When Deshaun Watson announced his frustration with the organization and asked to be traded in recent weeks, several teams were projected to have interest. In fact, there are two teams within the AFC West that may feel inclined to make a move for the Texans quarterback based on the fact that the division’s other two QBs are Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. The Raiders and Broncos could be looking up at the Chiefs and Chargers for quite a few years if they don’t upgrade at quarterback.
Denver is the needier franchise here with Drew Lock, who is clearly the worst quarterback in the division. Lock has shown in 18 games that he is in way over his head. During this span, the Missouri product has thrown 23 touchdowns and 18 interceptions with a 59.1 completion percentage. The average football fan may look at these stats and think to themselves that the player is in a below-average situation. However, that is not the case.
The Broncos offered a load of receiving threats at Lock’s disposal in 2020. When Lock arrived, wide receiver Courtland Sutton was entering his second year in the league and the Broncos drafted tight end Noah Fant the same year they took Lock. Denver felt that Lock could be the answer after five games in 2019, winning four of those five games with him as the starter in which he threw 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in those games.
Even though it was a very small sample size, it looked like Denver was all-in on his development when they took wide receivers with their first two picks of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Broncos selected Jerry Jeudy with the 15th overall pick and K.J. Hamler 46th overall. Jeudy was seen as one of the top three receivers in the draft class and was known for his shifty route-running ability. Hamler was viewed as one of the underrated wideouts from the draft class, and many analysts viewed him as a field stretcher.
Despite Sutton going down early in the season with a torn ACL, Lock still had an arsenal of Jeudy, Hamler, Fant, Melvin Gordon, and Phillip Lindsay. With all those weapons, the Broncos should have been a high-scoring offense, right? Apparently not. During the 2020 season the Broncos averaged 20.8 points per game, ranking 28th in the league. Watson would be the piece that would elevate the offense to where it should be, if the Broncos were to make a move for the disgruntled quarterback.
As for the Raiders, there’s a case to be made to stay put at quarterback. However, if you know Jon Gruden, he is never satisfied with the quarterback he currently has. It can also be argued that Gruden and Derek Carr have not completely seen eye-to-eye during their time together. It is important to remember that when Gruden was hired by the then-Oakland Raiders, he did not handpick Carr as his quarterback. Carr had already started for another coach and had been with the Raiders for four seasons prior to Gruden’s hiring.
Carr has been a productive quarterback during his career, but there is a clear ceiling with the player. The first three years of the Carr-Gruden era has resulted in a 17-31 record and no playoff appearances. Carr has been mentioned in trade rumors this offseason, and Gruden may feel his seat warming up and could make a splash move.
Watson could be an answer for both teams, but at what cost?
Creating a trade package for Watson is something that will take a lot of time to conduct, especially since it seems the Texans front office will play hardball when it comes to a trade. Watson has created a bidding war in the NFL for his services, and it will take a combination of picks and players to pry Watson away from Houston.
There have been a number of trade packages created by insiders, but here are some trade scenarios that could bring Watson to the AFC West, beginning with Denver.
Hypothetical Broncos trade for Watson
Houston receives: Drew Lock, 2021 first round pick (9th overall), 2021 third round pick (71st overall), Hamler, 2022 first round pick, 2022 second round pick, and 2023 first round pick
Denver receives: Deshaun Watson
This hypothetical trade would give Denver the opportunity to possess one of the most prolific offenses in the league, and the Broncos would keep Jeudy, Sutton, and Fant in Denver as a young offensive core. The trade will hinder the Broncos draft wise, but in a division where you need to be able to put up points to win, this would be absolutely worth the sacrifice. Denver would likely have to use draft picks on the offensive line and defense, as the offensive personnel will be mostly solved.
From Houston’s point of view, they will be getting an abundance of draft picks they could use to build an all-around roster. Lock is unlikely the answer at quarterback for Houston, so they could use the ninth pick for their quarterback of the future or package a number of picks to trade up in the draft to grab a signal caller.
What does this mean for the Chiefs? Well, it would bring another quarterback in the division who would create problems for their defense. If this were to happen, the Chiefs would still likely be a better team than the Broncos, but Denver would be a team that could keep up with Kansas City’s high-powered offense. It would also be the next great quarterback rivalry in the NFL if Mahomes and Watson battle each other twice a year for the foreseeable future.
A Watson trade to Denver may be the worst-case scenario for the Chiefs. With this move, the Broncos offensive personnel would be looked at as one of the top groups in the league.
A trade involving the Raiders and Texans would result in more substantial losses for Las Vegas. It does not necessarily mean that the Raiders would give up more assets, but Las Vegas has less to offer than the Broncos. Watson would arguably be in the same situation of carrying a team with some offensive talent, but a below-average defense. Las Vegas making a trade for Watson would only happen if the Broncos made a splash move at the quarterback position, and the Raiders felt pressure to keep up with the quarterback play in the AFC West.
Hypothetical Raiders trade for Watson
Houston receives: Derek Carr, 2021 first round pick (17th overall), 2021 second round pick (48th overall), Maxx Crosby, 2022 first round pick, and 2022 second round pick
Las Vegas receives: Deshaun Watson and 2021 third round pick (67th overall)
This trade scenario would accomplish Gruden’s goal of acquiring a star quarterback, but the Raiders will be without their first and second round picks for the next two years. Crosby would be a huge loss, but Gruden and the Raiders would be the team to put all their chips on the table for Watson. In addition to the picks, the Texans receive a serviceable quarterback and an edge rusher that will replace J.J. Watt.
The Raiders would upgrade at quarterback, and they were the team that challenged the Chiefs the most during the 2020 regular season. Las Vegas would be a team with a strong rushing attack with a mobile quarterback, which is something that they are missing with Carr. Gruden’s offense would challenge Kansas City’s defense with their RPO attack which could open up running lanes for Jacobs.
Who would be the bigger threat if they made a move for Watson: the Broncos or Raiders? It is close, but between the two teams and their personnel around Watson, the team that would pose the greatest threat is Denver. Watson paired with those weapons would create havoc for the Chiefs’ defense.
In addition to having young talent around Watson on their rookie deals, the Broncos also have $31 million in cap space. Watson would be a $16 million cap hit for the 2021 season, but that still leaves $15 million to spend. Something to consider is Von Miller’s team option. If the Broncos choose to cut Miller before June 1, it would open up $18 million in cap space. This would give Denver greater opportunities of paying solid free agents to add to the roster.
With Watson, the Broncos would have the higher ceiling offensively, and would stand a greater chance of winning in a shootout.