Get ready to hear this question a trillion times this offseason. From journalists, to idiots with a keyboard (like me!), to random twitter users named “Firstname Bunchofnumbers”, near every person that follows the NFL will be asking the same thing:
What will it take for us to get Deshaun Watson?
With Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson reportedly on the trade market this spring, there are about 30 NFL teams that will be ringing Houston’s line, seeing what it will take to get the former Clemson man under center for them in 2021 (I’m giving KC the benefit of the doubt in saying they don’t have a pressing need for him at the moment). While lots of teams will certainly be interested, what they can actually offer is a much different story. So let’s examine what a potential Saints package for Deshaun Watson would look like.
For starters, there’s almost no precedence for a trade like this. Yes, we’ve seen young elite defensive players like Khalil Mack and Jamal Adams get traded in recent years. However, we’ve never seen a young, certifiably elite quarterback like Deshaun Watson get traded. We rarely see them even leave their franchise, so it will certainly take a lot to pry him from Houston’s hands. Let’s get the obvious out of the way first.
Lots of lots of draft picks.
I mean, this is probably the easiest answer to this question. The easier way to get Deshaun Watson in black and gold is with a lot of draft picks, probably more than we’ve seen in any trade like this. We saw Khalil Mack and a second get traded for two first round picks. We saw Jamal Adams get traded for two firsts as well. For Deshaun Watson, though? We’d have to take a look at what teams would be willing to trade up for during the draft to take a top quarterback. For example, the Eagles traded two 1sts, a 2nd, a 3rd and a 4th to the Browns to trade up to 1.2 in the 2016 draft to select Carson Wentz. The Washington Football Team traded three first round picks and a second to move up to 1.2 in the 2012 draft to select Robert Griffin III. Both of those trades were:
- More costly than either the Mack or Adams trade
- For quarterbacks who were just entering the league and significantly less proven than Watson
For the Saints to get this trade done solely using draft picks, it would take at least four first round picks to get the conversation started. They’d probably have to add in second or two as well. It would all be worth it.
And now the fun begins.
At some point, you have to wonder if it becomes unfeasible to offer just a myriad of draft picks for Watson. Other teams will likely come in with similar offers with draft picks that would end up in a better position than that of the Saints. The Saints, if they do this, would likely need to add in things that other teams don’t.
Enter Marcus Davenport. The 2018 first round pick out of UTSA missed the first part of the season due to injury but came back in full force. While the Saints’ edge rusher only registered two sacks in 2020, he recorded 37 pressures, good for t-24th among all edge rushers since his return in Week 5. While Davenport is a prodcutive pass rusher and a good player, the emergence of Trey Hendrickson has made Davenport a possible trade piece to include in a trade like this. Add in a potential J.J. Watt trade from Houston, and the Texans could look at Davenport as their defensive player to build around in the front seven.
In 2017, Patrick Mahomes was picked 10th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs. Two picks later, the Houston Texans traded up to take Deshaun Watson with the 12th overall pick. The 11th pick in that draft? The Saints ending up with a cornerback from Ohio State named Marshon Lattimore.
Speaking of young defensive stars to build around, Marshon Lattimore is another player whose name could be brought up in a potential Watson deal. With Lattimore entering the final year of his contract in 2022, the cap-strapped Saints could look to send Lattimore to Houston in order to get something for him rather than losing him to free agency in a year.
Lattimore has been a key member of the Saints defense since coming to New Orleans in 2017, however he suffered a decline this season that left Saints fans wondering if it was worth it to re-sign the former Defensive Rookie of the Year. While losing Lattimore would undoubtedly be a massive blow to the secondary, with the Saints cap situation there’s a chance they might not be able to afford him in two years anyways. Moving him would allow them to extend other members of the squad that are also in need of a new contract (see: Ramczyk, Ryan).
I feel like I’m gonna lose a lot of y’all on this one.
Let me get this out of the way. Losing Michael Thomas would be devastating to the offense. He is a Top 3 WR in the NFL and every team in the NFL would love to have him. In every single other scenario, I would say no to any sort of trade with Michael Thomas in it.
But this is Deshaun Watson we’re talking about. We’ve seen what star quarterbacks can do to average wide receivers. As much as it would be terrible to lose Thomas, having 10+ years of Deshaun Watson would be worth the sting of the Saints losing out on one of the best wide receivers in franchise history.
There are legitimate gripes about Watson not having anyone to throw to in the case of trading Michael Thomas. To that, there’s a simple explanation.
- Alvin Kamara
- This upcoming WR class in the NFL Draft is hilariously deep, find a guy in the 3rd or 4th you like
- Alvin Kamara
- Adam Trautman showed promise as a rookie
- Alvin Kamara
- Screw it put Taysom out there
- Alvin Kamara
- Deshaun Watson finished the season with Keke Coutee as his WR1, he’ll be fine
- Alvin Kamara
Lastly, this might be necessary to balance the books. In the Lattimore section, I mentioned that the Saints were “cap-strapped”. I believe the more apt term would be “salary cap hell”. The Saints next season are projected to have a cap hit of $278,813,533 (via Spotrac). For those unaware, the projected 2021 salary cap in the NFL is $179,208,698. Meaning the Saints are just under $100 million over the cap (for even more fun with numbers, the Saints projected cap hit is roughly 155% of the legal salary cap). While yes, the salary cap is a myth, sadly the NFL doesn’t feel the same way and may force the Saints to do something about it. Part of it could be sending Michael Thomas to Houston, freeing up roughly $3 million in cap room and then extending Watson to help maneuver that cap hit into future years.
The Saints should absolutely be calling the Texans about Deshaun Watson. Whether they’re willing to give up what it takes is a separate story. For a final verdict, my opinion is the Saints should call the Texans with an offer of Michael Thomas, 2021 & 2022 first round picks and one of Marshon Lattimore/Marcus Davenport. While on the surface it seems like a lot, think that this could set the Saints up with their franchise quarterback for the next 10+ years. There is no easier way to succeed than to have a star QB and to put talent around him. The hard part’s getting the star quarterback, as the Saints are going to learn if they don’t make the necessary moves as soon as possible.
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