The Houston Texans are nearing a blockbuster trade involving disgruntled superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson in a deal that will net the Texans some much-needed, premium immediate and future draft capital. Texans general manager Nick Caserio has granted Watson permission to meet with executives from franchises that represent potential landing spots.
Reports indicate Watson has already met with the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, who have been public regarding their interest in acquiring Watson. The Cleveland Browns have allegedly entered the discussion as a potential surprise participant, and will reportedly meet with Watson to make their pitch to the signal-caller on Tuesday.
All three franchises have their perks and warts, but should Watson decide between these three franchises, the Saints represent the best landing spot for his services.
The Saints were the lone team from these three would-be suitors that finished with a positive record (9-8) in 2021, but Watson’s reasoning should travel beyond that fact. Organizational stability and continuity are crucial. Although the Saints lost long-time head coach Sean Payton earlier this offseason, owner Gayle Benson and general manager Mickey Loomis managed to prioritize continuity by replacing Payton with a worthy in-house candidate when they promoted long-term defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. Allen wisely retained offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., who has served as the Saints’ offensive coordinator since 2009 and was largely considered Payton’s right-hand man throughout his successful tenure. Both of these shrewd decisions made by Benson and Loomis should allow the Saints to hit the ground running in 2022 while minimizing the loss felt by Payton’s decision to step down.
The Panthers, for example, can not claim the same. Head coach Matt Rhule is undeniably on the hot seat after leading Carolina to a 5-12 record a season ago.
The Saints nearly qualified for the postseason in 2021 on the back of a dominant defensive showing. New Orleans’ defense ranked in the top 10 in total yards allowed (318.2) per contest, rushing yards surrendered per game (a stingy 93.5), points allowed per game (19.7), and sacks (46) while boasting a +7 turnover differential. Such influential defensive performances allowed starting quarterback Jameis Winston to serve as a game-manager while taking excellent care of the football. The Saints jumped out to an impressive 5-2 record, but a midseason injury to Winston saw them struggle the rest of the way due to a lack of adequate quarterback play from both Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill.
The Saints’ early-season success paints an accurate picture of what they’re capable of achieving with a quality signal-caller under center. Watson would obviously not only improve their quarterback situation, he’d solve those woes altogether.
In the interest of fairness, it’s worth noting the Saints entered the offseason poised to lose both starting left tackle Terron Armstead and superstar safety Marcus Williams in free agency. While both of these likely departures will deliver a significant blow to New Orleans’ roster, Loomis has done an admirable job limiting the damage by finding creative ways to retain the likes of Cameron Jordan, Marshon Lattimore, and Michael Thomas while creating additional financial breathing room by restructuring the contract of Alvin Kamara. Sacrifices have been necessary, but the Saints managed to avoid gutting their roster, and it should allow them to remain competitive in 2022.
The shocking return of Tom Brady has undoubtedly made the NFC South a less desirable division to play in going forward, but it remains one of the weaker divisions overall as the Panthers and Atlanta Falcons continue to struggle with their rebuilds. Analyzing the conferences in general, Watson’s desired landing spot should be in the NFC, where there are far fewer elite quarterbacks currently plying their trade. It’s worth mentioning since the Browns have revealed their interest that remaining in the AFC would force Watson to battle with the likes of Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, and Justin Herbert for a spot to be recognized as one of the conference’s top six quarterbacks, not to mention for a place in the Super Bowl. Watson would encounter far less competition in the NFC, where Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray, and Matthew Stafford present less of a challenge in comparison to their conference counterpart.
Watson’s impending decision looms extremely large and will reshape the makeup of the NFL. Watson must assess many factors while making the most important decision of his professional career. He should ultimately reach a conclusion to join the Saints.