The Texans are looking to move on from the cloud surrounding Watson and his status with the team and stand to bring in a haul of assets from the team prepared to acquire the former Clemson star. Houston can agree to a trade at any time, but it could not be made official until the new league year starts at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
Here are Watson's most likely destinations and what the Texans might receive in return:
Carolina Panthers: ESPN is reporting Watson, 26, will meet with the Panthers as early as Tuesday. The Panthers are looking to upgrade from QB Sam Darnold, who went 4-7 as Carolina's starter in 2021. According to league sources, the Panthers made "an aggressive" offer for Watson on Friday after he was cleared of criminal charges. Carolina attempted to trade for Watson early last offseason before the sexual abuse allegations came to light. The Panthers would still have to eat a lot of money unless Darnold, who is due $18.9 million in 2022, is included in the deal. But the Panthers are believed to have the money to sign Watson.
New Orleans Saints: Watson is also set to meet with New Orleans as a second top suitor to Carolina. The Saints are looking to reload their offense after the retirement of Hall of Fame shoe-in Drew Brees last offseason and the sudden departure of head coach Sean Payton in January. The Saints started four different quarterbacks in 2021 but still managed a winning record due to a stalwart defense. The Saints are believed to be attractive to Watson because of their defense and offensive playmakers like Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. The Saints have less money currently committed to the quarterback position, with No.1 starter Jameis Winston entering free agency. Over the weekend, Saints ownership reportedly gave the front-office the "full go-ahead" to pursue Watson.
Texans’ QB Deshaun Watson is expected to meet in the next 48 hours with the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, amongst other teams, per league sources. Watson wants to meet with them just as they want to meet with him before trade talks ramp up.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2022
Others: The Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles have also been in the running at some point as destinations for Watson. Rumor has it, though, that the Seahawks have reportedly rejected any interest despite being considered a favorite. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday the Texans declined the Indianapolis Colts' request to meet with Watson, not wanting to trade the talented quarterback within the AFC South division.
What the Texans can get for Watson: In sum, a haul. The Texans reportedly have asked for three first-round picks, players, and additional picks for Watson. By comparison, the Seahawks recently traded 33-year-old star quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos for two first rounders, three additional draft picks and a bevy of starters. It is possible the Texans could acquire a quarterback in the deal such as Darnold or New Orleans' Taysom Hill who would compete for the Texans job. According to Houston Chronicle reporter John McClain, the Texans are currently enthusiastic about moving forward with QB Davis Mills, entering his second season after the Texans selected him No.67 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.
What else you need to know: The NFL could still suspend Watson for future games for violating its personal conduct policy, but the absence of criminal charges means he will be on the field sooner rather than later. Watson also has a "no-trade" clause in his contract, which largely leaves the ball in his hands in terms of where he will be traded. Finally, whoever acquires Watson will owe him $35 million in 2022.
Why now: A grand jury on Friday declined to indict Watson following a police investigation sparked by lawsuits filed by 22 women who have accused him of harassment and sexual assault. Houston police began investigating Watson in April 2021 after the first criminal complaint was filed. The FBI also was reviewing the allegations. Watson has not played for the Texans since the first lawsuit was filed in March of 2020.
READ MORE: Texans QB Deshaun Watson will not be indicted in sexual assault lawsuits
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