Organized Team Activities, better known in their abbreviated form as "OTA's", are underway for the Houston Texans this week, and will extend into the next couple weeks. They are voluntary activities, so the news that the suddenly controversial Deshaun Watson will not be in attendance is no surprise. Nor was Tom Pelissero's report that Watson still is looking to be traded:
#Texans star QB Deshaun Watson won’t attend OTAs and still wants to be traded, per sources.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 24, 2021
Watson has denied wrongdoing related to recent lawsuits, which have slowed the process of sorting out his future. But his position hasn’t changed: Watson wants out of Houston.
Things will get awfully interesting if June 15 arrives and (a) there's been no resolution to Watson's legal issues, and/or (b) he hasn't been traded yet, because that is the beginning of mandatory minicamp, and by the letter of the law, Watson is required to show up or face fines for being absent. Whether he shows up or not, my guess is that Watson's ultimate desire will remain to play elsewhere in 2021 and beyond.
Once the 2021 NFL Draft came and went, the actual teams that were going to be in the trade market for Watson largely shifted, as teams like the Jets, Bears, and 49ers went and found long term solutions at quarterback in the first round of the draft. However, a new group of suitors has emerged over the last three weeks, and it is assumed that once Watson's situation is clearer, they will come calling. Those teams firmly in the second round of the Watson rumor mill are, in no particular order, Philadelphia, Carolina, Denver, Las Vegas, Washington, and Miami.
When you look at that list of teams, what jumps out to me is that there are no world beaters. In fact, according to Peter King's NFL Power Rankings earlier this week, most of those teams are in the bottom third of the league. Also, while all of them represent rosters that are at least marginally better than the Texans', these teams all have culture and/or front office issues. In other words, is Deshaun really swapping out his situation with the Texans for one that is markedly better? And if it's not markedly better, what would stop Deshaun from demanding ANOTHER trade in a couple years.
Let's look at each of them, with their Peter King power ranking (the higher the number, the worse they are) in front of the team name. Here we go:
28. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-11-1, missed playoffs)
As I've pointed out, this is the best trade partner for the Texans right now, with the Eagles sitting on multiple first round picks for 2022. From Deshaun's perspective, he would be going to a team with THIS guy as its next head coach:
This guy is joking right? pic.twitter.com/lBeFtVYkqf— Barstool Philly (@BarstoolPhilly) January 29, 2021
Good luck with that.
26. CAROLINA PANTHERS (5-11, missed playoffs)
Once Watson's situation became complicated by the 22 lawsuits, Carolina made a move to acquire Sam Darnold to be their next quarterback. However, if Watson did become available, it's feasible to think that Panthers owner Dave Tepper, who reportedly is in love with Watson (or was before the lawsuits, at least), would make another run at Watson. If he were to go to Carolina, Watson would be going to play for a second year NFL coach in Matt Rhule, who is very unproven, and a roster that has below average overall talent.
25. DENVER BRONCOS (6-10, missed playoffs)
It is widely believed that Watson's big issue with the Texans centers around a damaged relationship with owner Cal McNair. Well, if ownership is the issue in Houston, Watson would have a helluva time justifying a trade to Denver, where the team's ownership situation has been a mess since longtime owner Pat Bowlen passed away. The family is feuding over who should be running things in the Mile High City.
23. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (8-8, missed playoffs)
The Raiders are run by Jon Gruden, who is three years into a ten year-, fully guaranteed deal to coach the team. Here's the problem — Gruden is one of the most overrated coaches in the business. Since winning a Super Bowl in 2002 with a team Tony Dungy had built for about half a decade in Tampa, Gruden has made the playoffs twice in nine total seasons, combined across the Bucs and Raiders, and has yet to sniff the playoffs in the go round with the Raiders.
15. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (7-9, won NFC East)
Again, if Watson's issues are with ownership, approving a trade to the Washington Football Team would mean playing for perhaps the worst owner in the league in Daniel Snyder. Personally, I'm rooting for this bit of potential hypocrisy to play out. That would be fun.
11. MIAMI DOLPHINS (10-6, missed playoffs)
OK, this is the one scenario where I think the grass may definitely be greener for Watson than riding things out in Houston. The Dolphins have great weapons, including the very familiar Will Fuller. Miami has great weather and nightlife. Brian Flores is thought to be an ascending young coach. Most importantly, there's nothing really toxic about the Dolphins culture, except the fact that they have not won a playoff game since 2000.
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