The focus of what the Jets should do in April’s NFL draft has centered around the quarterback position since the minute the 2020 season went south.
With the No. 2 pick, should the team select Ohio State’s Justin Fields or BYU’s Zach Wilson? Should the team stick with Sam Darnold and use the pick to give him a blocker or a weapon? Whichever way you lean, you have to admit that it is not a sure thing. Both of those options come with plenty of doubts.
But what if the Jets could get a no doubter with the No. 2 pick?
What if they could land a quarterback who is already a three-time Pro Bowler, has started 53 NFL games, has led a team to the playoffs, has led the NFL in passing yards and is only 25 years old?
That is what the idea of a Deshaun Watson trade offers, and Jets general manager Joe Douglas must do everything possible to make it a reality.
It still feels like a long shot that the Texans actually deal their franchise quarterback, but the rumors are not going away. If anything, they are getting louder. Sports Illustrated just published another exposé on the dysfunction inside the Texans, led by their executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby. ESPN reported Sunday there is a belief that Watson has played his last game for Houston.
If the Texans do make Watson available, the Jets will be one of about 25 teams with interest. But Douglas should be at the front of the line and he should be willing to give up just about whatever is asked by Houston and Watson.
The Jets have assets to make this move. They have the cap space to absorb Watson’s contract after he signed a four-year, $156 million extension with Houston in September. They have 18 draft picks in the next two years, including four in the first round. They have Darnold, who could be a quarterback the Texans would have interest in acquiring.
Let’s say Douglas offers three first-round picks — the No. 2 overall pick this year, the Seahawks’ pick in 2022 and the Jets’ pick in 2023 — plus Darnold and their second-round pick this year. That would still leave the Jets with first-round picks this year and next.
Under most circumstances, I would not propose the Jets give up draft picks. They have so many needs. But Watson is an instant impact player. He would change the franchise and give new coach Robert Saleh a gigantic piece of the puzzle as he tries to bring the Jets back to relevance. The Jets blew it in 2017 by not drafting Watson or Patrick Mahomes. Douglas can fix that mistake.
The biggest hurdle for the Jets may be Watson’s control over where he goes. Watson has a no-trade clause and will have to approve his next team, if it gets that far. Why would he pick the Jets? They are a team coming off a 2-14 season with little hope of turning things around quickly. Their only chance is if Watson is desperate enough to get out of Houston that he is open to nearly any team and the Jets give Houston the best offer.
The Jets’ stiffest competition may come from within their own division. The Dolphins have been mentioned with Watson since these rumors started. Miami has two first-round picks this year, including No. 3 overall (ironically enough acquired in a trade with Houston). They drafted Tua Tagovailoa last year, but he was not overly impressive as a rookie. The Dolphins could offer a similar package to the Jets that includes Tagovailoa. You would think the Dolphins would be more attractive to Watson than the Jets. They are coming off a 10-6 season and were knocking on the door of the playoffs. Florida also has no state income tax and South Beach.
All of this right now is fantasy football. There is still a long way to go before Jets fans should really start dreaming of Watson in green and white. But the longer these rumors persist, the more Douglas should be gearing up to call Texans GM Nick Caserio and be ready to offer whatever it takes to make Watson a Jet.