But if they do, one thing about this situation is certain: There aren’t many teams better positioned to make a run at the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback than the Jets.
That’s not to say the Jets will do it, of course. But if – IF – they decide to go after Watson, Jets GM Joe Douglas has put them in a great position to make that kind of bold move. With four first-round picks in the next two drafts and perhaps as much as $100 million in salary cap space this offseason, they are one of the few teams in the NFL that can afford Watson’s contract and the cost of the trade.
That’s assuming Watson would be willing to waive his “no trade” clause to come to New York, of course.
If Watson is ever officially put on the trading block, he’ll surely draw interest from half the teams in the league. But the reality is that only a few will be seriously able to pursue it.
Here’s a look at how the chase for Watson theoretically sets up:
They are not the favorites, but they would definitely be contenders given what they have to offer and the fact that everyone is convinced the price will be three first-round picks, at least. The four first-round picks the Jets have over the next two years gives them flexibility, especially since there’s extra value in having the No. 2 overall pick in 2021. They have two third-round picks this year too. So conceivably they could offer, say, both their first-round picks this year and one next year, plus their now-expendable, 23-year-old quarterback, Sam Darnold. The Texans might not be able to get a better package anywhere else. However, Watson would have to agree to join a 2-14 that just traded most of its first-round picks for the next few years away.
Watson has reportedly put the Dolphins atop his wish list, and why wouldn’t he? They are farther along in their rebuilding than the Jets and have a strong base of young talent that just made a run at the playoffs this year. Also, there’s no state income tax in Florida which is significant for any wealthy person with options. The Dolphins do have two firsts and two seconds in this draft, plus a talented, young, inexpensive quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa. If the Texans like Tagovailoa then the Dolphins have the ammunition to get something done and they could be very hard to beat.
Considered to be one of the sleeper teams in the chase, their selling point would be 28-year-old quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the No. 8 overall pick in the draft. They don’t have extra picks so it would probably cost them their first-rounders in 2022 and 2023 too. The Texans, if they’re smart, would ask for running back Christian McCaffrey in return. Trading their best player would be a bold move by the Panthers. But if Matt Rhule believes a franchise quarterback is that much more valuable than a franchise running back, it might not be so crazy.
Nobody goes through quarterbacks quite like John Elway, so it’s hard to believe that the Broncos’ president won’t be involved in this if Watson is available. He’d have to sell the Texans on quarterback Drew Lock and the No. 9 pick, plus a future first-rounder or two. What if they made Bradley Chubb part of the deal? It might be worth it to have Watson throwing to Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy.
San Francisco 49ers
They’re an intriguing possibility because clearly Watson is better than Jimmy Garoppolo, but the 29-year-old Garoppolo is still good enough to have some value to the Texans. One big problem is Garoppolo reportedly has a no-trade clause for 2021. But his contract also makes it easy for the 49ers to cut him and not take a big cap hit. So they could conceivably do that and then deal for Watson. But would a package of first-round picks without Garoppolo be enough? Maybe, if they were willing to include Nick Bosa. That’s probably crazy, but they did have the NFL’s fifth-ranked defense this year even with Bosa missing most of the season.
They are a team built to win now and they seem to be ready to move on from quarterback Philip Rivers. They have the cap room to add Watson and would surely be willing to give up their next three first-rounders plus to get a guy who could make them immediate Super Bowl contenders. Their biggest problem? There’s no chance the Texans are dumb enough to trade Watson to another team in their division.
Yes, the Jaguars are in the same division too, but they do have something that could make the Texans do the unthinkable: The rights to Trevor Lawrence. If he really is the “generational prospect” so many think, maybe it’s worth it to the Texans to get him, even if they have to face Watson twice a year for the foreseeable future. Plus the Jaguars have two firsts, two seconds and two fourths to deal this year. And does anyone really think Urban Meyer is going to stick around in Jacksonville for a long rebuilding project? This might be his best chance to try and win now.
The Bears seem to be on everybody’s list of teams expected to be in the Watson chase. But with what? They don’t have a good quarterback to send back to the Texans. They don’t have the cap space. And they only have their own first-round picks in the next two drafts. They’d have to get very creative to make any kind of a run.