As soon as news emerged that superstar Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was frustrated with his situation in Houston, fans of at least 75 percent of the NFL's franchises began thinking of ways to get him in their favorite team's jersey. Outside of the four current playoff finalists and a handful of others, every team in the league would love to add a top-five QB in his prime.
That includes the Minnesota Vikings. Despite having Kirk Cousins –– a top-ten quarterback by virtually every statistic –– under contract for two more seasons, there's no doubt that Watson would be a major upgrade for the Vikings at the game's most important position. Photoshops of Watson in Vikings purple have circulated around social media, with fans allowing themselves to dream about a quarterback who could elevate the entire offense and give Minnesota a legitimate chance to contend for a championship.
I can't blame fans for dreaming. That's part of the fun of the offseason, after all. But allow me to be the bearer of bad news: it's not going to happen, for a multitude of reasons.
Reason No. 1: A Watson trade isn't a sure thing
Let's get this one out of the way first. While it's entirely possible, if not likely, that Watson has played his last game in a Texans uniform, it's also not a sure thing. He is reportedly frustrated with the leadership in Houston, which stems down from CEO Cal McNair and is centered around the presence and power of Jack Easterby, their controversial executive VP of football operations. McNair didn't take Watson's input into account when hiring GM Nick Caserio recently. Former coach Bill O'Brien did a ton of damage during his tenure, highlighted by the awful DeAndre Hopkins trade. There are a lot of reasons for Watson to want out.
But it may still be a salvageable situation. Maybe Caserio can make a compelling pitch to Watson as to why he should stay. If the Texans end up hiring Watson-endorsed Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy as their next head coach, that could help, too. It's in the best interest of the Texans to do everything they can to try to change Watson's mind in the coming months.
Reason No. 2: The Vikings don't have the draft capital to compete with top suitors
In the event that Watson does demand a trade, the Texans will probably be forced to listen to him. He's a hugely important leader in that locker room, and keeping him against his will could lead to major issues with the whole team in 2021.
If a trade ends up happening, it's going to require a massive haul from the other team. We're talking about a Herschel Walker-level return. It would almost certainly take three first-round picks to land Watson (unless a star player is involved in the return), considering less-valuable players like Jalen Ramsey, Jamal Adams, and Laremy Tunsil have recently gone for two first-rounders.
The reality is that the Vikings don't have the draft capital to compete with other top suitors for Watson. They don't have any additional future first-rounders besides their own, nor do they even have a second-round pick this year. The consensus top two suitors, the Jets and Dolphins, both have multiple first-round picks this year and other enticing picks to offer. They also have the cap space to take on Watson's contract and an easily tradable young quarterback. The Vikings, with minimal cap space and Cousins' expensive deal, have neither of those things.
Reason No. 3: A trade like this doesn't fit the Vikings' MO
If the Vikings really wanted to make a competitive offer for Watson, they might be able to. The starting point would have to be something like the No. 14 pick this year, the Vikings' 2022 first-rounder, and Danielle Hunter. Cousins would have to either be included in the trade, or if the rebuilding Texans had no interest, he would have to be traded to somewhere like San Francisco.
But even if the Vikings could do that, there's zero reason to believe that they would. Mike Zimmer talked in his season-ending press conference about wanting to have continuity on offense, saying that "offensively, we’ve gotten to the point where we have a chance to be a really, really good football team." He praised Gary Kubiak's scheme and how successful Cousins has been in it over the past two seasons. It was clear that he doesn't think the offense is the issue with this team going forward.
The defense is what they believe needs to improve in 2021. And the biggest piece of that is getting Hunter back healthy and terrorizing opposing linemen and QBs. They're not going to have any interest in trading Hunter unless he demands a massive raise, which still feels somewhat unlikely coming off of his neck surgery.
What it comes down to is that the Vikings appear to be content with Cousins at quarterback, don't have nearly as much draft capital to offer as teams like the Jets or Dolphins, and wouldn't want to part with assets like Danielle Hunter or Justin Jefferson in a Watson trade. So yes, it's fun to dream about, but it's just not realistic.
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