Is Deshaun Watson ready to take flight?
Among organizational turmoil, it seems like Watson’s future with the Texans is murky at best, leading to plenty of trade rumors over the last two weeks. While the story of Watson’s prospective trade partners are at the forefront, the Jets — yes, the New York Football Jets — make a lot of sense as a destination.
Several speculative — allow me to repeat, speculative — reports indicated that the Jets, armed with a war chest of trade assets, would be in the mix to trade for the Houston franchise passer, reaffirming that idea:
There’s no team out there better positioned than the New York Jets to put together a compelling trade package for Deshaun Watson. https://t.co/yAegDVMM38
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 17, 2021
But what if paper came to practice? What if the Jets and Texans get serious like Chip and LaFawnduh, and trade talks start to heat up between the two franchises?
Save your “Same Old Jets” jokes. Close out of the buttfumble gif. Yes, this is a team that recently employed Adam Gase. This is a team that finds a way to spell “dog” as “C-A-T.” But with top head coach candidate Robert Saleh taking the Jets job and general manager Joe Douglas living up to reputation as a well-respected front-office guy, maybe the Jets’ fortunes are starting to turn around.
With the Jets one of just a few teams in prime position to trade for Watson — and if Watson were to waive his no-trade clause and invite a trade to New York — then there’s plenty of reason for both sides to get a deal done.
Really, any article worth its salt would begin and end with this: It’s Deshaun Freakin’ Watson. But there’s a little more to a Watson trade than that.
Let’s start with the obvious: Here’s a list of Jets quarterbacks who have started a game for New York since 2000:
- Vinny Testaverde
- Chad Pennington
- Quincy Carter (?)
- Brooks Bollinger
- Kellen Clemens
- Brett Favre
- Mark Sanchez
- Greg McElroy (??)
- Geno Smith
- Michael Vick
- Ryan Fitzpatrick
- Bryce Petty (???)
- Josh McCown
- Sam Darnold
- Luke Falk (????)
- Trevor Siemian
- Joe Flacco
Need we go on?
This list is pretty context independent, but if you’re looking solely at the QBs drafted and expected to be franchise passers — Pennington, Sanchez, Smith, Darnold — the Jets have been searching for a franchise-altering signal-caller since Joe Namath wagged his finger after Super Bowl 3 (Ken O’Brien notwithstanding).
By the way, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Christian Hackenberg experiment that couldn’t even make it past the hypothesis stage; Hackenberg never took a snap in a regular-season NFL game and the only passes he completed were to Jets beat reporters on the practice field sideline.
Simply put: This team is in desperate need of a quarterback, with 2018 No. 3 overall pick Darnold not reaching his ceiling, and it’s becoming increasingly apparent that ceiling won’t be in New York.
Even on a 4-12 Texans team, Deshaun Watson is coming off an all-world season: 33 touchdowns to just seven interceptions while leading the league in passing yards with 4,823 on a team that was otherwise devoid of offensive talent. Watson is the type of player to elevate those around him, meaning the talent gap on the Jets wouldn’t be as wide as some think it might be.
There’s also the question of contract, which would be a major boon in favor of the Jets: Watson’s deal, which runs through 2025, is actually pretty team friendly for the caliber of player he is and the amount of money QBs are making now. By the way, the Jets are scheduled to have over $70 million in cap space entering this offseason, more than enough to help supplement the roster in key areas.
It also helps the Jets that new head coach Robert Saleh was reportedly a choice of Watson’s to get an interview from Houston during their coaching search. Those suggestions fell on deaf ears, though, with owner Cal McNair choosing not to interview Saleh.
Speaking of Saleh, what a gift it would be for a neophyte head coach to not have to worry about navigating a rookie quarterback or having to develop or babysit one: Trading for Watson instantly gives the Jets one less area to focus on improving about while GM Joe Douglas continues building out the rest of the roster.
Trading for the 25-year-old Watson would finally give the Jets an answer at quarterback, removing most if not all doubt under center after toiling and floundering for years (decades) trying to find the next guy.
Really, it’s hard to spot a downside here …
NFL MOCK DRAFT 2021: Justin Fields falls to Falcons after Jets skip QB
… But there are some red flags you can spot.
Here are a few cons in trading for Watson:
Questionable taste in music:
Watson shared this tweet on Jan. 15. Who listens to Future in the year of our lord 2021?
Watson doesn’t really look great in black and red, right? He’d look much better in Gotham Green and Spotlight White (and occassionally Stealth Black).
Eh, no matter. Plenty of time for shopping in New York’s fashion district, or when he’s getting fitted for a Jets uniform.
On a serious note, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact cons here if you’re the Jets.
Watson is a proven leader and player. He’s young. He’s due just over $10.5 million in 2021 before his big-money extension kicks in, with $35 million, $37 million, $32 million and $32 million due every year between 2022 and 2025. Considering that quarterbacks will continue to earn more and more, that’s a relatively friendly number for a team. The Texans would also be on the hook for Watson’s signing bonus, just over $5 million a year if he is traded.
If you’re going to point to a single flaw in potentially trading for Watson — and really, there’s only one — it’s the draft picks it would take to acquire him. The Jets aren’t exactly a team rife with talent, meaning they could really, really use those first-round picks, especially the ones they gained in the Jamal Adams trade, to help turn the roster around in the immediate to help the quarterback and the roster in general.
If Watson became available via trade, the Jets should call. You could trade 2nd pick this year (they still have 23rd pick), 1st in 2022 (They have 2) & 1st in 2023. That’s 3 first round picks. They could pickup extra pick/picks if they traded Sam. (My gift to sports radio)
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 17, 2021
Any package going Houston would likely contain three first-round picks, plus more. The Jets are currently scheduled to pick No. 2 overall — where some rumors indicate they’ll likely select a quarterback — and No. 23 in the first round of this year’s draft. They have both their own first-round pick and Seattle’s first-rounder in 2022.
The Jets haven’t exactly had the propensity to hold onto or develop their first-round picks over the last decade, with just three picks on the team from the last 10 drafts (Darnold, Quinnen Williams, Mekhi Becton), putting them in the situation they are today.
Douglas had a strong showing in his first draft with the Jets in 2020, with rookies having an immediate impact on the team: first-round pick Mekhi Becton looks like the goods at left tackle, second-round pick Denzel Mims flashed after dealing with injuries early in the second and the Jets mid-round picks — Ashtyn Davis, Bryce Hall — both provided something on the defensive side of the ball. If the Jets are going to build without the excess of first-round picks, then the margin of error for Douglas to get those mid-round picks wrong is pretty slim.
But it’s not impossible: Plenty of teams have shown they can build without first-round picks. The Rams gave up some pretty hefty draft capital to trade up to select Jared Goff (and this is Jared Goff, mind you), and went to a Super Bowl a few years later. The Eagles did the same thing, in the very same draft, to get Carson Wentz, and won a Super Bowl in 2018.
The packages both squads gave up isn’t congruent to giving up three, first-round picks, obviously, but even if the Jets gave up that capital, they would likely still have an opportunity to pick in the first in either this year’s draft or next year’s. Not exactly leaving them without the capital in the future.
Still, if the byproduct of trading away three first-rounders is a perenniel MVP candidate in Deshaun Watson?
That’s a risk worth taking.