Deshaun Watson rumors are running rampant right now. Reports indicate he is unhappy with the Houston Texans. There is also buzz that he is considering asking the franchise for a trade. Watson is one of the most intriguing quarterbacks in the league. It is not often that a bonafide franchise signal-caller is available on the trade block. If the opportunity presents itself, the San Francisco 49ers need to do everything they can to explore these Watson rumors and ultimately acquire him.
Deshaun Watson Is an Intriguing Off-Season Target for the San Francisco 49ers
There is not much precedent for a quarterback like Watson to be traded at this point of their career. It is hard to accurately gauge what potential trade package would be necessary to acquire him. It is safe to assume that the Texans would be asking for something substantial regarding these Watson rumors. Probably something like multiple first-rounders, multiple second-rounders, and maybe even Jimmy Garoppolo. An interesting detail in all this is that Nick Caserio was recently hired as general manager by the Texans. Caserio was an executive for the New England Patriots when Garappolo was with the team. Perhaps Caserio would be interested in a reunion with Garoppolo if he eventually pulls the trigger on a deal involving Watson and the 49ers.
The size of the demand should not deter the 49ers, though. If Watson becomes available, the 49ers need to find a way to acquire him. Quarterback is by far the most crucial position in football. Teams can spend decades in search of the elusive franchise quarterback. Watson is that type of quarterback. It is not a hypothetical like any number of quarterback prospects in the upcoming draft. Watson has put up remarkable statistics in his NFL career. Imagining what he could do on a roster like the one the 49ers possess is enticing.
Despite a completely dysfunctional organization around him, Watson once again put up impressive stats this past season. He will only be 26 come September. He is presumably just entering the prime of his career. Patrick Mahomes is the only quarterback with a higher career passer rating in the history of the league. It is almost unfathomable that someone with those types of credentials can be realistically available via trade before age 26. These Watson rumors are highly unusual for someone like this, and the 49ers need to pounce.
Potentially Moving on From Jimmy Garoppolo
Garappolo has become one of the most polarizing players in recent 49ers history. There are strong views on him in both directions. His most ardent defenders point to his strong 2019 season in which he was statistically one of the best quarterbacks in the league and led his team to the Super Bowl. His vocal critics assert that he’s injury-prone, makes questionable decisions, and needs a perfect supporting cast to succeed. He’s not elite, but he’s certainly not bad by any stretch.
The team has proven that they can win with him as a starting quarterback. All one has to do is look at this team’s record with and without him. Garoppolo is a good quarterback. It has always been about whether it was a good idea for the team to devote that much of their payroll to a guy who does not consistently elevate their play when the team needs them to be able to.
Essentially, Garoppolo is making a chunk of money that should only be reserved for the truly elite quarterbacks. He is instead probably just an above-average one. People will note that he is paid consistent with the market rate for an above-average quarterback. Just because multiple teams fall into the trap of devoting way too much of their payroll to quarterbacks who don’t deserve it isn’t an excuse to follow suit, though. Those quarterbacks get that money, and then it makes it hard for the team to be improved. There is just less money to go around to bolster the rest of the roster. If a quarterback is making something like 10 to 15 percent of a team’s total payroll, they better be able to put that squad on their back when necessary.
Financial Implications of Deshaun Watson
Watson has shown that he can be one of those types of quarterbacks. Unleashing him in a dynamic offense like the 49ers have when healthy could reap benefits. Watson has a total cap hit of $15.94 million in 2021, $40.4 million in 2022, and $42.2 million in 2023. There is a potential out after that season at just $5.4 million of dead cap. That’s three more seasons of real commitment to Watson. Whether he still deserves to be paid like a franchise quarterback after that will be determined.
A $2.8 million dead cap figure for Garoppolo exists if the 49ers release him this off-season. A $1.4 million dead cap figure exists if they were to release him next off-season. If Garoppolo remains on the roster, he represents a cap hit of about $26.2 million in 2021 and $27 million in 2022 before becoming a free agent. The 49ers have structured his contract so they wouldn’t be taking too much of a hit financially if they were to cut ties with him this off-season. Garoppolo is currently the best quarterback on the roster. It’ll be up to the front office to determine if they don’t need to explore other external options, like these Watson rumors.
An Off-Season of Uncertainty for the 49ers at Quarterback
There has been talk that veterans like Matt Ryan or Matthew Stafford could be available this off-season. It’s important to note that Kyle Shanahan went to a Super Bowl with Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. However, both of those two alternatives are older than Garoppolo. It’s also unclear if the package to acquire them would be worth it relative to what Garoppolo currently brings to the team.
There have also been mock drafts that suggest the 49ers could take someone like North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance with the number 12 overall pick in the draft. Any rookie quarterback comes with their fair share of question marks, though, especially an FCS quarterback like Lance.
Exploring Garoppolo’s Role in Lost Super Bowl
There are multiple reasons the 49ers lost their Super Bowl appearance to the Kansas City Chiefs last season, but one of the easiest to grasp is the quarterback. In the fourth quarter, Mahomes was able to construct a remarkable comeback. In hindsight, all it would have taken for the 49ers to hang on to a victory would have been just average (or even slightly below average) quarterback play from Garoppolo in the fourth quarter.
Despite having a solid game up to that point, Garoppolo went just 3/11 with an interception in the fourth quarter. Garoppolo didn’t even see a wide-open George Kittle on one of those third downs. He missed a deep throw to an open Emmanuel Sanders that would have given the 49ers the lead with about a minute and a half remaining. Had Garoppolo made just one or two more throws that quarter, the 49ers would probably have won that Super Bowl. It’s fair to point to questionable play calling from Shanahan that quarter. However, the fact remains that there were multiple throws that Garappolo missed that quarter that would have most likely resulted in a win had he connected.
Would another quarterback like Watson have made those throws? It’s impossible to answer a hypothetical like that, especially regarding as big of a stage as the Super Bowl. However, Garoppolo is no longer a hypothetical. All it would have taken for the 49ers to either run out the clock to preserve the lead or retake the lead late in the game was for Garoppolo to make the types of throws expected from a quarterback making the type of money he’s making.
Yes, there are examples of Garoppolo elevating his performance to lead his team to victory. The regular season shootout in 2019 against the New Orleans Saints comes to mind. However, Garoppolo threw a combined 27 passes in the two playoff games that led up to the Super Bowl. He also had the benefit of an elite defense on the other side of the ball. To act as if Garoppolo is indispensable or has earned the right for them not to look at other options is exaggerating his importance to the team’s success.
Yes, he’s a good quarterback who can win games. Nobody is arguing that. However, he has not proven able to lift his play when they most need him. He is almost guaranteed to make at least one “what was he thinking?” throw per game as well. It’s fair to wonder if another quarterback could get even more out of an offense filled with weapons as this team has.
49ers Must Swing for the Fences With Deshaun Watson
The 49ers shouldn’t be discouraged if Garoppolo is fully healthy next season and poised to be their starter. His record speaks for itself. However, he’s not at the level that the team shouldn’t consider jumping at an option like Watson that becomes available via trade. The draft capital would be a lot to give up. Finding a franchise quarterback is arguably the most difficult (and most crucial) thing to do in football, though.
Championship windows are fleeting. This 49ers roster is talented enough on both sides of the ball that there is no reason to believe they can not make another run at a title if they stay healthy next year. Opportunities like this do not come around often. Maybe we have seen the peak of what this roster can do with Garoppolo as the quarterback.
Bringing in Watson would give this team a better chance at winning a championship. Watson has the type of ability that’s worth the price tag he has. The lost draft picks are a difficult thing to swallow. It’s worth it to acquire a player that can help deliver a championship, though. Watson is a tremendous player. The 49ers need to figure out a way to cash in on these Watson rumors make him the quarterback of this roster.