In the market for a new starting quarterback for the first time in a decade following a blockbuster trade sending Russell Wilson to the Broncos, the Seahawks have their sights set on embattled Texans star Deshaun Watson as a replacement option.
Watson, 26, avoided criminal charges stemming from several accusations of sexual misconduct on Friday, opening the door for Houston to ramp up efforts to trade him. Teams desperate for a new No. 1 quarterback now likely will find themselves engaged in a bidding war aiming to acquire the polarizing signal caller and per multiple sources, Seattle has emerged as a favorite to land him along with Carolina.
But the Seahawks and Panthers certainly won’t be the only teams who inquire about Watson’s availability, as the Buccaneers, Browns, and Steelers have been reported as possible suitors. Even the Vikings, who currently have Kirk Cousins under contract, have been linked to him through various reports, and other teams may be in the periphery examining the situation as well.
Any team that acquires Watson will need to be prepared for a public relations battle, and this may be especially the case in Seattle where he would be taking over for Wilson, a model citizen who won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2020. But talent always receives second chances in the NFL and with a gaping hole under center, it shouldn’t come as a surprise the organization has legitimate interest in making a move for him.
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Would swinging another blockbuster deal to land Watson be a wise move for the Seahawks? Or should the franchise go in a different direction at quarterback? Here’s a look at a number of factors the front office will have to consider while deciding whether or not to make a run at him.
Why Seattle Should Trade For Watson
Compared to other potential alternatives on the market, Watson stands head and shoulders above the competition in terms of all-around talent, proven production, and untapped potential. Before not playing a down in 2021, he earned three Pro Bowl selections in his first four seasons, emerging as one of the premier young quarterbacks in the entire NFL despite playing behind a putrid offensive line.
A skilled pocket passer who can also sling the football all over the field while scrambling and throwing off platform as an improvisor, Watson led the league with 4,823 passing yards, averaged a league-best 8.9 yards per attempt. and completed north of 70 percent of his pass attempts in 2020. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, he posted a remarkable 12.5 percent completion rate over expectation on deep passes of 20-plus air yards and accomplished that feat without the services of All-Pro receiver Deandre Hopkins, who was traded to Arizona before the season.
According to Pro Football Focus, Watson finished sixth among quarterbacks in the league with 42 big time throws, which they classify as “a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window.” He also ranked third behind only Wilson and Aaron Rodgers for big throw percentage among qualified passers.
In addition to his passing prowess, Watson offers similar dual-threat capabilities to Wilson, making him a natural fit to take over in his former stead from a skill set standpoint. Renowned for his ability to tuck and run when plays break down in the pocket, he rushed for 1,677 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first four NFL seasons and has averaged 5.5 yards per rush in his career.
Based on his impressive production and youth alone, an argument can be made Watson’s arrival would give the Seahawks the best quarterback in the division both in the short and long-term over the likes of Super Bowl champion Matthew Stafford, Kyler Murray, and unproven 2021 first-round pick Trey Lance. Throwing to Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, he also would have a chance to potentially play with the best supporting cast he has ever had.
Why Seattle Should Not Trade For Watson
While some 12s would be excited about Watson’s arrival due to his Pro Bowl pedigree and obvious talents as a quarterback, as evidenced by responses on social media, the Seahawks would be voluntarily opening up a can of worms with the potential to alienate a large majority of their fan base and tarnish the franchise’s image in the name of winning football games.
Though Watson escaped criminal charges on Friday and won’t serve jail time as a result, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s innocent either. Given the disturbing, graphic allegations against him that have gone public through 22 civil lawsuits, including exposing himself and ejaculating on the victim, it’s understandable why many fans don’t want him to be the new face of the franchise. In the court of the public opinion, while he vowed to “rebuild” his name after Friday’s ruling, Watson is not viewed favorably and there would be major backlash if Seattle traded for him.
Even if Watson avoids further legal punishment altogether, the NFL can still suspend him. Ben Roethlisberger and Ezekiel Elliott weren’t charged in separate incidents and received six game bans from the league, so the precedent has been set by commissioner Roger Goodell. There’s a strong likelihood any team trading for him will only get a partial season with the quarterback under center in 2022.
Beyond the egregious acts he has been accused of by more than 20 women and possible punishments handed out by the league office, the Seahawks would likely have to unload all of the picks they received from the Broncos in exchange for Wilson, if not additional compensation. Coming off of a brutal 7-10 season, those picks would be useful replenishing the rest of the roster and without them, general manager John Schneider would be in the same spot he’s been for several years running trying to build around a high-priced quarterback with minimal resources.
Contract-wise, Watson’s presence would also limit Seattle’s ability to re-sign its own players and add free agents. He would bring a $35 million cap charge with him in 2022, leaving only an estimated $14 million in available cap space for the team to work with the rest of the offseason. Coupled with Wilson’s $26 million dead cap hit, that’s a borderline untenable situation for the organization if they want to jump right back into contention.
The NFL remains a bottom line business and on the field, Watson would instantly give the Seahawks another top-10 quarterback to run the show, lessening the blow of Wilson’s departure. Seven years younger than his predecessor, some may even argue the team would find an upgrade at the most important position in sports. He’s the complete package and few players in the league match his talent level.
But while Seattle may be enamored by the thought of Watson throwing bombs to Lockett and Metcalf and vaulting the team right back into Super Bowl contention without a lengthy rebuild, Schneider should sack the idea of trading away multiple first-round picks and other assets to acquire him.
From a football standpoint, the Seahawks have glaring holes on both sides of the football and trading for Watson would significantly hinder the front office’s ability to address those needs through free agency and the draft. While the roster around him would be better than the Texans could offer, it’s hard to envision this being a championship-caliber squad as currently constructed and improving the team would be that much more difficult if this deal went down. They simply aren’t in a position right now to continue mortgaging their future.
Most importantly, trading for a player such as Watson who is surrounded by yellow caution tape and covered in red flags would be sending the wrong message. Though some would be willing to overlook his alleged off-field behavior and support the team anyway with him under center, if key decision makers are reading the room, his arrival would turn many fans against the organization and undoubtedly lead to an intense public outcry that would be best to avoid.