Deshaun Watson
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

Exploring what it would cost Joe Douglas and the New York Jets to acquire disgruntled Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Robby Sabo

Imagine it, feel it and totally soak in the visions that have Deshaun Watson running on to the MetLife Stadium field in early September 2021—with a capacity crowd to boot, because what’s a dream without going all the way?

“Rudy, Rudy, Rudy … ” Sorry, I slipped away for a moment there. Anyway, this particular Mr. Watson needs no Sherlock. He’s a true Batman that can lead a team to the promised land, so long as that team isn’t the Houston Texans.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter dropped yet another Watson bomb Sunday afternoon. According to certain sources, it’s believed Watson will never play another game for the Texans. Sprinkle in his previous desire that the Texans interview now-New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh, a “like to unlike” action on a pro-Watson to the Jets tweet, and suddenly, Watson to the Jets has everybody in a frenzied state.

The fit is obvious. New York needs a stud quarterback and it has plenty of ammunition to pull off a deal. It’s led the quarterback-starved fanbase to climb aboard the idea that Joe Douglas must do everything and anything in his power to acquire the three-time Pro Bowler.

I’m not on that train.

Acquiring Watson is certainly a worthwhile move, but everything in life has a price. Everything has a general value. The key is exploiting that value, and knowing Douglas’s work as an NFL front-office individual, value will be the name of this game.

What would it take to acquire the Clemson product?

It starts at two first-rounders

Any potential Watson deal starts at two first-rounders. It doesn’t end there—not even close.

There are few historical examples to pull from. Perhaps the closest thing is when the Denver Broncos traded Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears in 2009. Chicago sent two first-rounders and a third-round selection, along with quarterback Kyle Orton, for Cutler and a fifth-rounder.

At that stage, Cutler, an 11th overall pick (Watson was a 12th overall pick), made one Pro Bowl in three seasons. He threw for 4,526 yards and 25 touchdowns to 18 interceptions in 2008—his last season in Denver. Cutler didn’t nearly have the same resume as Watson, the three-time Pro Bowler, does now, and he fetched two firsts and change.

The package will most likely start at two first-rounders. Realistically, it’ll take at least three.

Potential package

Jets acquire:

  • Deshaun Watson, QB

Texans acquire:

  • 2021 Round 1, No. 2 (NYJ)
  • 2021 Round 1, No. 23 (SEA)
  • 2022 Round 1 (SEA)
  • Sam Darnold, QB

These three picks might not get it done, but when considering the value of the No. 2 overall pick, it should. Top 10 picks (especially top five) hold incredible value when compared to first-rounders after No. 10.

Deshaun Watson
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

In Jimmy Johnson’s draft pick value chart, the No. 2 selection is worth a cool 2,600 points. The No. 1 pick is worth 3,000. The No. 11 pick, held by the New York Giants, is worth just 1,250. The No. 23 pick brings just 760 points to the table.

What No. 2 does in this equation is massive. But it also makes the Miami Dolphins, who hold the No. 3 pick (originally the Texans’, quite ironically), incredible threats to land Watson. Houston can solve its newly-created quarterback problem with the No. 2 overall pick or give Sam Darnold a ride.

If the Jets are forced to give up a fourth pick, it could look something like this:

Jets acquire:

  • Deshaun Watson, QB
  • 2022 Round 4 (HOU)

Texans acquire:

  • 2021 Round 1, No. 2 (NYJ)
  • 2021 Round 1, No. 23 (SEA)
  • 2022 Round 1 (SEA)
  • 2022 Round 2
  • Sam Darnold, QB

I’d be hesitant to give up that fourth pick without getting one in return. There are massive holes on the roster and Watson’s hefty salary would limit Douglas’s ability to fill those holes moving forward. It shouldn’t be viewed as a dealbreaker, but I think three first-rounders and Darnold (with the No. 2 pick involved) is plenty of ammunition.

Watson’s no-trade clause looms large

Anybody old enough to remember the Jamal Adams trade knows Douglas’s love of value. The man learned from one of the best, Ozzie Newsome, which means he lives and breathes value.

Douglas knows NFL team-building always comes down to the NFL draft. Any potential trade of free-agent signings needs to be viewed as the cherry on top of an already-built infrastructure. Watson is a little different, considering his ability and the position he plays. Nonetheless, assets are required to rebuild this roster.

Watson’s no-trade clause could serve as a Jets bonus only if the Texans stud quarterback has his eye on the Jets and nobody else. That’s the key.

If he’s willing to be shipped to multiple spots, the no-trade isn’t as impactful. If he takes a hard stance on playing for Saleh and the Jets, Douglas can bide his time and wait this thing out until Houston has no choice but to relent.

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Final thoughts

I’m on the “trade for Watson” train, but I’ve lept from the “do whatever it takes” to land the man train that will not stop anytime soon. Such a mindset is what gets NFL organizations into trouble when going about business. It always comes down to value, and that’s especially the case for the better general managers in the league.

How Watson impacts the Jets’ immediate future is another topic that’ll certainly need to be discussed. It’ll drastically shorten the window and overall flexibility Douglas would have when plugging holes. Not operating under the ease of the rookie quarterback window—courtesy of the rookie wage scale—is a discussion worth having.

If the New York Jets want Deshaun Watson, it’ll likely cost them three first-round picks and then some.

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Robby Sabo is a co-founder, developer and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor | Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (sold in 2020). SEO: XLM Email: robby.sabo[at]jetsxfactor.com
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GoNYGoNYGo
GoNYGoNYGo
1 year ago

I’m not ready to trade the farm for him, but yes, he may be worth 3 first rounders and the Jets have them. Ask yourself, would you trade Adams and a 1st round pick for him?

There are side benefits to making the trade and doing it swiftly. Having him as the QB will result in credibility with free agents. Does his presence on the Jets help lure stud free agents? I think so. Can I dream about Thuney and Scherff joining the OL? How about Richard Sherman at CB and Chris Godwin as the X-receiver?

Note that Watson will cost $10M more per year than Sam in 2021 but it’s worth it.

JPWaxer
JPWaxer
1 year ago

I’m coming from the “Joe Douglas won’t give it all away” camp so more conservative about this than most. Your 3 1st rounders works for me but I see Joe somehow pulling a rabbit out of his hat and getting a better deal.

MasterWu77
MasterWu77
1 year ago

If the Dolphins are in the mix, do you think that poses a significant threat to the Jets (as an AFC East team). The AFC is already getting dominated by the Bills. Having Watson go to the Dolphins could make it even more difficult for the Jets to make the playoffs.

If this trade could prove costly for the Jets (in terms of assets), wouldn’t it do the same for the Dolphins? I don’t hear many people talking about how this could cripple the Dolphins like it would the Jets.

Jim Franklin
Jim Franklin
1 year ago
Reply to  MasterWu77

I get that, everyone is saying that. and i just disagree – assuming teams still use the Jimmy Johnson draft chart anyway, the 2nd pick is equivalent to 4 later firsts. and they could turn that into an immediate stockpile, rather than gambling that the future 1sts are not late rounders. Most likely watson and any talent at all around him equals picsk in the 20s.

Wilson – we’ll see what Blewitt says after his film analysis, but everything i’ve seen of Wilson, i have no idea what people are talking about. I see a guy who can throw a pretty but not particularly well placed long ball, usually out of the pocket, but mostly being untouched behind a fortress. haven’t seen him zip balls into tight windows. And of course he’s not playing top competition. he also has that long delivery that makes me think of Geno Smith. No idea how anyone can compare him to Rodgers or Mahomes. More like Goff, Lynch, Trubisky.

And the character questions? People have denied them, as is always the case. but every time we’ve heard character concerns cited (Geno, Cam, Manziel, Leinert, Rosen), they have proven to be true. (and I think in all those cases they were pretty obvious from just the bit of info you can glean from quotes and behavior)

I’d take Fields unless they can get Watson for the 2nd and Sam. At the combines, his value might rocket up – which would make that 2nd pick that much more valuable.

So glad we got a top coach and staff to go with our first real GM ever, but the suspense in learning who the QB is next year is killing me!

JPWaxer
JPWaxer
1 year ago
Reply to  MasterWu77

Dolphins already used 3 first rounders to build last year…they have more too…they got lucky.

JetOrange
JetOrange
1 year ago

Saleh pays dividends already, makes the Jets a desirable place to land. The price is steep, but you do it. Texans haven’t got a new coach, but the deal could hinge on the evaluations of Tua versus Darnold.

Sean Bird
Sean Bird
1 year ago

I disagree with this. The #2 pick has a ton of value.
The Cutler trade was the #18 pick + everything else.
According to the rumors, the man behind all the crazy moves with the Texans is still there.

verge tibbs
verge tibbs
1 year ago
Reply to  Sean Bird

Exactly. I agree. Easterby, the moron who got only a 2nd for hopkins, is still there. Id straight up give them #2 and darnold and nothing else. In fact if im douglas im starting at #23 and darnold.

Jim Franklin
Jim Franklin
1 year ago
Reply to  verge tibbs

I’ve been saying that all along too. Sam and the 2nd, and even try to get them to throw in a 4th or 5th.

The 2nd is worth 4 24th picks, according to the draft chart.

The texans can get a starting qb and turn the 2nd into 2 firsts and a few more picks.

I dont think anyone has ever traded 3 first rounders?

Also, the team they trade watson to is likely to win next year, returning a late first rounder in 2022, while a team they flip the 2nd to may struggle to win with a rookie qb.

elehtis
elehtis
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Franklin

Do either of you seriously think Miami will let us outbid them with a Darnold + #2 package? If you come in too low with your first offer, you risk the door being slammed in your face. Yes, the #2 overall is worth a lot, but so is the #3. Miami can sweeten that offer quite a bit. No point even starting if you’re going to draw a hard line like that. There will be much better offers for Watson. He’s a top-5 QB and he’s only 25.

Jim Franklin
Jim Franklin
1 year ago
Reply to  elehtis

describe a much better offer? what do you see Miami having to offer? or anyone? Let’s say someone offers 3 first rounders, something no one has ever done before… that team becomes a playoff contender if not a playoff team in 2021 and there after – that’s not as good as the #2 and Sam.

elehtis
elehtis
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Franklin

You know, I just investigated the Miami situation and its actually pretty similar to ours this year, but we appear to have more picks next year. I don’t want to give up 3 1st round picks either, it was bad enough giving up 3 2nds to draft Darnold.

The more I think about this, if Houston is smart (which would be a major leap for them), they’ll figure out the Jets and Miami can be played off against each other, since both have the need and the draft capital to play this game. A bidding war seems inevitable, as each team will want to at least ensure the other pays an exorbitant price if they miss out on Watson. Jets should have the edge, since #2 gives Houston a shot at everyone in the draft not named Trevor, but I doubt that plus Sam will be enough. I would very reluctantly throw in our other R1 this year, or our R2 this year and next year’s Seattle R1. That would still leave us with a R1 this year and next.

Jim Franklin
Jim Franklin
1 year ago
Reply to  elehtis

I wouldn’t do it for anything more than Sam and the 2nd pick. man i’ll never get over the fact they didn’t draft Watson. Never drafted a QB i wanted once, and none i wanted more than the guy Swinney called ‘michael jordan’.

At most I would give them next year’s first also, either one – Watson and Saleh and co may make the Jets pick a lower one than ‘ground and pound Pete’ lands at next season.

But otherwise, I’d be very happy to see them get Fields. And miserable if they take Wilson.

elehtis
elehtis
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Franklin

There’s a piece in the Athletic that looks at 5 trade scenarios, and has the Jets paying by far the most. Figuring Sam’s value is a 2 and a 5, I think we have to go a little bigger than same plus the #2 overall, but I have no problem drawing the line at that package plus a 2 this year or a 1 next year. That #2 does have special value.

What’s your objection to Wilson? He would seem to fit the offense LaFleur will be implementing, and he has mad skilz. Granted there’s a certain Jim McMahon mini-me energy there, which is annoying, but a lot of arm talent.

elehtis
elehtis
1 year ago

Great piece, Robby. With 3 months+ to go before the draft, there is far too much time for this situation to play out. I do think it likely Watson will get traded, and I do agree the Jets and Miami both uniquely have the resources to make this deal. It’s crazy, and the impulse to outbid a division rival will only make it harder for Douglas to not slide down the “whatever it takes” rabbit hole, even as he has to fight off the incremental deterioration over time of any hard line he might want to draw initially. I would really like to make this deal, but not sure how far I’m willing to go either–giving up both our 2021 R1s + future premium picks is A LOT. Jets have so many other weak links in the roster to address. Miami has a much stronger roster so they can better afford to convert their draft capital into a trade deal. I have a feeling they will ultimately prevail in this game. If Houston decides they NEED to have Zach Wilson (or Justin Fields), then the Jets have the upper hand because only they can give Houston that luxury.