Sean Pendergast

Which Deshaun Watson Trade Suitors Match His Criteria?

Photo by Eric Sauseda
Last week, reports surfaced coming out of Super Bowl week that Deshaun Watson and his camp had added a couple more possible landing spots to their evaluation of Watson's football future. Everyone acknowledges that his LEGAL future is probably of more importance at this time. That said, it was Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com that reported the following in a column on NFL rumors:
"The Texans quarterback, who spent the 2021 season on the team's active roster but did not play, has begun evaluating potential fits for his services in 2022, with the Buccaneers and Vikings among teams on his radar.

One source noted that Watson — who has a no-trade clause — is still early in the evaluation process, but he's looking for the right blend of offensive system, coaching, talent and, most importantly, the chance to win."
Now, we should acknowledge that just one day later, Watson's agent, David Mulugheta shared a status update on the latest Watson reports with NFL reporter Josina Anderson. Here was Anderson's report:
"I spoke with Deshaun Watson’s agent. He says there's no truth that Watson is eyeing the Bucs, Vikings or any teams ahead of free agency. 'We haven’t had any talks among ourselves or with teams about possible destinations as we are focused on clearing Deshaun’s name at this time.'"
First, let's get the obvious stuff out of the way. I am not buying for one second that Mulugheta hasn't discussed possible destinations with Watson. That's just a lie, mostly because he would be committing agency malpractice if he wasn't discussing that very thing with Watson. Also, reportedly, Watson was nearly dealt to Miami at the trade deadline in November, so I'm guessing at least ONE destination was discussed back then.

Mulugheta is saying what he should publicly, though, making sure that the public knows that Watson and his camp realize the severity and seriousness of the legal situation. That said, Tampa Bay and Minnesota seems to make a lot of sense for Watson. A LOT of sense.

If it feels like we have discussed about half the league as possible landing spots for Watson, it's because we have. Hell, if this drags on another offseason, God forbid, there will be eight new teams added to the mix. It will be a tradition like no other! For now, let's assess the teams that seem to be most often mentioned for Watson currently, and let's use a scoring system based around the four factors Fowler says are important to Watson above —-  system, coaching, talent, and chance to win.

Let's use a 1 through 5 (1 being the worst, 5 being the best) scoring system for each of those traits for the ten teams that seem to comprise the Watson radar right now. It bears repeating, the reason these rankings are important is because Watson was given a "no trade" clause and has final veto power over where he lands. Here we go, in ascending order:

CAROLINA PANTHERS, TOTAL: 9 points
System: 3
Coaching: 2
Talent: 2
Chance to win: 2

It's unfortunate for the Texans that the Panthers are such a dumpster fire with a head coach on the hot seat, because (a) they have the 6th overall pick in this draft, a prime trade asset, and (b) reportedly their owner was ready to trade for Watson at the trade deadline, even if Watson had NOT settled the 22 lawsuits! Also, Charlotte is near Clemson, where Watson was a hero in college, and near Atlanta, Watson's childhood home.

NEW YORK GIANTS, TOTAL: 10 points
System: 4
Coaching: 3
Talent: 1
Chance to win: 2

Another trade destination that would be IDEAL for the Texans, as the Giants have the 5th and 7th overall picks in the draft as trade bait. The problem here is that, for now, the Giants have sworn off trading for Watson because of the nature of the allegations in the lawsuits. We will see if owner John Mara remains true to his statements.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES, TOTAL: 12 points
System: 3
Coaching: 3
Talent: 3
Chance to win: 3

There is a theme developing at the bottom of the Watson Desirability rankings — the Eagles are yet ANOTHER ideal trade partner that probably doesn't check enough boxes for Watson, as the Eagles have THREE first round picks in the draft. As far as the quality of the team, the Eagles managed to go 9-8 and make the playoffs with Jalen Hurts at quarterback, so there are some pieces.

WASHINGTON COMMANDERS, TOTAL: 13 points
System: 3
Coaching: 4
Talent: 3
Chance to win: 3

Washington's newly named football team has some intriguing pieces on the roster, and a well respected head coach in Ron Rivera. However, the owner, Daniel Snyder, is one of the worst owners in sports. Also, Washington has been the subject of numerous investigations into their behind the scenes culture, and adding Watson would be pretty tone deaf.

ARIZONA CARDINALS, TOTAL: 13 points
System: 4
Coaching: 2
Talent: 4
Chance to win: 3

The Cardinals make my list mainly because their current QB, Kyler Murray, is sideways with the organization right now, presumably over a contract extension. I included them in this exercise solely because some trade involving Watson and Murray would be the biggest blockbuster in league history.

MIAMI DOLPHINS, TOTAL: 14 points
System: 5
Coaching: 3
Talent: 3
Chance to win: 3

The one team Watson has reportedly waived his "no trade" clause for, they seem to have cooled on Watson. However, the Mike McDaniel hire, and the ensuing offensive system he brings, would seem to be great for Watson. We will see if the talk of their commitment to current QB Tua Tagovailoa is just smoke.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS, TOTAL: 15 points
System: 3
Coaching: 5
Talent: 3
Chance to win: 4

The Steelers have yet to finish below .500 during Mike Tomlin's entire time there as head coach, 15 seasons now. They made the playoffs with Ben Roethlisberger's right arm practically falling off all season, so it would stand to reason that perhaps Deshaun Watson sees the Steelers, a true blue blood franchise, as a chance to really redeem his career story.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS, TOTAL: 16 points
System: 5
Coaching: 3
Talent: 4
Chance to win: 4

As outlined above, the Vikings are new to the party. For what it's worth, their new head coach, former Rams OC Kevin O'Connell, has indicated that they are ready to roll with Kirk Cousins. I am not completely buying that. What Minnesota lacks in warm weather, they would make up for in offensive weapons to pair with Watson — WR Justin Jefferson, WR Adam Thielen, and RB Dalvin Cook.

DENVER BRONCOS, TOTAL: 17 points
System: 5
Coaching: 3
Talent: 5
Chance to win: 4

Now, we are getting to the cream of the crop for Watson. Denver has good, young players all over the roster on both sides of the ball. They've done an incredible job drafting pretty much every position EXCEPT quarterback, which is ironic given the fact that John Elway has been running things there for years. With the 9th overall pick in the draft as a starting point, the Texans should hope Watson falls in love with the Rocky Mountains.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, TOTAL: 17 points
System: 3
Coaching: 4
Talent: 5
Chance to win: 5

Tampa Bay finishes in a tie with the Broncos for top spot on the board, but I am giving them the tie breaker with a perfect score in the "chance to win" category, and the fact that Watson seems a little more likely to approve a trade to play in Florida than Colorado.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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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