Deshaun Watson pivoted from a no-trade clause to a trade demand.
Five months after signing a four-year, $156 million extension, Watson reportedly has asked the Texans for a trade.
The Texans can play “Chicken” with Watson and see if their quarterback is willing to hold out and forfeit big bucks — or cast a wide net and demand a king’s ransom (three first-round draft picks?) in return. Watson must sign off on the destination because of his no-trade clause, but it would be against his best interest to limit the Texans’ early leverage with a preapproved list, league sources told The Post.
Here are five trade destinations, based off those conversations, that make sense, along with some factors that could grease the wheels or be a sticking point in each situation. It remains possible the Texans and Watson work through their differences before the season, but the late April date for the 2021 NFL Draft acts as an unofficial deadline for resolution.
1. New York Jets
Jamal Adams might have done the Jets a huge favor with his trade demand.
The two additional first-round picks acquired from the Seahawks provide the luxury to trade high picks to the Texans but maintain the assets to improve the team around Watson.
Start an offer with the No. 2 pick. The Texans could view that as a spot to draft Watson’s successor in a package with defensive lineman Quinnen Williams and other draft picks. Or the Texans could take back Sam Darnold, use the No. 2 pick to address another premium position and add more to the bevy of picks. If the Texans don’t take Darnold, the Jets can trade him separately to recoup capital.
Given Watson’s issues with the culture set forth by Texans ownership, the return of owner Woody Johnson – and his thirst for star power at quarterback – is a variable. Johnson denied allegations he made racist remarks while serving as United States ambassador to the United Kingdom in the Trump administration.
2. Miami Dolphins
Unlike others, the Dolphins can offer two premium assets — second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5 pick in 2020 draft) and the No. 3 pick in 2021 (originally owned by the Texans) — without subtracting from the base of an improving 10-win team.
Future first-rounders are commodities, but it’s difficult to project if a pick will be top five or No. 20-30 — a huge difference in value — especially if that team has Watson winning games and sliding down the order next year.
Miami coach Brian Flores made the most powerful statement in the NFL condemning racial inequality, so the socially conscious and charitable Watson and Flores could find immediate common ground outside of football.
3. New England Patriots
Despite many available veteran quarterbacks, there is some belief that Bill Belichick’s preference is to mold a youngster with a salary cap-friendly contract.
As one league source summed it up: After years of convincing Tom Brady to accept less money for the good of the team, taking on Watson’s future cap hits (between $32 million and $42.4 million each season from 2022-25) and again sharing credit for any return to dominance with his star passer would be a stunning reversal for Belichick.
It would be very unlike the Patriots to speed up the “process” by subtracting picks — the more shots at the apple, the better — and there is little else to offer as a blue-chip prospect. Negotiations are generally straightforward when parties know each other as well as Belichick knows the Texans brass formerly under his employ: Nick Casiero and Jack Easterby.
4. San Francisco 49ers
Reuniting Belichick-endorsed quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with Caserio makes sense for both teams. He would have two years of control for the Texans at cap hits of $26.4 million and $27 million, respectively, but only cost $2.8 million in dead cap space for the 49ers.
But Garoppolo can’t be the primary piece in a deal. Start with the No. 12 pick in 2021 and keep going. Or tap into young playmakers like wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. General manager John Lynch has bold in his blood.
5. Carolina Panthers
Watson isn’t going home to Atlanta given the restraints on the Falcons, but how about returning to Clemson territory?
The Panthers could add second-year defensive star Jeremy Chinn to a package of picks beginning with No. 8 in 2021. Unless the Texans take back Teddy Bridgewater as a placeholder, he is a big sunk cost ($20 million dead cap) in 2021.
Owner David Tepper didn’t spend a small fortune on coach Matt Rhule to waste time being conservative on quarterbacks.