The Deshaun Watson-Miami Dolphins Saga

We’ve heard it for nine months, but Watson to Miami chats are heating up again. The Dolphins would be risking too much to make it happen.

Deshaun Watson Miami Dolphins Saga
Credit: Miami Herald

The Build Up

The Deshaun Watson-Miami Dolphins Saga started nine months ago when he officially requested a trade out of Houston. Since January 28th, the Dolphins have been rumored to be interested in the Pro Bowl QB.

Miami was heavily discussed among the national media when Watson’s preferred destinations became public and Miami was first on that list. The media questioned whether Chris Grier and Brian Flores believed in Tua Tagovailoa. They also thought Stephen Ross was pressing for Watson. Maybe it was everyone in the organization wanting Watson because he gave the team a better chance to compete for a Super Bowl now rather than a year or two later.

Everything became a lot more complicated in the spring, though. Between March 16th and April 14th, Deshaun Watson was accused of sexual assault and harrassment by 23 different women. Many expected Watson to be placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List until his legal matter was sorted out, but that didn’t happen(and still hasn’t). This would have shutdown trade talk as he wouldn’t have been able to play for the time being. 

The Watson to Miami rumors continued throughout the offseason, but finally cooled down a few weeks before the season started.

Well, that was until August 29th. Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reported that the Miami Dolphins were frontrunners to land Deshaun Watson. The NFL world picked up right where they left off, debating what it would take for Miami to land Watson.

The Latest Updates

Over the first three weeks, talks about Watson to Miami had decreased again.

This time, it was Jay Glazer who dropped big news. On September 29th, Glazer tweeted Miami is still the most likely landing spot.

Glazer never said a deal was sure to get done. He just said that if a deal were to happen, Miami is the likeliest to make it happen. He then doubled down, telling fans to “keep an eye on this situation.” 

On September 30th, Alex Donno suggested a trade was very likely to happen and said Monday is the day it will get done.

Josina Anderson reported similar news soon after.

All of this could just be speculation and smokescreening. Alex Donno’s source is someone close to Nick Caserio. Could that be Caserio trying to drive up the asking price? There are way too many scenarios at this point to know what’s going to happen with Watson.

Is Watson an Upgrade over Tua Right Now?

Whether Watson would be an upgrade over Tua Tagovailoa at this point in time doesn’t seem to be much of a debate. Deshaun Watson has proven to be one of the best QB’s in the league when healthy and playing. 

Watson is a 3x Pro Bowler who has only improved as his career goes on. Last year, Watson threw for 4,823 yards and 33 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions. Watson is also a significant threat with his legs. Over the equivalent of 3.5 seasons, Watson has 1,677 yards on the ground and 17 touchdowns. 

The numbers and play speak for themselves. Watson can be a franchise QB for years to come.

Does this mean Tua Tagovailoa is a bust? No. Does it mean Tua can not become what Watson is? Also no. 

But at this point in time, Watson is a better QB than Tagovailoa. For that reason it’s understandable why Miami, or any team, would be doing their due diligence on Watson.

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple and there are numerous risks involved.

Potential Risks of Bringing Deshaun Watson to the Miami Dolphins

There are numerous significant risks involved for the Miami Dolphins. Most of the risks all branch from one main issue: 23 sexual assault allegations.

  1. If Deshaun Watson is traded to the Miami Dolphins, his allegations will not disappear. Although he is able to play right now, it’s possible he’s placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List after a trade is made. This would make him ineligible to play. Yes, Miami would negotiate something in the deal that would void the trade if he isn’t able to play a snap; however, it’s a risk nonetheless.
  2. Since he isn’t already on the Exempt List, it could be fair to assume he won’t be placed on it until at least the end of this year. Assuming Watson can play immediately, he’d play 13 games at the most this year. After this season, his legal situation may still be undecided and put next seasons status in question.
  3. Miami would be giving up a lot of assets to secure Watson. According to the most recent reports, the Texans are asking for 3 first-round picks and 3 other assets. Those three other assets would likely be a variation of second and third round picks. Giving up 6 draft picks that could be used to build a deep team would be a major risk for an organization that seems to be headed in the right direction after 20 years of mediocrity.
  4. There’s also a risk from the long-term POV. If Tagovailoa develops into the QB we all know he is capable of being next year, this move will be questioned for years to come due to the amount Miami will have given up. Of course, it’s a risk in and of itself betting on Tua to reach a great level. However, from long-term, giving up 6 high picks and letting Tua become a great QB on another team would make the Watson move seem unnecessary in retrospect. The Dolphins are in year 2 of a rebuild, and don’t need to force success right now. They have time to see if Tagovailoa can develop into who they think he’s capable of being. 
  5. Innocent until proven guilty is a thing. At this moment, Deshaun Watson is innocent. But when a person has 23 allegations of sexual assault, giving up 6 picks and likely giving up on Tua Tagovailoa may not be a great look for the organization. Obviously, if Watson comes to Miami, the legal issues go away, and he wins, then all will be peaceful. But now, trading for him would reflect poorly on the organization.

Are the Risks Worth the Reward?

If someone told the Miami Dolphins management and staff that Deshaun Watson would constantly be top-5 QB in the league and the Dolphins would be Super Bowl Contenders for at least the next 10 years, they’d absolutely pull the trigger. They’d probably do it for more than “just” six picks.

Unfortunately, as I explained above, it isn’t that simple. 

When taking into account what Miami will have to give up, the backlash they’d face, and the fact that Watson’s legal matters are far from complete, a trade to Miami does not make sense.

In 2019, the Dolphins stripped their entire roster and were assembled to fail. The end goal was to have a high enough draft pick to select Tua Tagovailoa. They did exactly that. He started 9 games and went 6-3. 

This past offseason, the Dolphins added playmakers on the offense for Tua. They drafted Jaylen Waddle and signed Will Fuller. The Dolphins also named Charlie Frye their QB Coach. Frye has worked with Tua since high school. Co-OC’s George Godsey and Eric Studesville designed an offense to fit Tagovailoa that is RPO based. This offense allows him to use his accuracy and quick decision making to move the ball.

It’s been almost 18 months since Tagovailoa was drafted. He’s started 10 games, and won 7 of them. The organization has built around Tua as if he is the man of the future.

Risking the last 18 months of work and giving up a plethora of valuable future assets for a QB with an uncertain legal matter seems very dangerous. The reward would be huge(so would the price for that reward), but as of now, the risk is bigger.

Overall

We in the public have no clue what’s going to happen. We have heard this rumor more times than I can recall at this point. If it’s going to happen, it may get done as soon as Monday. But we’ve heard this so many times, it’s likely the same this time. Houston smokescreens, media narratives, and fan impatience seem to be driving this discussion more than anything.

Trading for Watson would require Miami to give up substantial future assets, be extremely confident that the legal matters will have absolutely no further impact on his NFL career, and likely mean giving up on Tua Tagovailoa.

That seems like a costly price to pay for anyone. 

The Dolphins should stick with Tua Tagovailoa and give him the opportunity to lead the team to the finish line this year. If they are displeased and ready to make a move, maybe Watson’s situation will have more clarity in the offseason. At that point, Houston may reach the point of trading him for far less than what they’re asking now.

At this point, it makes no sense for the Miami Dolphins to trade for Deshaun Watson.

Follow Rishi Desai on Twitter.

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