Before the Tennessee Titans drafted Malik Willis in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, they did their due diligence about the availability of high-profile quarterbacks that could potentially be looking for a change of scenery.
Two calls that they made were about Aaron Rodgers and his future with the Green Bay Packers, and Deshaun Watson’s inevitable breakup with the Houston Texans.
Ultimately Tennessee Titans GM Jon Robinson was just kicking the tires on these options, and the Packers re-signed Rodgers to a 3-year, $150 million contract, and the Texans traded Watson & a 2024 4th round pick to the Cleveland Browns for 3 first-round picks (22-24), a 2022 4th round pick, a 3rd round pick in 2023, and a 4th round pick in 2024.
Since then, the Watson situation has elevated to even more complicated heights. On May 24th, HBO’s Real Sports aired a segment with 2 of Watson’s accusers describing his alleged lewd and graphic behavior. Prompting a rebuttal from Leah Graham, a member of Watson’s legal team, to rebuff those claims at the end of the segment.
Should the Tennessee Titans have inquired about Deshaun Watson at all?
This is not an easy question to answer due to the major layers of civil lawsuits and lack of support from most fans in Cleveland due to the nature of Watson has been accused of over the last year.
Two grand juries decided that there was not enough evidence, and they ultimately moved to drop all criminal charges on March 11th. The upcoming additions of other accusers stepping forward could continue to make matters even more complicated.
In the case of the Titans’ interest in Watson, it is important to remember two points in this discussion. First, the Texans had no intentions of moving Watson to Tennessee and it is unlikely that the Titans really considered this a viable option anyway.
While there are rare occasions where you see division rivals make trades of this caliber (see New England Patriots QB, Drew Bledsoe being traded to the Buffalo Bills in 2002), this one was not in the Texans’ best interest.
Finally, Tennessee moved away from any further inquiries on the matter afterward, which was the right move.
Tennessee could not afford to be mixed in an extremely controversial move as bringing in Watson. Even if the Titans somehow made the trade in place of Cleveland they would be put in a position that I personally don’t think they could handle from a PR standpoint. Watson’s troubles are only growing worse and Adam Schefter said that he expects a “lengthy” suspension (see below).
As hard as it can be to stomach, a GM’s job is to explore every possible option to improve the roster he is in charge of building. In theory, there could have been a price low enough that the Titans would consider moving forward with trade talks that depended on them doing their own research into these allegations.
If the cost was a 2nd round pick and the Titans did a thorough investigation and couldn’t find any evidence that Watson was actually doing anything wrong, maybe a deal makes sense.
However, this isn’t a world of hypotheticals and there are some cases where it’s best to walk away and not further explore those options at the first sign of resistance.
In that sense, the Tennessee Titans were right to not push a trade that would potentially hurt not only the team but also their public image in the community as well.