One problem for the Chicago Bears when pondering the possibility of them trading for Deshaun Watson: What would make them a preferred destination for the quarterback after they passed him over in the draft for Mitch Trubisky?
Watson has a no-trade clause in his contract, so if the Houston Texans wind up considering what was previously unthinkable and trading him, the three-time Pro Bowl selection would have leverage.
“You’re gonna have to live with the consequences that come with it. That’s how I see it,” Watson said two days before the 2017 draft when asked on NFL Network about the possibility the Bears would take Trubisky ahead of him.
“I try to stay in my lane. I try not to take the path. I respect Mitch and what he’s done and all the hype he’s getting, but at the same time, my result speaks for itself. I feel like I’ve accomplished everything that I could. I guess if that’s who they’re gonna roll with, so be it.”
How could the same Ryan Pace-led front office that evaluated Trubisky over Watson look like a good group for Watson to partner with, especially now with Pace and coach Matt Nagy destined to enter the 2021 season on the hot seat? What would drive Watson to a city where quarterbacks haven’t flourished since Sid Luckman in the 1940s?
The bigger problem for the Bears is if Watson does become available via trade — and ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted Sunday there is “a growing sense from people in and around the Texans’ organization that Deshaun Watson has played his last snap for the team” — he would have to work with the Texans to make a deal happen.
Trading Watson has to be the last thing the Texans, who have yet to hire a head coach, want to do. But this storyline is gaining momentum as owner Cal McNair and his team stumble along. The Texans’ bungling of the situation is incomparable in terms of epic NFL disasters. It makes the Bears’ calamitous public relations effort last week look like a tour de force.
Let’s say the Texans arrive at the point of no return and conclude they have to trade a player who is easily a top-five quarterback in the NFL, maybe even a top-three talent. They would seek a massive return, and the list of teams at least initially interested would be long. The Texans would want massive draft capital or a huge haul of draft picks and a quarterback in return, and they would have to get Watson to work with them to find a deal that works for all parties.
The Bears don’t have a quarterback to send to Houston. Nick Foles wouldn’t be of interest to the Texans. With the 20th pick in the first round, the Bears can’t give them a pick that is likely to help them replace Watson in the beginning stage of a rebuild.
The New York Jets, for example, could package the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, quarterback Sam Darnold and a bunch of other picks if they have interest in Watson. There’s nothing the Bears could do to compete with that type of offer.
Meanwhile, Tua Tagovailoa might not have done anything during his rookie season to make him interesting to the Texans, but the Miami Dolphins own the Nos. 3 and 18 picks in the first round. The Atlanta Falcons (No. 4), Philadelphia Eagles (No. 6), Detroit Lions (No. 7), Carolina Panthers (No. 8) and Denver Broncos (No. 9) also have top-10 picks and could be in the quarterback market.
Pace’s six-year tenure has been defined, for better or worse, by his aggressive nature. He made a bold trade to add outside linebacker Khalil Mack. He traded up to draft Trubisky and Leonard Floyd in the first round. He has traded up in Day 2 of the draft, too, for players such as wide receiver Anthony Miller and running back David Montgomery.
So it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Pace would get creative in a bid to add Watson. Four years late, Pace could right a wrong after the Texans developed Watson and had the benefit of him playing his first three seasons on a rookie contract.
Watson could reflect on the Week 14 game at Soldier Field and think positively about the Bears, who pummeled the Texans 36-7. Maybe he would appreciate their culture and agree with team President Ted Phillips’ assessment that “everything else is there” but the quarterback and the number of wins the team desires.
Or maybe he looks at the Bears, coming off an 8-8 season and a wild-card playoff loss in New Orleans, and figures the defense is in decline and notes they haven’t been able to sign their best offensive player, wide receiver Allen Robinson, to a new contract.
In the days leading up to the game against the Bears on Dec. 13, Watson did his best to sidestep storylines about the Bears and the 2017 draft, probably knowing on an awful Texans team, he wasn’t in position to crow .
“It’s no motivation,” Watson said of the Bears drafting Trubisky. “It’s what the organization went with. I had no ties, nothing against the Chicago Bears or the organization. Of course the media’s going to make stories, and of course those fans, they’re going to say something about it. They thought it was the best situation for themselves at that time.”
Even at an extreme price of several first-round picks, Watson would represent the best option for a Bears franchise in desperate need of a quarterback. Add Watson, make a good hire to replace retired defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano and all of a sudden the Bears are a threat.
It’s possible the Texans would want to trade Watson to an NFC team, and maybe the Bears in a huge market would represent an appealing landing spot. Trades cannot be processed until March 17, the first day of the new league year, and that leaves two months for speculation that Pace can collaborate on a deal for Watson.
While the Texans seemingly implode, it seems likely the Bears will have to continue to deal with the consequences of the 2017 draft.