Let me start by stating my feelings clearly: I don't think the Houston Texans should trade Deshaun Watson. The whole point of owning an NFL franchise, outside of making gobs of money as your team's value inflates, is to hopefully end up with a quarterback like Watson. In addition to his considerable talents, he is a pillar in the Houston community. If he wanted to leave, I would strongly encourage Cal McNair to do what it takes to get Watson to change how he feels. A trade should only be the absolute last resort.
If the Texans decide that they have no choice but to trade Watson, though, we should talk about what those deals might look like and which teams might be involved. Quarterbacks as good as Watson simply don't get traded at age 25. The closest thing we can come up with -- please don't laugh -- is Jay Cutler, who was a Pro Bowler in his age-25 season in 2008 before forcing through a trade to the Bears. Chicago sent two first-round picks, a third-rounder and Kyle Orton to Denver for Cutler and a fifth-round pick.
More recently, we've seen players approaching the end of their rookie contracts, such as Khalil Mack, Laremy Tunsil, Jalen Ramsey and Jamal Adams, move teams for packages built around two first-round picks. None of those guys are quarterbacks. Watson would cost more. When ESPN's Jeremy Fowler asked NFL executives about a possible Watson deal, the asking price revolved around three first-round picks. Our deals here will use three first-rounders as the baseline, although the price tag might be more or less than that mark for specific contracts depending upon who else gets included and where those first-rounders fall.
By my count, about half of the league can at least credibly consider making a Watson deal. In part, that's because the Texans already have paid his $27 million signing bonus and structured his deal to keep his 2020 and 2021 cap hits low. If the Texans trade Watson, he will have only a $10.5 million cap hit in 2021, which just about every team in the league can afford. That number jumps to $40.4 million in 2022, but the acquiring team can convert most of his $35 million base salary into a bonus to bring the cap hit down.
Let's run through the league's 31 other teams Guess Who-style. I'll start with the teams that either can't or won't trade for Watson, explain why and then eventually work toward the teams that can make a move for the star quarterback and what each of their trade offers might look like. (Note: Watson has officially asked for a trade.)