In a theme that spans essentially a year, Deshaun Watson has some significant dilemmas on his hands. But when it comes to what he can control – waiving his no-trade clause – the sacking of head coach Brian Flores in Miami is expected to reset the quarterback’s business landscape.
Throughout Watson’s business inquiries process, he pointed his compass at dolphins. And sources at his camp have always said that the driving force behind Watson’s preference, including his willingness to forgo his no-trade-only clause for Miami, was his appreciation for Flores as a head coach. Not because of owner Stephen Ross. Not because of general manager Chris Grier. Put simply, Watson wanted to live and play in Miami while being coached by Flores. Now half of that equation is gone, and that’s going to force the quarterback and his side to reconsider options.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Miami is permanently struck from Watson’s list of contenders, but there is no clarity on the next head coach just yet. Which is important, given that Ross has said his replacement Flores will determine who he wants as a quarterback. Monday’s admission was a bit of a tilted hand, considering that if Ross and Grier were motivated to be all-in on a Watson trade within the next two months, they wouldn’t put the decision in the hands of the next boss. coach. Instead, they would dictate that the next head coach be hired for a Watson pursuit. So far, there is no indication that this is the case.
So what does this mean for Watson? Well, that opens up a few scenarios. First, NFL teams are taking the same approach Ross took when any chance of a deal with Watson expired by the trade deadline. Simply put, they want his legal issues resolved. Watson’s camp remains hopeful that any kind of grand jury issue will be resolved by the end of January, potentially breaking a stalemate in settlement talks in 22 civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault or sexual misconduct . Sources close to Watson’s legal camp said settlement talks had significant activity ahead of the trade deadline, but were never close to being resolved. Since the deadline, a source said these exchanges have gone smoothly, with the two sides apparently waiting to see if a grand jury returns or denies a criminal charge.
Of the NFL teams that have considered suing Watson, all have expressed the need for meaningful clarity or a total resolution of his legal issues. Only then could they take a meaningful step by asking the Houston Texans to start crafting a trade deal and then seek permission to speak with Watson, in which case they would try to convince him to lift his clause. non-exchange for their organization. However, the most likely scenario now is that Watson’s side will determine which teams they are interested in and submit them to the Texans. As of Monday night, those destinations were completely opaque – at least in part because of the head coach moves that are still at stake, including the possibility that Flores could become a contender in an attractive destination.
The Cleveland Browns had an interest in seeing Watson if he was going to be available. But throughout this week, there was little conviction that Watson would give up his no-trade clause to play for the Browns. Cleveland also owes Baker Mayfield his guaranteed salary of $ 18.85 next season, leaving the team to either try to make it work with him for another year (which the Browns already seem to be reporting) or threaten chaos by continuing. Watson and potentially having that effort fall flat. That said, Cleveland isn’t a team that would be afraid to give up a significant draft pick windfall if they got an All-Pro-caliber quarterback in return. It just seems like Watson is highly unlikely to be accessible.
The Carolina Panthers continue to be an NFC trade destination the Texans would prefer – effectively knocking Watson out of the AFC – but the Panthers internally have struggled to get consensus on a Watson lawsuit. In large part because of the massive compensation that would be required, as well as the significant amount of cap space that would be devoted to the quarterback position in 2022, between Watson’s $ 35 million base salary and the $ 18.85 million already guaranteed owed to Sam Darnold. Some in the building are said to be looking into a lawsuit against Watson despite the wage anchor and the business assets he would need. Others prefer to continue building through the roster with draft picks and dollar caps, waiting for the right opportunity to present themselves to the quarterback. Ultimately, that will be the call of owner David Tepper, who ultimately pulled the Panthers out of a Watson lawsuit in the days leading up to the trade deadline. Of course, like the Browns, there’s also the question of whether Watson would forgo his no-trade for Carolina.
As for the rest of the peloton, it’s worth watching how the Philadelphia Eagles end up in the playoffs, as general manager Howie Roseman is always on the lookout for potential ways to improve his squad. Roseman is always ready to have a conversation and never let a phone ring. The Denver Broncos also remain interesting, although a source told Yahoo Sports that team president Joe Ellis had expressed reservations about any lawsuits against Watson before his legal issues were resolved. That could change with the next coaching hire, not to mention Ellis who appears to be set to leave once the change of ownership is complete. But it could also tie the hands of Broncos general manager George Paton if Ellis doesn’t want to bring Watson in without the next owner stepping in.
When you analyze all of this, it’s a very open field for Watson to look at. It’s probably larger than that group too, with a number of NFL franchises looking for quarterbacks this offseason – like the New Orleans Saints – but also struggling with serious cap issues or lacking. of assets to complete a trade.
However, the teams have at least some time on their side. The Texans would like to fix Watson’s situation by March, when the 2023 quarterback’s salary ($ 20 million) and roster bonus ($ 17 million) are fully guaranteed. This time frame is preferable but not an absolute dealbreaker, effectively giving all parties about two months to study the ground and also better understand where their legal situation is heading.
Somehow, a resolution arrives for Watson and the Texans. But with Flores’ sacking in Miami, the snapshot of destinations is set to expand. Maybe even a team that nobody anticipates this week.