When the Houston Texans reportedly set a steep asking price for any possible Deshaun Watson trade, one team immediately jumped out as a suitor that could meet that price.
The New York Jets.
They have the quarterback void, the draft-pick ammunition, the salary-cap space and the motivation to make such a move. And Watson, according to one report, has the Jets high on his list, assuming the Texans are prepared to move him after new Texans general manager Nick Caserio initially quashed the idea of Watson being dealt.
Once news of what it might take to pry him loose got out this weekend, it was a sign that the Texans might be resigned to making such a deal if the relationship with Watson was irreparable.
The Miami Dolphins are another one of the few teams with the resources to make a competitive bid for Watson. They might be better served to fill the Texans’ reported desire to land two defensive starters.
The Jets could offer Quinnen Williams and … who exactly?
Miami has a slew of impact defenders it could offer up, including: cornerbacks Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and Noah Igbinoghene; safeties Bobby McCain, Eric Rowe and Brandon Jones; linebackers Jerome Baker, Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts; EDGEs Emmanuel Ogbah, Shaq Lawson and Andrew Van Ginkel; and defensive tackles Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis and Zach Sieler.
Players such as Van Ginkel, Wilkins, Davis and some of Miami’s DBs could really tempt Caserio.
The Jets have other assets they could part with to tilt a prospective Watson deal in their favor. We don’t know how aggressive GM Joe Douglas will be here to give up a big chunk of the team’s draft-pick till, but if it returns a franchise quarterback, he must be ready to make a serious and strong offer.
What a potential Jets offer could look like
Along the lines of the reported asking price, the Jets have enough to throw a lot Houston’s way — and still keep a decent number of picks for the next two draft cycles.
Let’s start with the veterans who could be involved in the trade. Despite new head coach Robert Saleh saying he “absolutely loves” Williams and that Saleh is “excited to get the seatbelt off his harness and let him go,” it’s hard to imagine the Texans not asking for him in any deal. He’s the Jets’ best defender under contract.
The problem is figuring out the second player. The Jets’ top three 2020 snap leaders on defense (S Marcus Maye, LB Neville Hewitt and EDGE Tarell Basham) all are free agents. So are 11 others on that side of the ball.
Including any of them in a Watson deal likely won’t happen. Assuming the Texans have no interest in opt-out LB C.J. Mosley, the best remaining pieces the Jets could offer might be one of the following: DT Foley Fatukasi, DT John Franklin-Myers, EDGE Jabari Zuniga, LB Blake Cashman, LB Harvey Langi (whom Caserio had briefly in New England), S Ashtyn Davis or CB Bryce Hall.
That means the Jets would have to come strong with their draft pick offer. Luckily, they have the selections to part with. The package could include the Jets’ initial first- and second-round picks this year (Nos. 2 and 34 overall), plus first- and second-round picks in 2022. (Miami’s highest first- and second-round picks in 2021 check in at Nos. 3 and 36 overall.)
Even if the Jets traded all those picks, they wouldn’t enter either of the next two drafts with only pocket lint left over. They’d still have a first-rounder (No. 23 overall, from the Seahawks), two third-rounders (Nos. 66 and 87 overall, their own pick plus one from the Seahawks), plus picks in Rounds 4, 5 (two selections), 6 and 7 this year.
And they’d also be in decent shape in 2022. The Jets have the Seahawks’ first-rounder next year, and they’d also be left with one third-rounder, two fifths (one from the Steelers) and three sixths (extra picks from the 49ers and Buccaneers).
That would put pressure on Douglas and his staff to make the most of the picks, which is what good scouting staffs do.
What the Jets would have left on the roster
Sending two players and a slew of picks would leave Saleh’s defense in dire shape. Barring free agency, it would leave the Jets without a single established playmaker on that side of the ball.
And Watson would be asked to shoulder a lot of the load on offense, where the Jets aren’t exactly stacked. Mekhi Becton is an anchor at left tackle, and Cameron Clark, George Fant and Greg Van Roten could form most of a solid offensive line. La’Mical Perine and Ty Johnson are backfield pieces worth retaining. WRs Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder could be a solid 1-2 punch, and perennial-tease TE Chris Herndon still might have something to offer.
It’s a better supporting cast than what they have on defense. Then again, the Jets would have a shot at landing a rare QB in the prime of his career who could atone for the shortcomings.
Perhaps the Texans might have some measure of interest in QB Sam Darnold as part of a deal, subbing in for one of the defenders. They also could offer him up elsewhere, which could add to the draft-pick collection.
There might not be a lot of defensive gems atop the 2021 draft class but there’s enough depth in the first two days to offer decent prospects to fill the numerous holes.
Why might the Texans favor a deal with the Jets?
The Texans might engage the Dolphins for a trade, especially if they are high on Tua Tagovailoa. If Miami isn’t willing to include both of their first-rounders this year (Nos. 3 and 18 overall), the Jets’ potential offer of the second overall pick this year might be more attractive.
One spot can make all the difference in value. After all, the Texans would need a quarterback and can’t afford to be jumped by another team in the draft. With the Jets’ second overall pick, that can’t happen (assuming the Jaguars aren’t trading No. 1).
The Jets are going to be rebuilding regardless of what goes down this offseason. They can do it with a full allotment of draft picks and hope that Darnold or a rookie will be the solution at QB. Or they can land a sure thing and a verifiable star in Watson and still be left with enough picks to improve the roster elsewhere.
Miami didn’t display a lot of eagerness in packaging its bevy of picks to move up a year ago, and GM Chris Grier has said that they’re building around Tagovailoa. A player of Watson’s caliber certainly could change their minds.
Miami made a run at the postseason in 2020, and Houston could view the Jets’ 2020 selections as more valuable after next season. That’s why we suggested that the Dolphins might need to include both of their 2021 first-rounders for any deal. Bird in the hand, and all that.
Plus, for the Jets, there’s the divisional arms race to consider, with the Buffalo Bills set to contend again, the Dolphins already well into their rebuild and the Patriots in limbo but with a Hall of Fame coach motivated to fix things quickly.
Landing Watson would keep him out of the Dolphins’ hands, give them the best quarterback in the division (by a nose over the Bills’ Josh Allen) and make them a more attractive landing spot for other prospective free agents. Watson and Saleh could act as the Pied Pipers to help the Jets draw talent without a full bag of draft picks at their disposal.
Even at a heavy draft-pick cost, the Jets have to be prepared to make a big offer to Houston if Watson is available.
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