I am all in on the idea of the Minnesota Vikings trading for disgruntled Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Quarterbacks of his caliber rarely become available, especially after the first year of a contract extension.
Watson and the Texans’ situation has become increasingly volatile. Texans ownership said they would seek his input when they hired a new general manager and head coach and didn’t, leading to Watson’s trade demand.
With his departure looking imminent, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell came up with 17 trade proposals ($) ranked from least to most likely. The 10th trade he listed was a three-way deal between the Vikings, Texans, and the New England Patriots.
Minnesota would trade the 14th and 90th overall picks in 2021, their first-round pick in 2022 and their first-round pick in 2023 to Houston, and QB Kirk Cousins to New England.
Houston trades their 2023 fourth-round pick and Deshaun Watson to the Vikings.
And the Patriots trade their 2022 fifth-round pick, 2023 fifth-round pick, and QB Jarrett Stidham to the Texans.
Sure, some of you see the Vikings giving up too much here, but I don’t think this is a massive overpay.
Last year Minnesota entered the bye week 1-5 and finished 7-9 in large part because injuries were hampering an already inexperienced defense. With the return of players like Danielle Hunter, Michael Pierce, Eric Kendricks, and Anthony Barr — plus the progression of last season’s rookie corners Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney — they could return to being a top-10 unit in the league.
Despite the offense finishing top-5 in yards per game last season, the 1-5 start is due to the offense often putting their defense in precarious positions. Cousins was atrocious to start the season, throwing ten interceptions in the first six games.
While the maligned QB cleaned up his play in the second half of the season, this isn’t the first time we have seen him go through a slump. Yes, Cousins gets criticized more than he deserves because of his contract, but he’s liable to make a costly play two to three times a game that makes you wonder what he was thinking.
When the reports of Watson’s discontent with his current situation surfaced, I predicted that it would take the three first-round picks and compensation to take on the Cousins contract to land Watson. I would have been more than happy to give that up to land a franchise player.
When was the last time this franchise had a consistent top-5 QB? Minnesota hasn’t had a long-term solution since the days of Fran Tarkenton. They signed Cousins to fill that role, and while he has been durable and provided a sense of stability, he is not among the best players at his position.
Watson would add another dynamic player to the Vikings offense that has playmakers at every level. Cousins isn’t able to extend the play once the pocket collapses; Watson does so with ease. Given the state of the Vikings’ offensive line, it’s vital to have a quarterback who can extend plays by rolling out of the pocket, something that Case Keenum regularly did during their 13-3 season in 2017.
With Watson under center, the Vikings could move off of Mike Zimmer’s run-first scheme. Last weekend it was clear that the teams that had made it to the championship games had won by using the run to set up an aggressive passing game. The leading rusher from both games was Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who ran for 88 yards. The leading running back was Leonard Fournette, who only totaled 55 yards on the ground.
Cousins needs to be on a run-first team and operate out of play-action to succeed. That run-first philosophy drove Stefon Diggs out of town in the offseason and could do the same to Justin Jefferson if the Vikings don’t adjust.
Watson has never had a running back of Dalvin Cook’s ability in Houston. He would benefit from having weapons like Adam Thielen and Jefferson working the outside — a luxury taken away from him in Houston when they traded away Deandre Hopkins in the offseason.
This trade package makes sense for the Texans. They would recoup the picks that they lost from Bill O’Brien’s ill-fated trades earlier in the year and give new GM Nick Caserio and their new coach some draft capital to work with. It would also set them up for a full rebuild, which would be hard to justify with Watson in his prime.
And it became clear that the Patriots are still a win-now team despite finishing 7-9. Their special teams and defense are still elite, but the only thing they were missing this season was a reliable quarterback. With the Cam Newton experiment appearing to be over in Foxborough, it makes sense for them to pursue a quarterback with a low-floor, limited-ceiling quarterback. Someone like Cousins.