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Could Deshaun Watson end up in the NFC West after all?

After all that talk of not trading Watson, will the Texans finally relent?

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

I have stayed away from the Deshaun Watson trade talk all year because of how unlikely it seemed that the Houston Texans would deal him given that it would require a devastatingly good compensation package, but when John McClain says something about the Texans, I tend to take it a little more seriously. On Wednesday morning, the Houston Chronicle’s McClain pointed out that the team has been silent on Watson trade talk for two months now.

So McClain has changed his stance, saying that he now expects Watson to be traded.

The most logical landing spot for Watson?

I would say that’s the San Francisco 49ers.

The 49ers have a general manager who seems to enjoy building a roster like it’s a video game or a fantasy team. John Lynch previously made a splash by dealing for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, but four years later that cannonball didn’t drench the competition quite like they had hoped. By trading for Watson in 2021, San Francisco would be making a much more obvious upgrade at quarterback.

And they might have the ammunition.

First, I would expect that the 49ers need to improve their first round pick. San Francisco is currently slated to pick 12th, and that’s not going to be high enough to guarantee the Texans one of the top four quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. Adam Schefter recently reported that he could see four of the top six or seven picks being quarterbacks this year: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Mac Wilson, and Trey Lance could all go in the top-10. Yes, in the top-10.

The Jaguars will draft Lawrence, I’m sure of it.

I think the Jets will draft Wilson unless they are blown away by a trade offer to move down — something that Lynch might need to consider.

The Dolphins sit at three and they could either pick a quarterback to replace Tua Tagovailoa already, or they could trade down with a team that covets Wilson or Fields. I think that the top three picks will be quarterbacks, in any case.

The Falcons pick fourth and could select a quarterback. The Eagles pick sixth and could select a quarterback. The Lions pick seventh and could select a quarterback. The Panthers pick eighth and could select a quarterback. The Broncos pick ninth and could select a quarterback.

We see QB-needy teams pass on a good QB prospects every year, so maybe it’s not as top-heavy as five-in-the-top-10, but I wouldn’t rule it out this year. And that means that the 49ers probably need to trade up if they’re going to make a deal with Houston for Watson.

San Francisco has nothing special in terms of draft compensation to deal, just their own pick at 12, plus their second rounder, a third round compensatory pick, and a couple extra selections on day three. They can then offer future first round picks, but adding Watson to San Francisco’s roster could assure that those selections are going to be in the twenties, or lower. To fully tip the scales in his favor, Lynch might need to include an actually-enticing young player from his roster, like Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Mike McGlinchey, Javon Kinlaw, or Dre Greenlaw — with those players having varying levels of value, of course.

Including Garoppolo in the deal would only help offset the money and give Houston a bridge quarterback to test in training camp this year as the starter over whoever they draft. To make a move like this happen, I believe the 49ers might first need to trade into the top-five, or get a third team involved. I just don’t see why the Texans would want to make this trade without a pick that would assure them their next franchise quarterback.

Nick Caserio wasn’t the GM when they traded DeAndre Hopkins for a second round pick and David Johnson, so I’m not going to assume that discounts are still available.

If Lynch doesn’t step up to the plate, it appears that the Carolina Panthers will happily make their own pitch. The Panthers hold picks eight and 39, but they too might need to move up in the draft or include a valuable young player (Derrick Brown?) in order to get Watson on the trade block for real.

To think that a team could trade for Watson simply for “four first round picks” doesn’t make sense to me, because a late first round pick might as well be called “a second round prospect making first round money.” I believe Houston has to receive an opportunity to draft one of the top quarterbacks in the 2021 class and they’ll need a proven young player or two added into the deal.

The 49ers might be able to do that and then the NFC West might hold four of the top eight quarterbacks in the entire conference.