The fate of Houston Texans quarterback Deshaan Watson may be the most intriguing subplot of the 2022 NFL offseason, given that he was kept off the field in 2021 and surely — unlike Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady — Watson will switch teams.
Last week, a Harris County, Texas, grand jury decided that the three-time pro baller would not be indicted, despite allegations of sexual misconduct by two dozen women during massage appointments. Watson still faces 22 civil lawsuits and will likely face a suspension from the league, even though the Texans essentially put him on paid leave last season.
What has been clear for a year is that the 26-year-old franchise passer has been denied to the Texans and will not play for them again, a realization the team brass eventually accepted. And while the repercussions surrounding Watson are the most important, it looks like his football future is about to crystallize.
Watson’s four-year, $156 million contract extension – signed before the start of the 2020 season – kicks in this year, equipped with a full no-trade clause that would enable him to approve or veto any potential Houston deal. makes. According to multiple reports, Texans were required to submit substantial proposals before allowing interested trading partners to meet with Watson — possibly including at least three first-round picks. Famous lovers have been the Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, and it looks like Watson’s decision boils down to the Falcons vs.
Assuming that’s true, let’s dwell on Watson’s thoughts on moving to Atlanta or New Orleans.
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Watson’s approach: He grew up about an hour from Atlanta, which is also close to Clemson University—where Watson became a hero after giving the school a national championship with the 2016 team. While going home can be a huge distraction for high-profile athletes, it could be ideal for Watson, who has said he wants to rebuild his reputation as a positive force in the community.
Falcon Perspective: After 57 seasons, they’re still waiting for their first Super Bowl win and should be in full-rebuild mode. What better way to speed up that process than by having an established quarterback enter your prime as the centerpiece? Before current QB Matt Ryan was drafted in 2008, Michael Vick left the organization in disgrace. Watson may fall into disgrace as Ryan’s replacement, yet Vic can serve as the perfect mentor and guide Watson through effective and meaningful ways to transform his life, while trying to make amends. is trying. On the field, Atlanta hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Watson was in college, but coach Arthur Smith wants to run the ball and use several tight-end sets, which will include debutant Kyle Pitts. Imagine Watson on top of an attack that turned Ryan Tanhill into one of the league’s more effective QB1s.
Texan Perspective: Atlanta’s 7-10 finish in 2021 means the Falcons are picking up earlier in each round of the draft than the Saints, who were 9-8. 8 pick of the draft, courtesy of last year’s Julio Jones trade, the Falcons also have two in the second round. While it will only mean a starting point for Houston’s outstanding cargo, which has several top-10 picks – the Texans choose third overall – this year will be a very good way for GM Nick Cesario to become one of the league’s worst. Will start refilling the roster. It is also worth considering whether the inclusion of pits could be a necessary component of a competitive bidding. Given that Atlanta is unlikely to be particularly good in 2022, the value of the Falcons’ 2023 draft picks will certainly be more attractive to Houston. A very tricky element of any deal will be what to do with Ryan, who is owed a $7.5 million roster bonus next week. The 2016 league MVP turned 37 in May and trading him now will hit a cap of about $41 million in 2022. Do Texans Want Ryan To Flip Him For More Draft Capital? Would the Falcons themselves do this, perhaps to try and find a soft landing for an extraordinary soldier? Does a third team come into the mix, given that Houston undoubtedly doesn’t want to see Ryan in Indianapolis? Regardless, it makes sense for the Falcons to eat up Ryan’s huge financial hit this year given that Watson isn’t likely to be available for the entire season anyway — although that could mean more than Watson’s $35 million base salary in 2022. There may be extensive roster maneuvering in addition to accounting for.
New Orleans Saints
Watson’s approach: If he wants to win immediately, joining a team that went tiebreaker shy of the 2021 playoffs – despite quarterback patchwork – means a lot. And who wouldn’t want to work behind a solid offensive line, handing RB Alvin Kamara and throwing WR Michael Thomas, all while backed by a top-10 defense? And though Brady’s Buccaneers are the NFC South’s preferred favorite in 2022, the Watson-led Saints team could quickly revive as a divisional powerhouse. And the City Saints fanatics also seem like a good bet for embracing him, despite the claims against Watson.
View of the Saints: Although Drew Brees was hardly a train wreck after Year 1, largely because the defense kept this team viable, matters only become more challenging as the franchise attempts to move forward with uncertainty at the quarterback and The void left by the late head coach Sean Payton. Onboarding Watson would theoretically make the Saints a playoff-caliber squad as a top-heavy conference, and the long-term vision of a small-market operation trying to maintain the most successful era in their 56-season existence. will secure.
Texan Perspective: New Orleans could offer 18th and 49th overall picks this year and owns a pair of compensatory third rounders. Given the state of Texan’s rebuilding, inquiring about the Saints’ legions is less desired. And given the possibility that New Orleans will be on the edge of the playoffs at least this year, Casario may be eyeing more of a Chinese team that will probably re-draft no later than Atlanta in 2023.
The decision is ultimately up to Watson, and let’s hope he is now making the better choice that he has brought upon himself over the past two years and destroyed the once respected off-field reputation. Let’s also hope that bringing positive change outside of football is probably a major consideration as he weighs his next move. From Houston’s perspective, tackling the Falcons seems far more optimal—though it’s hard to believe that Watson is overly concerned about what’s best for the Texans.
Follow USA Today Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis,