, and a tremendous running game. Defensively, they have young talent all over the field, and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Myles Garrett. If Watson wants to truly "be legendary," winning a Super Bowl in Cleveland would do it.

CONS: The weather doesn't just suck on a day to day basis, but it SUCKS BADLY on a football basis. The wind off the lake makes passing the football extremely difficult. Also, while the Browns have far more talent now than at any other time in this second iteration of the franchise created in 1999, it's translated into just one playoff win. In other words, they still feel a little cursed.

ATLANTA FALCONS

PROS: Watson grew up in the Atlanta area as a high school legends and worked game days on Sundays for the Falcons as a ball boy. Owner Arthur Blank is a huge fan of Watson's. The offensive line is not bad, and rookie tight end Kyle Pitts has elite weapon potential. Head coach Arthur Smith is one of the better offensive minds around, having turned Ryan Tannehill into an upper tier starter in Tennessee, when Smith was the OC.

CONS: The roster overall is not very good, and head coach Arthur Smith probably overachieved massively in winning seven games last season. Also, what young pieces exist on the roster, current and future, will likely get pilfered in this trade, making building a roster around Watson quite difficult, Also, unloading incumbent QB Matt Ryan is going to send the Falcons into salary cap hell. The roster is not great. They're picking eighth in the draft for a reason.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

PROS: This is the team that has wanted Watson, unwaveringly so, since he demanded a trade back in January 2021. When the lawsuits started flying, Carolina never backed away. When the grand jury made its ruling last week, Carolina was first in line. Owner Dave Tepper wants Watson badly. Also, there are some fun pieces to play with offensively for Watson — Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Robby Anderson. Geographically, Carolina is a great fit, being three hours from Atlanta and a couple hours from Clemson, where Watson was a college football hero.

CONS: Trading for Watson will severely gut the Panthers' draft capital in 2022 and beyond, more than any other team on this list. That's because they gave up their second round pick for QB Sam Darnold and their third round pick for CB C.J. Henderson. The offensive line is the worst of the four in the running for Watson, and after getting his head handed to him for three seasons behind the Texans' offensive line, that may matter to Watson. The roster is not great. They're picking sixth in the draft for a reason.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast