I can’t believe I’m writing this article. I mean, seriously.
Five months ago, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson signed a four-year, $177.5 million contract extension that featured $111 million in guarantees. At the time of signing, and still today, it is the second-largest contract in NFL history behind only Patrick Mahomes’ half-billion-dollar deal.
And it was certainly deserving. Watson led the Texans to double-digit wins and two playoff appearances in what was his second and third seasons in the league prior to the deal. He was a 4,000-yard passer his sophomore season and just under that mark for his third. His efficiency was good with completions and his touchdown-to-interception ratio was healthy both seasons. In that 2019 season, Watson also led the Texans to a playoff victory in the wild-card round and was even up big on the Kansas City Chiefs during the division round, nearly squandering what became an eventual Super Bowl run for them.
Watson also did all that before turning 25 years old. It was a no brainer to make him the financial face of the franchise.
Some players have stories where they sign for the big bucks but never get back to or sustain a level of success that makes them worth the money. Watson was the complete opposite. After losing his top passing weapon, one of the best receivers in the game DeAndre Hopkins—for next to pennies, mind you—Watson had a career year following his big contract to the tune of 4,800 passing yards and a 70% completion percentage. He had an astounding ratio of 33 passing touchdowns to just seven interceptions, while adding 444 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.
And yet, it was all for naught. Watson was truly the lone bright spot for the Texans’ entire season. Their offensive weapons were in and out of the lineup with injuries, their offensive line was sub-par, their linebackers—a place where they had invested a lot of money—took a step back, their front looked like a shell of what it used to be, and their cornerback group was one of the worst in the league. All of that led to their head coach being fired after just four games and the season ending with an abysmal 4-12 record.
That record would have earned them the No. 3 overall pick, had their former mad man of a head coach acting as a general manager not traded it and many other picks away for left tackle Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil has turned out to be a great player, but the price for him, especially next to the much lower price they got in return for the Hopkins trade, makes it extremely tough for Houston to realistically rebuild around Watson.
That is, if they even have the chance to.
With two major positions to fill at general manager and head coach, it was reported that Texans owner Cal McNair told his franchise quarterback that he would be in on the decision making process for both positions. Not that Watson would be making the hires, but that his voice would be heard. According to reports, the Texans hired a search firm that narrowed down their best choices for general manager to five candidates. Two of those candidates were minority candidates, Pittsburgh Steelers VP of football and business Omar Khan, and Monday Night Football analyst Louis Riddick. It seemed like Watson was on board with the candidates the search firm chose, including Khan and Riddick. But all of a sudden out of nowhere, the Texans announced they were hiring Nick Caserio from the Patriots, someone who was not on the firm or Watson’s list of choices. It was also reported that Watson advocated for Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Eric Beiniemy as an option for head coach and the Texans didn’t even interview him. According to reports, this has frustrated Watson greatly.
Thus the rumors have emerged. Is Watson not happy in Houston and would he ask for a trade?
Outside of Watson simply saying “I will never play for the Texans again,” it is hard to imagine the Texans entertaining any offer for him. As long as the door is still open for Watson to play there, he will. But according to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Watson isn’t just annoyed; he’s furious, and possibly fed up with everything that has happened in Houston over the last year, all coming to a head with how they’ve conducted the hiring processes for their next regime.
Watson has a no-trade clause in his contract he signed at the beginning of this season, but of course, that trade clause could be waived by him at any time if he wants out. But he also has power there, too. He doesn’t have to waive his no-trade to just any team. He can pick and choose which team the Texans could even trade him to.
What we’re here to do today is not only bring you up to speed on how the impossible thought of the Texans trading Watson is all of a sudden more possible than it has ever been before, but also to explore the report that the Miami Dolphins are one of the teams Watson would think about waiving his no-trade clause for.
So what would it take? What would it take for the Dolphins to get the Texans to agree to move Watson, and would it be worth it?
I think the starting point has to be multiple first-round picks. Watson’s deal would be unprecedented in terms of proven talent that is also as young as he is at the most important position in the game. The conversation for him would likely start with at least one first-round pick this year and next year while also throwing in a young star player. The final stipulations of the trade would likely be more than that.
But the Dolphins have the ability to fulfill all of those hypotheticals. They have Houston’s original pick at No. 3 overall this year, an extremely valuable pick. They also have pick No. 18. They could throw those two picks in the deal, as well as their first-round pick for 2022, and have three first-round picks on the table. They then could give the Texans a piece that might make a Watson trade at least not all gloom and doom by also moving quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa was fine in his first year as a starter. He was gun shy and clearly focused on not turning the ball over while an elite defense behind him was able to help get Miami to double-digit wins. But when games required big throws deep down the field, the Dolphins, on multiple occasions, pulled Tagovailoa for Ryan Fitzpatrick. This doesn't mean Tagovailoa can't become a quarterback you lean on when you need big throws in comeback situations, but the Dolphins clearly didn’t trust him as much for that this season.
Tagovailoa, two first-round picks in 2021, and a first-round pick in 2022 would be a high price, but getting Watson on your team would be worth it. The Dolphins would still have two second-round picks, a third-round pick, and a plethora of day three picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. They would need to upgrade their playmakers with their Day 2 picks, but adding Watson to that roster with that defense would make the Dolphins a heavy contender in the AFC with a path to long-term success for years and years.
All of that is just hypothetical. We’re a ways off from the ballpark of a trade price being more realistic. But this is Deshaun Watson we’re talking about here. Whatever the price is, almost every team in the NFL will entertain it. But only a few have the assets to make it work if Watson is ever truly on the trade block. Count the Dolphins among them.