How a Deshaun Watson trade could ultimately impact 49ers
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers could potentially be directly impacted by a would-be trade of Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, creating a domino effect around the league.
One of the hotter storylines around the league last offseason was the desire of Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson wanting to play somewhere else, anywhere else.
His frustrations with the franchise abundantly clear, the 2017 first-round NFL Draft pick out of Clemson was even rumored to be on the San Francisco 49ers‘ offseason radar, which prompted plenty of speculation about general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan engineering some blockbuster deal heading into 2021, thereby replacing their own starter, Jimmy Garoppolo, in that very moment.
But then, allegations of sexual misconduct clouded Watson’s immediate future, and that certainly put a damper on any trade talks, as well as forcing Houston to effectively sit him with pay throughout the season so far.
Not long after that news broke, the Niners conducted another blockbuster, moving up to No. 3 overall in the NFL Draft, which resulted in the selection of rookie quarterback Trey Lance.
Deshaun Watson trade rumors are heating up again
With the 2021 NFL trade deadline just days away, Watson potentially looks to be on the move despite his legal challenges. The Houston Chronicle’s John McClain reported the Texans and Miami Dolphins have agreed upon compensation, which is likely down from the lofty price Houston was asking for earlier during the offseason.
And while this could merely be a “smoke and mirrors” campaign by the Texans to once again drive up a would-be bidding war, it seems as if a deal is going to be made here, it’ll happen awfully soon even if Watson’s legal matters are of massive concern.
From San Francisco’s perspective, so what? Right?
After all, the 49ers went all-in on Lance and still have Garoppolo in the folds for now. They aren’t in on Watson any longer.
Yet there is a potential ripple effect that could impact the Niners’ plans.
How a Deshaun Watson trade to Dolphins might impact 49ers’ plans with Jimmy Garoppolo
In an ideal world, San Francisco would prefer to trade Garoppolo, if not by the 2021 NFL trade deadline, then at least this upcoming offseason, all but opening the door for Lance to fully take over starting duties in 2022.
Garoppolo’s contract, which includes a $27 million cap hit next year, makes things difficult. Having a no-trade clause, Garoppolo would have to sign off on any trade, and it’s highly unlikely he’d accept a transaction that would result in the pursuing team wanting to restructure his deal.
Of the potential quarterback-needy teams out there on the current market, the Denver Broncos are arguably the only one with sufficient cap space ($14.6 million, third most in the NFL) to take on Garoppolo’s prorated salary this year while absorbing his contract next season. Denver and the 49ers have a good working relationship, too, thanks to both Lynch and Shanahan having associations there.
Related Story: 49ers could trade Jimmy Garoppolo to this AFC team
And when one factors in Broncos head coach Vic Fangio is trying to save his career while trying to navigate a not-so-great quarterbacking situation of his own, split between the unsuccessful Drew Lock and faltering Teddy Bridgewater, it makes sense why Denver could be a potential Garoppolo suitor.
Especially considering the Broncos have plenty of talent elsewhere on both sides of the ball within a wide-open AFC West.
But, if the Dolphins trade for Watson, they’d have an excess quarterback in second-year pro Tua Tagovailoa, who has shown improvements this year despite Miami’s 1-6 start. And while Tagovailoa’s future would be a massive question mark, it’s certainly possible Denver winds up pursuing him, both to capitalize on his own rookie contract while hoping he still had plenty of room for improvement as a young player.
It’s something this Sporting News article by Vinnie Iyer suggested could be a concrete possibility.
Should that be the case, the Broncos would be removed as one of the few potential suitors for Garoppolo in what’s already a dwindling market for his services, either this year or beyond.
Probably leading to the Niners being forced to release Garoppolo outright at whatever point instead of recouping any sort of compensation via trade.