HOUSTON - "Never say never'' is a dangerous phrase. Yes, no one wants to take back their words, but sometimes that's easier said than done.
So yes, the Houston Texans never could imagine themselves trading away Deshaun Watson. They never believed a 25-year-old quarterback coming off a record-setting year would want to be anywhere else but where he signed in September.
Again, never say never.
Watson wants a trade from Houston entering the 2021 offseason. New general manager Nick Caserio has no intention of letting him leave. And as for first-time head coach David Culley? He's in Houston because he "is certain" Watson will be under center next season.
However, what if Don Corleone comes calling with an offer they cannot refuse?
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Enter Corleone — better known as David Tepper.
Per a report from ESPN's David Newton, the Carolina Panthers will be aggressive to add Watson this offseason. The asking price? This is the reporter's speculation, but he's gone with this: Three first-rounders and running back Christian McCaffery.
Running backs are a dime a dozen, but then again, McCaffery is a two-time reception leader at his position. Pairing him with a high-tempo passing offense would ploy into his average $16 million salary.
Exit Watson, enter a new regime. But, who is the leading man?
Teddy Bridgewater would likely available for trade. Houston would be on the hook for $20 million, but Caserio also could restructure the deal since Bridgewater was only guaranteed $33 million when signing last season.
Bridgewater's surname describes his role in an offense. A bridge. He'll win enough games to look competent, but don't expect him to be the reason a franchise is in the postseason.
The attention turns to the eighth overall pick. Bridgewater would work short-term, but Houston needs a long-term answer. In the end, two names comes to mind should Houston be on the clock.
Justin Fields and Trey Lance.
Fields is coming off a two-year stint as the Ohio State quarterback. He needed just 21 games to become the No. 2 passer in Buckeyes history, leading his team to a pair of College Football Playoff outings and a chance for the title in 2021.
Lance, a one-year starter for North Dakota State, followed suit in Fargo history for the Bison program. FCS or not, his lone season was one of the more impressive on the stat line: A 42-touchdown, zero-interception impressive line.
What could Caserio be looking for in the end? Accuracy? Fields would finish first. Quick decision-making? Lance takes the lead. Both are athletic under center and can extend plays behind a ho-hum offensive line
Replacing Watson? Good luck to both.
It's a sensitive subject to speak of in Houston. The Texans are "all-in" on Watson as their guy, but moves made might look as if they're one foot out the door.
And until otherwise, the Watson Watch has no end on the horizon.
Houston will lose should Watson depart. They could win for the long-term if either Lance and Fields can hit quick.
For now, someone will need to bridge the rocky gap if a new era commences at NRG Stadium. If this trade discussion truly comes to fruition, Houston will at least have options.
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