You know it’s officially the offseason when the rumor mill starts to heat up, and San Francisco 49ers fans want a new quarterback every day. Last week, when Ohio State’s quarterback Justin Fields threw six touchdowns against Clemson in the college football semifinal, fans were ready to trade an arm and a leg to move up and select Fields.
On Wednesday, after he said the 49ers were a team that stands out, Zach Wilson was the guy...again, after being dethroned by Fields. What would Thursday bring? Well, how about Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson? In hindsight, the Niners passing on Watson in the 2017 NFL Draft hurts more and more—especially after Watson’s season.
Per RBSDM, Watson finished seventh in EPA/play, sixth in success rate, fourth in completion percentage over expectation while averaging the third-highest air yards in the NFL. When you factor in the receivers Watson threw to during the last month of the season, the Texans non-QB friendly scheme, and an offensive line that was dead last in the NFL in adjusted sack rate, Watson, who finished fifth in DVOA among quarterbacks, finishing the season with 4,530 yards and 33 touchdowns compared to seven interceptions was arguably the most impressive QB during the 2020 season.
Why are we talking about a quarterback who is under contract? Well, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported that DeShaun Watson could potentially request a trade. Houston said they would listen to Watson when hiring a coach. After they hired a general manager from the Patriots, Watson tweeted, “some things never change,” before eventually deleting the tweet.
Here’s more from Florio:
Rumors already are circulating, and we’ve already heard them from multiple different people, that Watson has quietly broached with teammates the possibility of requesting a trade. If that’s happening, it may just be a strategic effort to ensure his views are respected by ownership. Regardless, it raises the stakes and crosses a bridge, and potentially sets the foundation for Watson eventually to decide that he’d like to continue his career elsewhere.
It’s early, but if Watson wants out, it’d be easier to list the teams who wouldn’t be interested in a 25-year-old quarterback who is already one of the best in the NFL. In Florio’s article, he said, the “49ers are the most obvious.”
Before the 2020 season started, Watson signed a four-year contract extension worth $156 million in new money with $73.7 million fully guaranteed at the time of the signing. Looking at Over the Cap’s numbers, if the Texans were to trade Fields with a post-June 1 designation, they’d have $5.4 million in dead money in each of the next four seasons while saving $10.5 million in cap space in 2021 and over $35 million over the next two seasons. So, Watson's contract is tradeable.
The real question here is why in the world would the Texans trade one of the best QBs in the NFL? Well, as we’ve seen across all sports during the past couple of years, players are starting to realize that they have more power than they know. If Watson requests a trade, he’s probably not going to walk back that decision. He instantly puts the pressure on Houston. The Texans could want a fresh start and feel like they need to build from the ground up.
There are plenty of reasons why Houston would trade Watson, and it starts with receiving an offer you can’t refuse. The Texans don’t have a first or second-round draft pick in this draft. Offering them those two and a future first might be enough to do the trick of Houston is desperate.
We know the 49ers front office is aggressive and will, at the very least, pick up the phone and ask. I’d send Houston a pair of first-round picks and try to add a future pick, assuming they’d be lower in the draft as opposed to this season. What would you hypothetically trade for Watson, or do you feel like the Niners are better suited to look in a different direction or stick with what they have on the roster?