The situation in South Texas has finally come to a head, Houston Texans. The move has seemingly been barreling toward reality for weeks now, and news of it comes only hours . But the genesis of his angst can likely be traced back to the team’s decision to trade away all-world wideout DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals in 2020 — in exchange for some certified pre-owned chewing gum and a box of used envelopes.(demanding?) a trade from the
The fracture became a shatter following a disappointing finish to the season though, when Watson accused ownership of reneging on the promise of including him in conversations regarding the head coach vacancy and what happened with the open general manager role. When they brought on Nick Caserio as GM, it allegedly (and obviously) infuriated Watson, and although Caserio dubbed the three-time Pro Bowler as “our quarterback,” Watson clearly disagrees. It was reported he’d be willing to play hardball to force his way out of Houston and that’s coming to fruition — it’s been said he’ll waive his no-trade clause for certain teams he’s already eyeing.
It’s been a dizzying past few weeks for the Texans and it’s about to ratchet to unforeseen levels if they decide to honor Watson’s trade demand, but they’ll only make things worse by not — considering he could hold out and they’d then be forced to fine him continually and probably have to move him later anyway. As far as some top potential fits for him go, there’s no shortage of teams who could and should dial up Caserio to get an asking price on the 25-year-old, but you can likely bet on the following eight clubs jumping in the race; and they also have head coaches (and offensive schemes) that make for an interesting tandem with Watson.
Also, don’t be surprised if the AFC East drives up the asking price.
*Footnote: Cap issues (e.g., New Orleans Saints), current QB situation (e.g., Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and/or are reasons some teams were negated from this list, to ensure only the most feasible potential trade destinations.
Head coach: Bill Belichick
While the Jets mull the future of Darnold, the Patriots aren’t kidding themselves.
Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft know they have an issue at QB and it requires fixing now, not later. The experiment with Cam Newton didn’t pan out as they had hoped and backup Jarrett Stidham isn’t taking over anyone’s franchise in the near future. The good news for the Patriots is they won’t pick in the bottom of the first round thanks to a disappointing season, but they’re still sitting at 15th overall, and a move upward would possibly be needed to have a go at a promising QB prospect like, potentially, Trey Lance. But again, much to the previous point regarding the Jets, it’s a dice roll in the draft when you already know what you’re getting with Watson. While Tom Brady readies for a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Belichick needs to reload quickly at QB to get back to his winning ways, and Watson is a full clip he could also aim at his AFC East rivals who might be in the mix to land him.
Head coach: Robert Saleh
They’re trying to figure out if there’s untapped potential in Sam Darnold, and there potentially might be.
That said, Darnold isn’t Watson, and that’s where the conversation should begin for general manager Joe Douglas and newly-hired head coach Robert Saleh (whom Watson is a fan of). The latter was brought on with Darnold in mind, but considering the exodus of primo talent in New York and how something dynamic needs to happen, roster-wise, to help turn the organization around. What the Jets need to decide is if it’s better to go with a proven, young talent or to roll the dice on an unproven one with the No. 2-overall pick. Considering first-round QBs don’t often pan out (they sometimes do, but it’s more rare than you think (e.g., Carson Wentz and Jared Goff), the discussion regarding Watson simply has to happen. The incentive to go hard at him isn’t simply for what’s stated, but also for indirect reasons, because if the Jets don’t land him they could find themselves having to scheme against him at least twice a season going forward.
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Head coach: Brian Flores
Don’t expect Flores to sit on his hands as AFC East rivals reach for the phone.
What might give the fiery coach pause in this dialogue is the presence of former fifth overall pick Tua Tagovailoa, who showed flashes in his rookie year but ultimately struggled in the end. It would be fair to give him more time to develop, especially considering he returned from a devastating hip injury and didn’t have the benefit of a traditional learning curve in his first year, which is why the verdict seems torn on how to approach the QB position in South Florida for 2021. No team on this list is better equipped to fork over what it would take to land Watson and they’ve done big business with the Texans before — landing several premium picks in exchange for left tackle Laremy Tunsil they could now theoretically send back to Houston along with Tagovailoa to land their definitive franchise QB in Watson, and without batting an eye. And if you’re Watson, the idea of moving to Miami Beach to learn from a player’s coach like Flores is also one hell of a selling point, along with the absence of a state income tax (similar to Texas).
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Head coach: Mike Tomlin
It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.
But all Boyz II Men references aside, the Steelers have to know it’s time to part ways with their future Hall of Famer. Ben Roethlisberger became a shell of himself down the stretch and was a key reason they got embarrassed at Heinz Field by the rival Cleveland Browns in the AFC wild-card matchup, and his monstrous salary cap hit for 2021 is more than enough to start penning the Hallmark card for his exit. Also, don’t go viewing Haskins as the savior at the position in Pittsburgh, but rather a project they’re interested in getting a closer look at, and as for Mason Rudolph — don’t make me laugh. With the 24th pick in the coming draft and no quality QB on the roster, the Steelers need to locate the next franchise quarterback for Mike Tomlin — and Watson would definitely be it. He’d have to acclimate to playing in cold weather, but he sure would enjoy winning again, because Tomlin does a whole lot of that when his players are firing on all cylinders. Lastly, as far as dysfunction goes, the Steelers are the anti-Texans, and that would be a breath of fresh air for Watson.
Head coach: Matt Nagy
The NFC has entered the chat.
If the Texans want Watson out of the AFC altogether, the Bears are a ready-made fit and for Chicago, you couldn’t ask for a better shot at a mulligan after taking Mitchell Trubisky over both Watson and Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft. Trubisky went off the board with the No. 2 overall pick but hasn’t played like it (going to my aforementioned point about first-round QB prospects), with Watson being selected 10 picks later. It’s become an unforgivable error by the Bears and team’s don’t usually get a chance to make things like this right, so general manager Ryan Pace better dial up the Texans front office yesterday. Putting Watson in a system with Allen Robinson and an emerging RB in David Montgomery, along with a defense that can definitely get the job done, would make the Bears instant contenders to take down the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North and possibly much more. Nagy is a talented head coach without a game-changing quarterback, and Pace would do well to give him the guy the Bears should’ve already had on the roster when Nagy signed on in 2018.
Head coach: Kyle Shanahan
Just imagining Watson under the tutelage and in the system coordinated by Kyle Shanahan is enough to inspire awe, but also factor in the offensive weaponry he’d be given and the fact the 49ers defense — when healthy — is arguably the best in the league. For a team only one year removed from a Super Bowl appearance, and one that saw them struggle to pull away offensively before Mahomes woke up and made them pay in the fourth quarter, the 49ers would be viewed as the frontrunner in the NFC if they were to acquire Watson. The future of Jimmy Garoppolo is in the air because of durability issues and no one can argue which is the better QB here: the answer is Watson, resoundingly. It’ll take some cap finagling to make it happen, but it’s more than worth breaking out the calculator and abacus to figure out what it would take to get Watson out to the Bay Area. A combination of Shanahan and Watson would be a cheat code.
Head coach: Ron Rivera
Alex Smith deserves endless praise for his return to football. Full stop.
With that being said, he’s also not the answer for Washington at quarterback for the future, and Rivera is already turning the culture around but still needs an impact QB1 to achieve his mission. It was a tumultuous season for the Football Team — mixed with the feel-good story of Smith and the feel-bad story of former first-round pick Dwayne Haskins, the latter having since been released and now signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. That leaves only Smith and backups Taylor Heinicke and Steven Montez as options for 2021, with Heinicke being a fan favorite at the moment. You could roll all three of them up and they still wouldn’t be as impactful as 1/100th of Watson though, and Washington winning the NFC East puts them at 19th-overall in the 2021 draft and out of the running for one of the primo QB prospects. They could trade up for one, but if you’re in the trading mood, figure out how to trade for Watson instead and give the division hell for the next several years. Rivera turned Newton into a league MVP, so imagine what he and Watson could achieve together. It’s Rhule’s inexperience at the NFL level that might make Watson wary, though.
8. Carolina Panthers
Head coach: Matt Rhule
Was signing Teddy Bridgewater as QB1 a bad decision?
Probably, and not because Bridgewater isn’t capable of playing in the NFL, but the ship might’ve sailed on him being a starter for a full campaign — evidenced by Rhule benching him to close out the year. And with that, the first-time NFL head coach is strapped to a his first big whiff, but the error also falls at the feet of Marty Hurny, who was fired by owner David Tepper in December. Enter Scott Fitterer in the GM role, who can make a huge opening statement by figuring out how to get Watson on Rhule’s roster. A combination of Watson and a healthy Christian McCaffrey would be a sight to behold, and receivers D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson would do backflips at the mere thought of catching passes from the QB that helped Hopkins become who he is. Rhule can present fresh ideas to Watson and the two might help turn the tide in a division that features Tom Brady but likely no longer Drew Brees. I fully expect Carolina to have detailed conversations with the Texans about Watson, which ironically might put their current GM against their former GM and head coach, both calling the shots now in Washington.
Head coach: Dan Campbell
The end of one era presents a chance to usher in a new one.
Matthew Stafford might’ve beat Watson to the punch, but they have the same goal and that’s to get out of their current city on the first thing smoking. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see them swap places, but this would be a harder sell for Watson when considering he’s already coming out of one dysfunctional organization and likely uninterested in trying his hand at another. If you’re the Lions, however, this list isn’t about where Watson wants to go as much as it is about what the team needs, and what it needs is a franchise quarterback to glue to the offensive-minded Campbell. They’re in a better position than some on this list by virtue of owning the seventh-overall pick, but at that point the consensus top QB prospects will be long gone and then it’s that much more of a dice roll in an already risky draft game. Or ante up: trade Stafford quickly and then flip the gains into a package the Texans can’t refuse while hoping Watson doesn’t as well, because he might not have a taste for kneecaps.
The Lions will likely be in play here, but on a list of coaching fits for Watson, they’re dead last for a reason.