When the Houston Texans suit up for their Week 8 game against the Los Angeles Rams, Deshaun Watson won’t be with them. Instead, the Texans are waiting to see if Tyrod Taylor can return after missing the last five weeks with a hamstring injury or if it will be rookie Davis Mills again. Watson will be inactive for the eighth time in eight games, if he’s not traded first.
Whether he is traded or a healthy scratch, Watson is virtually guaranteed to never play for the Texans again and he won’t play against the Rams on Sunday, a team he has never faced before. But there has been rampant speculation that a Watson trade is imminent because of rumors that started again this week, going as far to say that even a three-team dealing sending Watson to Miami and Tua Tagovailoa to Washington could be in the works.
How the Dolphins and other prospective teams are currently feeling about the long list of misconduct allegations against Deshaun Watson and whether he actually is being discussed internally as an option in 2021 is unknown for now, but if Tuesday’s trade deadline passes and he’s still with the Texans then it becomes clear that teams are not comfortable with acquiring him at this time and that he will not play this year.
If Watson is traded however, then he could theoretically be starting for a team as soon as next month as the NFL has not yet placed Watson on the exempt list or suspended him. ESPN’s Josina Anderson tweeted on Tuesday that more teams than just Miami are interested in Watson’s services, but I don’t think it makes sense to assume that Houston general manager Nick Caserio will seriously entertain any offers for Deshaun Watson until 2022.
A league source to me this morning: “There are more teams Deshaun Watson can go to besides Miami. It’s not just Miami or bust.” My understanding is Watson is willing for the most part to go to the teams that are interested in him. 1/2— IG: JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) October 26, 2021
Watson will most likely be on the Texans this weekend, as a healthy scratch, and it would make sense to see Caserio wait until numerous key moments happen in 2022 before trading him. The most obvious of which is whether or not Watson will face any criminal charges based on those allegations and to see if updates and conclusions unfold in the many civil cases against him.
But as general manager, Nick Caserio is also likely thinking about numbers, most specifically the ones next to “overall pick.”
Since hiring Caserio on January 7, Houston has moved mountains this year to make sure that they couldn’t move mountains this year. One of the NFL’s worst teams in 2020, the only real big changes that Caserio has seen happen to his roster is the replacement of Watson, the team’s best player, by Taylor and Mills, and the release of veteran leader J.J. Watt. While some of the NFL’s rebuilding teams are putting their best foot forward, Houston seems to be on a clear mission to lose, even releasing veteran linebacker Whitney Mercilus recently.
Which is why it doesn’t make much sense to see Caserio trade Watson now when there is no obvious advantage to trading him now, but many advantages to waiting until next year.
The Miami Dolphins do not have their own 2022 first round pick, so despite their 1-6 record, they can’t sell their own shortcomings as advantageous. Miami does own 2-4 San Francisco’s first round pick, but the 49ers are an obvious candidate among the NFL’s worst teams to bounce back in the second half of the season. Caserio isn’t just thinking about quantity of first round picks, but quality.
The Lions have LA’s first round pick in 2022 (and 2023) because of Matthew Stafford, but Stafford is doing his part to make sure that the 6-1 Rams don’t send Detroit a pick anywhere near the top-10. What Caserio would most logically want in order to rebuild the league’s worst roster is more picks in or near the top-10 or top-5.
Even if the 0-7 Lions for some reason called Houston and wanted to trade for Watson, there would be no benefit to doing that now, when the Texans could just wait until next year, knowing already that Detroit is very interested and when more teams could bid agains them. All that trading Watson to a team during this season would do is it make it possible for him to pull a 2017 Jimmy Garoppolo, when he helped the 49ers win their final five games of an otherwise lost season following that trade.
That would also hurt the return on Watson. Caserio instead could wait until he knows what the 2022 NFL Draft order is, at which point he might have the Lions, the Dolphins, the Eagles, the Football Team, the Giants, the Seahawks, the Panthers, the Colts, the Broncos, the Steelers, and so on involved in talks for Watson.
But the Texans made a lot of strange moves prior to Caserio’s arrival, so it may depend on who is calling the shots today.
The Rams will be facing Tyrod Taylor or Davis Mills on Sunday, but you’re sure to hear “Deshaun Watson” said a few times during the game as well.