However, the uneasiness of the three-time Pro Bowler after the hiring of general manager Nick Caserio has the idea of trading Watson becoming and more thinkable.
If the Texans were to move on from Watson, they would be on the hook for $16.2 million in 2021 and then $10.8 million in 2022 before absorbing a more manageable dead money figure of $5.4 million in 2023. Caserio would have to choose wisely.
If the Texans were to trade Watson, here are a variety of trade packages Houston could look at.
2021 1st & 7th rounders
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This would be a trade Bill O’Brien would take. However, it wouldn’t be worth the cost. Houston would be in salary cap Hell and also not have enough draft capital to execute a rebuild. Grade: D Historical reference: the Oakland Raiders traded this exact package in 2005 to obtain receiver Randy Moss from the Minnesota Vikings.
2021 1st, 5th, 6th, rounders & 2022 4th rounder
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The Texans would have a premium pick to address quarterback in this year’s draft and then a few day three picks to fill out the roster. The other picks could also be used as part of a package to get another player. Either way, the first-rounder would be the big piece to fix the mess at quarterback. Grade: D+ Historical reference: the Buffalo Bills used this exact package in the 2020 offseason to acquire Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings.
2021 1st, 3rd, & 6th rounders
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This particular trade wouldn’t get in the ballpark of what the Texans were giving up in terms of Watson’s stability as a franchise quarterback. Presuming the first-rounder were to replace Watson, they would still need the third-rounder to pan out, and the sixth-rounder probably wouldn’t be on the team in two years. Grade: C- Historical reference: the Dallas Cowboys traded this exact package to the Detroit Lions at the 2008 trade deadline for receiver Roy Williams and a seventh-round pick.
2021 1st, 6th rounders; 2022 1st, 3rd rounders
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Houston would have the first-rounder to figure out what they could take at quarterback, or fill a hole and hope their two first-rounders in 2022 could provide enough draft capital to take the real deal. The 2022 third-rounder would be the only other pick that could produce a starter. Grade: C Historical reference: the Chicago Bears used this exact trade package to acquire outside linebacker Khalil Mack from the Oakland Raiders in 2018 at the end of 2018 preseason.
2021 1st rounder & 2022 1st rounder
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This is actually the draft package the Texans used to acquire the No. 12 overall pick from the Cleveland Browns to take Watson in 2017. Houston could possibly take his replacement in 2021, try again in 2022, or convert the pick into its own trade package around draft time April 2022. Grade: C+
2021 1st, 3rd rounders; 2022 1st rounder & team’s starting QB
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This is the type of situation the Texans would find themselves in if they traded with the New York Jets or Miami Dolphins, who still have first-round quarterbacks on their rookie contracts. The Texans could wish their new quarterback was a capable starter while using the initial first-rounder to fill a need. If Houston was a complete rebuild in the 2022 offseason, they would then have two-first rounders at that point to trade up for their real franchise quarterback. Grade: B Historical reference: the Chicago Bears used this exact trade package in 2009 to acquire Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos, who had just hired former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels — because the first rule of any Bill Belichick assistant is to win a power struggle with a star player.
2021 1st rounder; 2022 1st rounder, 2023 1st rounder
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2021 would be a rebuild year, but then Houston would have 2022 with two first-round picks to start thinking about moving up to take a franchise quarterback. If they can’t, they can wheel and deal, and try the same tactic in 2022, where they will again have two first-round picks. Grade: A Historical reference: the last time a player netted three first-round picks was Herschel Walker in 1989.
2021 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th rounders; 2022 1st, 3rd rounders
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Nick Caserio would be able to adequately rebuild the team after losing Watson. 2021 would be a very lean year where the team probably would be lucky to improve beyond their 4-12 finish in 2020. However, they would have enough draft capital to acquire proven veterans or fill holes with younger talent. In 2022, their two first-rounders would enable them to move up and take another franchise quarterback. Grade: A+ Historical reference: this is the Ricky Williams trade from 1999 that the New Orleans Saints made with Washington.