When a team misses the postseason dance there are many offseason moves that organizations make. Some good, some bad, but for the Houston Texans, who have made some questionable decisions across the last few seasons, are on the radar again with a big name.
Rumors have been swirling for a few weeks that franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson is on the block and a possible destination is the Miami Dolphins. But how? And what does that mean for both organizations, other NFL teams and the NFL in general?
Watson: Unhappy in Houston
The news of Watson being unhappy with the Texans stems back into the years of former General Manager and Head Coach Bill O’Brien. Watson’s largest tipping point of course came when his number one wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was dealt to the Arizona Cardinals last season and Watson made no secret about it. Still, Watson did his job in 2020, putting up career numbers, but after a 4-12 season and the fear of his career declining he is speaking up.
Miami has been active in trading with Houston in recent years, and the NFL in general, and still currently holds a lot of draft capital. After drafting QB Tua Tagovailoa No. 5 in last year’s draft there are rumors that a QB swap could be in the works with not just the Dolphins and Texans, but other teams in the NFL as well.
Can You Say “Career-High”?
Watson was able to accomplish some career highs during a rather unusual season with an underwhelming roster.
He finished 2020 with a career season of 382 completions on 544 pass attempts for a league leading 4,823 passing yards. Watson also did this on a career-high 70.2 completion percentage. Additionally, he led the league with career highs in yards per attempt (8.9) and averaged a career high in passing yards per game (301.4). His 33 passing scores on the season were also another career-high, despite losing Hopkins, and he paired that with seven interceptions.
Watson also used his legs this season, finishing with 90 rush attempts for 444 rushing yards (4.93 yards per attempt) and three rushing TDs.
Watson Set Marks Without Clear-Cut WRs, RBs
He proved to others he was able to accomplish all these career highs with little to no help by his offensive teammates. Wide receiver Will Fuller emerged as the Texans’ No. 1 WR, catching 53 balls for 879 yards and eight TDs. But even he couldn’t make it a full season, missing the final five games of the year after being suspended for breaking the NFL’s performance enhancing drug’s policies. The other downfall for Houston’s passing game was the poor play of WR Kenny Stills who underperformed on the season. He finished with just 11 receptions for 144 yards and one TD before getting released midway through the year.
Another large part why the Texans were so poor on the offensive side was the 31st ranked rushing offense that averaged 91.6 yards a game. The running back group underperformed for much of all of the 2020 season finishing with 1,018 yards and only seven TDs. Much of that was due to RB Duke Johnson landing on season-ending injured reserve, but starting back David Johnson, who came over in the Hopkins trade, didn’t hold up his end of the deal.
How Could This Trade Play Out for Miami and Houston? Others?
If the Dolphins and Texans were to play this trade out, that still seems to be so up in the air currently, what would the teams propose?
Houston is pretty set on valuing Watson at three first-round draft picks along with other draft capital or players. This would cost the Dolphins the No. 3 overall pick in 2021, that they originally got from Houston for Stills and OL Laremy Tunsil, and their own No. 18 pick PLUS a future first. It would make sense that Houston would want a QB in return, which means Miami would likely send Tagovailoa back, or elsewhere to get another first round pick for this year sent to Houston AND more team assets.
It’s like Houston wants another star caliber player too. Speculation has come out about upgrading its cornerbacks, and who better to go after in the NFL than top CB Xavien Howard? Howard finished as Miami’s lone Pro Bowl player after leading the league with 10 INTs.
Another team that could play into the mix is the Washington Football Team. The Football Team needs a QB and if Watson’s relationship with the Texans is beyond repairable, the Football Team needs to make an offer for Watson or offer a pick in the deal to acquire Tagovailoa – both of which have been reported of interest out of Washington. Looking objectively, the Football Team would likely opt to send a lone first round pick for Tagovailoa after recent years have depleted them of draft capital in their own trades.
Is Tagovailoa in Danger of Being Traded Despite an Encouraging Rookie Season?
A report surfaced last week from the Miami Herald that some Miami players are not convinced that Tagovailoa will be great as the future of Miami and they are questioning his ability as a starter in 2021. But, that should be thrown out the window.
Tagovailoa’s performance as a rookie was encouraging and going forward and head coach Brian Flores and his coaching staff, along with General Manager Chris Grier, are confident in keeping Tagovailoa for the long haul.
Tagovailoa finished his rookie season with 186 completions on 290 pass attempts for 1,814 passing yards. He completed 64 percent of his passes that were good for 6.3 yards per attempt. Tagovailoa averaged 181.4 yards per game with 11 TDs and five INTs. He also showed his ability to run the ball when the pocket was collapsing and had the ability to scramble. Tagovailoa finished with 36 rushing attempts for 109 rushing yards, averaging a little over three yards per rush, for an average of 11 rushing yards per game and topped it off with three rushing TDs.
It’s also important to note that Tagovailoa finished 6-3 as a starter and helped Miami get to a 10-6 record improving from their 5-11 record from the year prior.
Why it Could Make Sense for Miami to Acquire Watson Anyway
Miami has nothing to lose and instead instantly gain an advantage of wanting to win even sooner in their fast-progressing rebuild. Watson is 25 years old, full developed and performing at his best. While Tagovailoa can get there in a few years, the Dolphins already have a coach and defense who are top in the league, why waste anymore time?
Watson also showed he had success with similar rocky pieces that Tagovailoa dealt with in Miami with little to no help on offense. No. 1 WR DeVante Parker finished as the team’s leading receiver with 793 yards, yet only four TDs. After Parker, Miami had WR Preston Williams finish with 288 receiving yards and four TDs, but miss half the year with an injury. It was also a revolving door in the WR room, with Tagovailoa and the Dolphins working with guys unheard of off the practice squad or deep into their depth chart.
The tight end group for Miami helped Tagovailoa in the red zone and was a real buffer after the Dolphins acquired TE Adam Shaheen in the offseason from the Chicago Bears and got TE Durham Smythe more involved with already-starter Mike Gesicki in a three-wide set. TEs are something Watson hasn’t really had in Houston, but would be a vital asset for him if he were in Miami. They would be able to help make up for the Dolphins’ current receiving woes that they should be no doubt working to improve in the offseason and the draft.
Why it Wouldn’t Make Sense for Miami to Acquire Watson
The flashy possibilities are nice, but reality has to set in too.
Miami has so much riding for them heading into the 2021 draft with two first and second round picks. While its too early to speculate what the Dolphins could do with the No. 3 pick, some things are already set up in a bread basket.
They could opt to pair Tagovailoa with University of Alabama teammate, and Heisman Trophy winning WR Devonta Smith, to give a boom-boom connection and get a jump start on a QB/WR rapport.
Miami also has the seventh ranked available cap space with $32,026,715 to spend and $26,086,715 of effective cap. Free Agent wideout option Allen Robinson is also available and he is the premiere WR option out there on the market right now. He’s a clear upgrade the Dolphins could snag with picks and cash, but that option goes away if they have to trade picks for Watson.
Additionally, in talking about salary cap and cap hits, Watson’s cap charge would hit at $15,940,00. Watson went on to sign the second biggest NFL contract in history at the time when he inked a four-year $156 million contract with $111 million in guarantees.
Why Lie to Your Franchise QB and Not Just Try and Work it Out?
The Texans would be looking at rebuilding yet again if they are not able to repair what seems to be a broken relationship. The biggest thing the Texans need to do is let Watson have a say in who they should bring in for any potential hire. If you look at other successful organizations in the NFL, signal callers have had some sort of a say for decades in different directions and decisions for the team along the way.
The Texans have already hired a GM that upset Watson due to it not being two of the finalist that Watson wanted Houston to look into. The first, Vice President of Football Business Administration Omar Khan, of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and second, ESPN Monday Night Football Analyst Louis Riddick. But the Texans turned Watson’s suggestions into what appears to be a laughing stock, with Texans Owner Cal McNair choosing to go with New England Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio instead.
Another thing that Watson wanted, but initially did not get until Jan. 12., was Houston requesting to interview with Kansas City Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy for its head coaching vacancy.
Now, the Chiefs are still in the midst of a potential Super Bowl run, so Bieniemy couldn’t become a member of the Texans until Kansas City’s 2020-21 season is over anyway. And, just because a player wants a singular candidate, it’s also unrealistic to think that all wanted singular candidates will be considered when evaluating the potential dozens of options for exploring teams.
The GM request seems a little more reasonable than just one HC, but if Houston is serious about having Watson involved with team talks, it could involve him more.
Still Speculations At the End of the Day
Still, all of these are speculations, BUT talks have intensified and more teams around the league are drawing interest.
If Houston is serious about moving Watson it’ll lean toward the teams with the draft capital and pull the strings that it can get the most from. The Texans hold all the power here and could even draw this out until the April NFL Draft.
FPC Dolphins will update this story as needed.