The Houston Texans appear to be distancing themselves from Deshaun Watson, but what might a trade for the embattled quarterback look like? Plus, a Jaguars legend takes aim at Cowboys star Amari Cooper, the Broncos shatter a glass ceiling and more inside Between The Hash Marks this week.
It remains to be seen whether Deshaun Watson, embroiled in 22 civil suits alleging sexual misconduct and an ongoing criminal investigation, will be available for any team in 2021, but it appears increasingly unlikely he’ll ever again be behind center for the Houston Texans.
“We have nothing to say about that situation at this time,” Texans head coach David Culley told local media during Houston’s rookie minicamp last weekend.
Culley’s comments effectively threw the door wide open to any speculation on a possible Watson Trade, if the 25-year-old is not suspended by the NFL or placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt list.
Presuming there are no olive branches exchanged between Watson and Texans general manager Nick Caserio, it is fair to wonder what the Texans would be able to get in return for their embattled franchise quarterback. When healthy, Watson might be among the five most gifted players at the position, but his tenuous situation given the accusations swirling around him off the field could make trading for him an incredible risk for any interested franchises.
“I think the mega-deal is gone,” an AFC personnel executive tells FanSided.
The executive believes that in all likelihood, any trade would likely have significant strings attached to any first-round pick involved and it is likely that two second-round picks just might be enough to get a deal across the finish line.
Three teams that repeatedly came up in conversations with multiple executives were the Washington Football Team and Las Vegas Raiders, and Miami Dolphins as potential destinations for Watson.
The Dolphins are in make-or-break mode when it comes to Tua Tagovailoa’s future, but Washington and Las Vegas offer similar situations and motivations to kick the tires on Watson.
Both organizations have a bevy of talent at the offensive skill positions; (Receivers Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, and running back Antonio Gibson in Washington, wide receiver Henry Ruggs, tight and Darren Waller, and running back Josh Jacobs in Las Vegas) but are likely a dominant quarterback away from legitimately competing for a Super Bowl.
Given that the NFC East remains wide open, with Washington the defending champions, The Football Team might be best positioned to drop Watson, who passed for a career-high 4,823 yards with 33 touchdowns to seven interceptions last season into a contending roster.
But, what would a Watson to Washington trade look like?
Here is the deal proposed by one front office executive:
2022 First-round pick
2023 First-round pick
Terry McLaurin, WR
Montez Sweat, DE
Deshaun Watson, QB
There remain several hurdles before Washington, or any other franchise should entertain seriously the possibility of trading for Watson.
But, if that is the price, the Football Team would likely become the prohibitive favorites to repeat as NFC East champions. Losing McLaurin would certainly hurt, but the addition of Samuel would certainly help make the Football Team a soft landing spot for Washington.
Washington’s depth along the defensive line could ease the blow of losing Sweat.
Given the wealth of dominant players in the front-seven, and young playmakers already in place on offense, adding Watson is the kind of move that could help the Football Team emerge as the biggest threat on that side of the bracket to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers repeating as Super Bowl champions.
Cowboys’ Amari Cooper draws ire of Jaguars legend
The Dallas Cowboys are banking on quarterback Dak Prescott’s return to an offense that boasts one of the more star-studded supporting cast of skill players fueling a run towards an NFC East title – or more.
One of those stars is wide receiver Amari Cooper, who at age 26, caught a career-high 92 passes for 1,114 yards and five touchdowns, despite Prescott only being behind center for four-plus games and a rotating cast of passers that included Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci, and Garrett Gilbert all throwing lining up behind center in a disastrous 2020 campaign.
Still, former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver and member of the Jacksonville Jaguars ring of honor, Jimmy Smith, isn’t convinced Cooper has given his all.
“I Just wish there was a little more effort on Amari Cooper’s part,” Smith told me during a recent appearance on FanSided’s The Matt Lombardo Show podcast.
Smith, who currently sits 24th on the NFL’s all-time receiving list with 862 receptions in 178 career games for 12,287 yards and 67 touchdowns, studied some of the all-time greats, such as Michael Irvin and Andre Risno to refine his skills as a route-runner, but laments that he doesn’t see the same drive out of Cooper.
Cooper, who signed a five-year contract worth $100 million with $60 million fully guaranteed is one of the most important players to the Cowboys’ success in 2021 and beyond, even after the organization chose CeeDee Lamb No. 17 overall in last April’s 2020 NFL Draft.
“[Cooper] is a guy who is so talented, but the lack of effort really, really gets under my skin,” Smith says. “Especially for what he’s getting paid.”
Lamb burst onto the scene last season, and despite catching passes from the same quarterback carousel that targeted Cooper a team-high 130 times, caught 74 pages for 935 yards and five touchdowns.
“He’s going to be one of the top receivers in this league,” Smith says of Lamb. “He has a passion for the game, had a good feel for positioning in the slot, as a rookie, and he’s going to get better.”
The former Oklahoma standout has the chance to be a focal point in the Cowboys’ passing game, especially with Prescott back and fully healthy, and he just might surpass Cooper in Dallas’ passing game hierarchy.
“He’s going to make guys who are making more money than him expendable,” Smith says. “That’s what’s going to happen.”
“We have a lot of divas playing in the league right now. I fail to understand that all these guys have long-term deals. I can’t believe the game has changed that remarkably.”
– Hall of Fame former Green Bay Packers GM Ron Wolf, via The Big Show Network
Wolf, for all of his accomplishments, as an instrumental part of building three Super Bowl champions, is speaking a bit out of turn here.
It is obviously Packers reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, and Watson, that Wolf is referring to. While it’s true that all three have signed long-term contracts — Rodgers through 2023, Wilson through 2023, and Watson through 2025, to call them divas feels disingenuous.
Rodgers, Wilson, Watson are three of the five most gifted passers in the game, and when you reach that echelon at the most important position in sports, players of their caliber should yield some influence over the organization that signs their checks.
It is entirely justifiable why each would be miffed by their respective organizations; just last spring the Packers traded up to choose quarterback Jordan Love in Round 1, passing on the opportunity to add a weapon to Rodgers’ arsenal and instead choosing his replacement, Wilson is clearly tired of the direction of the Seahawks’ offense, and Watson has watched elite playmakers be traded for pennies on the dollar away from the Texans in recent seasons.
Quarterbacks specifically, and NFL players more generally, might not carry the same power over their destinations as the NBA’s brightest superstars, but each of these three quarterbacks that Wolf is discussing have to date followed the agreed-upon terms of their contracts, and it is the teams that have failed to live up to their ends of the bargain in some respects when it comes to building around them.
Rather than toss around labels like “divas” on quarterbacks imploring their teams to build around them or move them, perhaps Wolf should be looking at the Packers, Seahawks, and Texans’ front offices and ask what has these franchise quarterbacks turning up the heat and if all else fails, looking for the exits.
Another glass ceiling shattered above the NFL this week.
The Denver Broncos made the kind of forward-thinking hire that has the potential to open the doors for talented women across the football landscape when they named Kelly Kleine Executive Director of Football Operations/Special Advisor to General Manager George Paton.
Klein previously worked with Paton in Minnesota, and now has the opportunity to wield even more influence, in a role the Broncos believe is the highest-ranking position ever held by a female.
Considered a rising star in the scouting community, Klein spent the past decade both as an area scout for the Vikings and also helped prepare the team’s advance scouting reports for upcoming opponents.
Klein’s hiring is a significant step forward in the march for equality.
“I wish Kelly the very best for success in her new position,” former Raiders CEO and current CBS Sports analyst Amy Trask tells FanSided. “A position that has earned. The reason I note that Kelly has earned this opportunity is that that speaks loudly not only to her tremendous accomplishments but to the importance of providing opportunities for learning and for advancement, what many refer to as pipelines.”
Kudos to the Broncos for hiring Kleine, and may she be an example to girls and young women everywhere who dream of one day holding a front office position in the NFL.
No longer is the league a bastion of male-dominated cronyism.
The efforts of talented women such as Kleine, Trask, Buffalo Bills special teams quality control coach Kathryn Smith, Cincinnati Bengals Executive Vice President Katie Blackburn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers director of football research Jacqueline Davidson, and so many others, offer female fans of the sport, not just powerful faces who look like them to cheer for on Sundays, but role models to emulate, should they choose to forge their own career paths in the NFL.
“I am excited for Kelly,” Trask says. “And I will be excited when hiring without regard to gender, race, ethnicity and other individualities which have no bearing whatsoever on whether one can do a job is no longer newsworthy, because it is the norm.”
Matt Lombardo is FanSided’s National NFL Insider and writes Between The Hash Marks each Wednesday. Email Matt: Matt.Lombardo@FanSided.com, Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattLombardoNFL