NFL free agency season has been overtaken by Deshaun Watson watch.
After word came down last week that Watson would not be indicted by a grand jury — thus removing concerns of a criminal case impeding his ability to play — several teams jumped into the fray to make offers to the Texans for Watson. Among those teams are the Saints, Panthers, Browns and Falcons.
There are still unanswered questions with regard to Watson’s status. He is going through multiple depositions for the 22 civil lawsuits he still faces while his interviews with teams are ongoing. But teams appear to mostly be eyeing whether or not he will ultimately be suspended after sitting out all of last season due to legal issues around the sexual misconduct allegations against him.
Watson is also being selective about where he’s going, as reports have indicated he will only waive his no-trade clause for certain teams. While the Saints and Panthers have been the frontrunners in that regard, that could change. He has connections to the Falcons as well, while the Browns might be closer to contention than any of the aforementioned teams.
Here are the latest rumors on Watson’s status, as we wait to see where he ends up:
Latest Deshaun Watson news, trade rumors
11:03 a.m. — Wondering why the Panthers are out of the mix? Some context:
When the Panthers wouldn’t guarantee those years, Watson’s reps called Thursday night to inform Carolina no longer was under consideration, per league source. https://t.co/pVcAX5cGYB
— David Newton (@DNewtonespn) March 18, 2022
9:34 a.m. — Speculation as to how the deal might go down.
If Watson chooses the Falcons, I wonder if we don’t see Matt Ryan traded first.
Example: Ryan to Colts for draft picks, and those draft picks as part of a package to the Texans for Watson.
So, maybe we see the other domino fall before Watson is traded?
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 18, 2022
4:30 a.m. — “Presumably, we will have a decision today…”
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 18, 2022
-It’s been going this way for a while, but now official: Ian Rapoport reports that the Carolina Panthers are out for Deshaun Watson. Leaves just the Saints and Falcons, ostensibly into the weekend with the way things are trending.
-It doesn’t look like any deal is going to get done tonight (although anything can happen). Aaron Wilson reported that Watson is going to take a few days to deliberate Saints vs. Falcons, with the Falcons pushing back the timetable to make a decision on Matt Ryan’s restructure until Tuesday.
Deshaun Watson currently expected to take next few days and contemplate his decision over weekend, per league sources, over which team he’ll waive his no-trade clause for, and Falcons have pushed back Matt Ryan’s $7.5 million roster bonus from Friday to Tuesday
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 18, 2022
-Scratch another team off the list for Watson. The Athletic’s Joseph Person reported that the Panthers, one of the first two teams to interview Watson, are likely to be out on the quarterback “barring a Hail Mary.”
Barring a Hail Mary, seems to be headed this way for the Panthers as well. https://t.co/LN2F8SWbFY
— Joe Person (@josephperson) March 17, 2022
-Watson will not be going to Cleveland. According to Good Morning Football’s Mike Garafolo, the Browns have been told they will not be landing the Texans’ quarterback. Instead, they are planning on Baker Mayfield to be the team’s starting quarterback in 2022.
The #Browns have been informed they’re out of the running for Deshaun Watson, a source says. The team still views Baker Mayfield as their quarterback going forward. They told Mayfield’s agents at the Combine they’d only explore top-tier QBs such as Watson.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 17, 2022
-New Orleans Football’s Nick Underhill reported that the Saints met a second time with Watson on Wednesday. And according to Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson, the decision is believed to be between the Saints and Falcons.
The Saints brass met with Deshaun Watson a second time last night, according to sources.
— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) March 17, 2022
Saints are working hard to convince Deshaun Watson to waive his no-trade clause for them, per league sources. Decision is expected to ultimately come down to Saints vs. Falcons. Saints have been characterized as a leader for Watson. Maintained dialogue since first meeting
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 17, 2022
MMQB reporter Albert Breer said team owner Gayle Benson made the trip to Atlanta Wednesday night to meet with Watson.
Saints owner Gayle Benson traveled to Atlanta to meet with Texans QB Deshaun Watson last night, per sources. New Orleans won’t miss on Watson due to lack of effort.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 17, 2022
-ESPN’s Field Yates reported Thursday morning that the Saints have restructured several contracts to clear cap space, putting them at $29.9 million. ESPN’s Mike Triplett noted that space puts them in a position to be able to afford Deshaun Watson’s $35 million deal by either trading another player in a potential Watson deal or by adjusting Watson’s salary into a signing bonus.
This would give Saints nearly enough room to fit Deshaun Watson’s $35M salary-cap figure if they complete a trade — especially if they add a player salary into that deal as compensation.
They could later adjust Watson’s camp figure by converting his salary into a signing bonus. https://t.co/FQ3P5M6uvC
— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) March 17, 2022
-Deshaun Watson is “incredibly torn” about his choice of a new team, per ProFootballTalk. He was “impressed” by the presentations from the Panthers, Falcons, Saints and Browns.
Per source, Deshaun Watson is “incredibly torn.” He was impressed by the presentations from all four teams. They have made it very difficult for him to make a choice. There’s no specific timetable for a decision.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 17, 2022
Each organization reportedly had its general managers, owners and coaches in attendance at the presentations.
Per source, the four teams that met with Deshaun Watson (Saints, Panthers, Falcons, Browns), had their owners, General Managers, and coaches personally present for the sessions.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 17, 2022
–Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reports that a Watson trade may be coming “as early as today/tonight.” The Panthers, Falcons, Saints and Browns are all still in the mix for him.
–Ari Meirov reported Wednesday the Falcons never processed a Matt Ryan restructure that was anticipated last week. This means that Atlanta will not be moving any of Ryan’s $36.7 million cap hit this year, indicating there’s a chance they anticipated he may be moved.
-The Texans reportedly approved all trades prior to Watson meeting with teams, meaning that the Saints, Panthers, Browns, and Falcons all put together trade packages that meet Houston’s asking price. Watson will ultimately have his pick on where he goes, per Dianna Russini.
–According to Dianna Russini, Watson also reached out to the Falcons personally. What this means for Matt Ryan’s future is, of course, unclear.
-Per Ian Rapoport, the Browns are also meeting with Watson, casting doubt on Baker Mayfield’s status with the team.
From Free Agency Frenzy: The #Falcons have interest in Deshaun Watson, as do the #Panthers. But it appears as of now the #Saints may be in the strongest position. The #Browns meeting is this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/gPtbvq2ejw
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 15, 2022
-The Falcons are reportedly a sleeper team for Watson, with Watson hailing from Gainesville, Georgia. Watson and Falcons owner Arthur Blank also have a prior relationship.
The Falcons have emerged as a sleeper team to acquire Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, league sources tell @mortreport and me. The Falcons join the Panthers, Saints and Browns as teams that have met with, or are interested in, trading for Watson. More to come on ESPN.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 15, 2022
-The Saints and Panthers emerge among the first teams to make substantial offers for Watson. Ian Rapoport reports that Watson will be meeting with both teams before waiving his no-trade clause.
The #Saints and #Panthers have made offers for #Texans QB Deshaun Watson and are likely to meet with him soon, sources tell me and @TomPelissero. Other teams also are involved. Watson has a no-trade clause and wants to meet with teams before formally waiving it anywhere.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 13, 2022
–Corbin Smith reports that Texans are seeking at least three first-round picks in return for Watson.