The Deshaun Watson Sweepstakes: What do the Saints have to offer?

FILE - In this Dec. 27, 2020, file photo, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson throws a...
FILE - In this Dec. 27, 2020, file photo, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson throws a pass during an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Houston. Lawyers fighting sexual assault allegations against Watson face a predicament: Defending their client means working to discredit the claims of 22 women who are more likely to be believed in the #MeToo era. (AP Photo/Matt Patterson, File)(Matt Patterson | AP)
Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 3:40 PM CDT
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New Orleans, LA (KPLC) - After a grand jury denied not to indict Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson on Friday, the trade market was sure to heat up for the 26-year-old former first-round pick.

While the Carolina Panthers have long been rumored to have an interest, numerous other teams have also thrown their hats in the ring since Friday including, the New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons and reportedly the San Francisco 49ers— although there are conflicting reports on the 49ers’ interest.

It has been reported for some time that any trade offer for Watson must be centered around three first-round picks, which according to KPLC sources, the New Orleans Saints have offered Houston along with a few other pieces. While other suiters may be able to offer Houston a more desirable package for Watson, he does have a no-trade clause in his contract allowing him to make the final say on where he will play next season.

For the Saints, acquiring Watson would add a dynamic signal-caller to an offense that already has a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas and one of the NFL’s most versatile running backs in Alvin Kamara.

Pairing Watson with Thomas and Kamara, while keeping together most of the Saints’ top-10 defense, would make New Orleans a Super Bowl favorite for 2022.

The main challenge in the Saints’ pursuit of Watson is Carolina. The Panthers would be an interesting landing spot for Watson who played his collegiate career just a few hours away, winning a national title at Clemson. The Panthers also expect to return star running back Christian McCaffrey and receiver DJ Moore, who both would serve as consistent options for Watson.

A third NFC South team, the Atlanta Falcons, have attempted to swoop late in the sweepstakes and are planning to meet with Watson on Wednesday. Watson was born in Gainesville, Georgia which is just 55 miles northeast of Atlanta. Although a return home could be desirable, last week Atlanta’s projected number one weapon, wideout Calvin Ridley, was suspended for the entirety of the 2022 season for gambling on NFL games. Atlanta would also have to navigate the contract of current quarterback Matt Ryan who has a cap hit north of $36 million according to Spotrac. Atlanta also lost another receiver, former LSU Tiger Russell Gage, to NFC South rival Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

With so many NFC South teams involved, it’s obvious the Tom Brady factor has put further pressure on the rest of the division to get a franchise quarterback in place to be able to compete for the division title next year.

Joining the division rivals is the Cleveland Browns, who met with Watson Tuesday. While Cleveland boasts one of the best backfields in the NFL with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, their receiving corps took a hit over the last year releasing a pair of LSU stars in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Similar to Atlanta, Cleveland would also have to find a landing spot for its current starting quarterback Baker Mayfield. He would likely have plenty of suitors as a 26-year-old former first-overall pick with 59 starts under his belt.

According to reports, the Saints are currently the front runner. If New Orleans is unable to land Watson, they are expected to re-sign Jameis Winston who is recovering from ACL surgery after suffering a season-ending injury against Tampa Bay in week eight.

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