Analyzing the likelihood of the Jets trading for Deshaun Watson

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Ralph Vacchiano
·4 min read
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Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson Is reportedly unhappy with the Houston Texans and might even ask to be traded. And if he does, the Jets would be crazy not to at least find out what it would cost to bring the 25-year-old, three-time Pro Bowl quarterback to New York.

But there are two things that many around the NFL seem to agree on when it comes to Watson: One is that he’s almost certainly not going to be traded.

The other is that if he is, it almost certainly won’t be to the Jets.

It’s all speculation at this point, of course, but there are many good reasons why a Watson-Jets marriage is unlikely. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is that he reportedly has a no-trade clause in his contract, which lets him dictate where he’ll go next. At this point it’s not even clear that he’d view the Jets as a better destination than the Texans, as angry as he is with management there.

But if he really is put on the trading block, plenty of other NFL teams will be interested – including all the same teams people speculated would be interested in Sam Darnold. Teams like the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos. And then add the Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, Washington Football Team, and maybe even the Jacksonville Jaguars to the mix, too.

If Watson has a choice of even a handful of those teams, the Jets – coming off a 2-14 season that left them outside of the playoffs for the 10th straight year -- would likely be near the bottom of his list.

It’s also unclear if Jets GM Joe Douglas would even be willing to pay what could be an extraordinarily high price, even for one of the best, young quarterbacks in the game. He has painstakingly built his plan to rebuild the Jets around accumulating draft picks and giving the team financial flexibility. Trading for Watson would blow that plan up.

Considering the Jets got two first-round picks for safety Jamal Adams, it stands to reason that it will cost more than that to acquire a franchise quarterback. When one league source was asked if he thought three first-round picks would do it, he said “probably more.” The Jets do have four first-round picks over the next two drafts, which puts them in a power position. But they’re also a team with a ton of needs with a GM who believes in building through the draft.

So it’s hard to believe Douglas would give up three first-rounders and possibly more in a deal that presumably would cost him a trade asset in Darnold, too.

Of course, if he did, he’d still be able to rebuild through free agency in March. The Jets could have near $100 million in salary cap space to spend, and Watson would only cost $10.5 million of that. He’s even relatively affordable in future years, too, with cap numbers for his new team of between $32 million an $37 million over the next four years.

That’s expensive, but consider that Darnold’s fifth-year option in 2022 would be $20-25 million and after that, if the Jets chose to keep him, his cap numbers would at least be in Watson’s range. So it’s a price they’re going to have to pay for a quarterback anyway, unless their preference is to trade Darnold and draft a quarterback at No. 2.

So conceivably, Douglas could trade for Watson and offset his loss of draft picks by cherry-picking some of the best free agents on the market. But while that might be a quick, short-term fix to some of the Jets’ problems, it could do damage to their future. Instead of building around a core of talented young players on rookie contracts, he’d have a team of older players being paid a lot more.

And he will have lost most of the Jets’ future financial flexibility, too, along with the chance of filling many of the Jets’ lesser needs.

Could it still happen? Sure. If the Texans decide to trade him, and if Douglas is presented an affordable way to acquire him, and if Watson actually wants to come to the Jets, maybe the temptation to acquire a quarterback of Watson’s caliber will be too great to pass up. That’s a lot of “ifs,” though, and it’s certainly not anything the team has spent much time considering while in the midst of their search for a new head coach.

But even if all those “ifs” somehow become reality, it’s still hard to imagine Douglas blowing up the team-building philosophy he’s based his entire plan around for just one player – not even a quarterback as talented as Watson is.