How will Jets' pursuit of a Deshaun Watson trade be impacted by J.J. Watt's release?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Ralph Vacchiano
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson walk off the field with helmets off
J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson walk off the field with helmets off

J.J. Watt wanted out of Houston and the Texans granted his wish.

So is Deshaun Watson next? Will they do the same for him?

The answer is still the same: Probably not.

As much as Jets fans might be hoping that this signals the Texans’ willingness to clean house and ship Watson off to New York, multiple NFL sources confirmed the obvious: There is just no correlation between the situations of Watt and Watson, and there’s still no indication at all that the Texans intend to deal their unhappy franchise quarterback.

In fact, it was easy for them to grant Watt’s request for his release, since he almost certainly was going to be cut before free agency began anyway. Watt will be 32 in March and his body has been battered by injuries in recent years. He’s still a good player, but he’s not the three-time Defensive Player of the Year that he once was.

And, most importantly, by releasing him the Texans clear $17.5 million in salary cap space off their books. That’s huge for a team that had been projected to be over the 2021 salary cap, even if it ended up at the higher end of some of the projections. Because of that, Watt's eventual departure from Houston had been widely expected for months.

The only similarity to Watson’s situation is that Watson has asked out, too – reportedly requesting a trade from the Texans. But Watson isn’t a battered player with a too-high price tag nearing the end of his career. He’s a 25-year-old, three-time Pro Bowler playing the most important position in sports and signed for the next five seasons.

As one NFL source recently put it “You just don’t trade a franchise quarterback in his prime unless you absolutely have to – unless you’re trying to get fired.”

And the Texans don’t feel like they have to trade Watson, despite his unhappiness with the organization – at least not yet. New Texans GM Nick Caserio said the Texans have “zero interest” in trading Watson, and multiple NFL sources said that’s what he’s told everyone privately, too.

Obviously, that could change. Watson has been silent so far, but he could speak out in the future to put pressure on the Texans. He has reportedly been ignoring attempts by Caserio and new Texans head coach David Culley to speak with him, which could change their thinking. And some believe he’s prepared to sit out the 2021 season to force the Texans’ hand, too – though a summer/fall holdout is only a threat and, unless the Texans really fear it, might not lead to a trade this spring.

But for now, Caserio and the Texans are holding their ground. Meanwhile, the Jets are not sitting around, hoping that Watson will suddenly become available. They are busy evaluating the top quarterbacks in the draft, according to a team source, and deciding whether any of them are preferable to their own 23-year-old franchise quarterback, Sam Darnold. They are in the early stages of that process, the source said, and it’s not likely to be finished any time soon.

As part of that process, Jets GM Joe Douglas was in Clemson, S.C., on Friday to watch Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s private workout. Lawrence is a near-lock to be the top pick of the draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Douglas was doing his due diligence just in case. He is also expected to be at the private workouts or Pro Days for Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and BYU quarterback Zach Wilson later this spring. He might do the same for North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, too.

For now, measuring those quarterbacks against Darnold will be the focus of the Jets’ decision-making process. If Watson is ever put on the trade block, it’s a good bet the Jets will make an offer since they are one of the few NFL teams that will be able to afford the expected hefty asking price. But that is still just a fantasy for now. The release of Watt didn’t change that at all.