Last week, a rumor broke from nationally-syndicated radio host Dan Sileo that the Denver Broncos were on Deshaun Watson's top-5 list of preferred NFL destinations. The Houston Texans' disgruntled Pro Bowl quarterback is trying very hard to strong-arm his way out of town and, according to one rumor courtesy of NBC Sports' Chris Simms, has even threatened to sit out the 2021 season if the team doesn't trade him.
Enter GM George Paton and the Broncos. Based on the insider reporting, Paton was very much in the hunt for Matthew Stafford before the asking price ballooned through the roof and the brand-new GM wisely bowed out.
That tells us that Paton's thinking, at least for now, is focused on adding a day-one veteran upgrade at quarterback that would, in theory, allow the Broncos to maximize 2021 in what could be Vic Fangio's final year as head coach if he doesn't will the team to a record north of .500. Landing a fish like Watson might cost the Broncos an arm and a leg in compensation given up to the Texans, and it could very well mortgage the future, but it would definitely allow Fangio to compete in the AFC West as a bonafide threat in 2021.
But how can Paton be sure that if he goes all-in and exposes himself to media reports in the pursuit of Watson, that the three-time Pro Bowler will reciprocate and even consider Denver as a landing spot? According to 9NEWS' Mike Klis, the most plugged-in insider at Dove Valley, Paton has received assurances that Watson would listen to the Broncos' pitch, if one were made.
Klis laid it out in an interview on 104.3 The FAN's Schlereth and Evans morning show on Tuesday. The insider opened the Watson subject by revealing that Paton and the Broncos will indeed take a swing at landing the talented signal-caller when (if) the Texans make him available on the trading block.
"They'll go Watson. They'll be in it on Watson," Klis told hosts Mark Schlereth and Mike Evans. "At least, I think they want to monitor—I think things will be quiet until Watson shakes out—if he does shake out. There's a lot of people out there, Mark, I don't know what you think, there's a lot of people out there who think there's no way at the end of the day the Texans are trading Deshaun Watson. And I'm kind of still leaning that way. I'm going to believe Watson's available when I see it."
I once thought the way Klis does — that there's no way on God's green Earth that Houston will trade Watson. However, even after new GM Nick Caserio stubbornly said publicly that the Texans have no intention of making Watson available, the QB responded by threatening to sit out the season if he isn't dealt.
Now, the tables have turned. Watson has all the leverage and the truth is, even though the Texans don't want to give up their quintessential roster building block, the team stands to make a killing from whatever suitor actually lands him.
So, it's not as if the Texans will be devoid of any sort of return on Watson because the latest scuttlebutt is that such a trade would have to include at least two first-rounders plus a second- and/or third-rounder, as well as a foundational defensive player (or two).
Klis elaborated on Denver's genuine interest in Watson and how that was more than piqued by the assurances given by his handlers.
"They have—not through—they're not speaking to Watson themselves but I think they've got from the Watson party—agents or whatever—they've been assured the Broncos will be one of about four teams—four or five teams that Watson would like to listen to," Klis told The FAN.
If Watson will indeed countenance a trade to Denver, that could be all that Paton needs to make an aggressive push to land him. However, based on what we can safely assume the Texans will ask for, it will be difficult for Paton to be that aggressive in pursuit of Watson without coloring outside the lines into recklessness — something he vowed on day one he'd not do.
Klis went on to explain the parallels of Peyton Manning's recruitment back in 2012 and the state of the Broncos then. Manning saw a defensive-minded head coach in John Fox who could master that side of the ball, as well as a supporting cast, young though it was, that would allow him to hit the ground running.
Watson's perspective on the Broncos in 2021 is strikingly similar. Denver had Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Julius Thomas just waiting to be lifted up by quality QB play in 2012, while the Broncos' 2021 counterpart boasts the likes of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and Noah Fant.
Manning had a foundational left tackle in perennial Pro Bowler Ryan Clady while Watson, if indeed he were to land in Denver, would have an All-Pro in Garett Bolles protecting his blindside. There are other parallels but one aspect that separates the 2021 Broncos from its counterpart of yore?
The daunting presence of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West. Watson is no stranger to competing with Mahomes and company in the AFC but battling them twice a year in-Division while seeking Conference seeding supremacy could be viewed as an altogether different type of disincentive.
However, if Paton's philosophy is to strike while the iron is hot, this is the first clear and trustworthy report we have that reveals Watson would at least listen, if not reciprocate the Broncos' interest and willingness to roll out the red carpet.
"Deshaun Watson is looking at the Broncos," Klis told Schlereth and Evans.
For what it's worth, Klis' insight contradicts that of fellow Broncos insider Woody Paige, who reported last week that Watson has "no interest" in the Broncos. Put that in your pocket for now and file it under time will tell who's right.