The Deshaun Watson/ Houston Texans saga is about to hit full steam once the free agency market and by extension, the new league begins so you know with the official announcement that Deshaun Watson wants out of the Texans organization via trade, the Dallas Cowboys have been drawn into this thing as a possible destination for Watson to land as the Cowboys continue to negotiation (at a snails pace) with their starting QB Dak Prescott. Prescott will become a free agent if the Cowboys are unable to get a long term deal done.
As it stands, with the Cowboys season official over, they can move to sign the formerly tagged franchise QB right now. That’s right. That’s not a typo and no, they DO NOT HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THE START OF FREE AGENCY to agree to a long term deal. If we went to sleep and woke up tomorrow to news that Dak and the Cowboys have agreed to terms on a new deal, it would be official, with the signing of said contract in the new league year making it complete. Overstating the point a bit, the guessing game with when the contract will come combined with the cost of the deal, along with the seemingly lack of urgency from the Cowboys front office has put the light of a possible trade option for Deshaun Watson on the table.
Let me just say this and get this out of the way: I don’t believe the Cowboys should pull that trigger. Deshaun Watson is a very talented Quarterback in his own right. Not taking anything away from him. But Dak and Deshaun are two sides of the same coin. And while some believe that Watson is simply better than Dak, that isn’t the absolute fact. Nor is stating that there is nothing that Dak does is comparable to Watson.
Dak and Deshaun are nearly the same kind of QB and if that’s the case, why would it make sense for the Cowboys to give up picks and players to bring in the same guy they already could have signed to a long term deal.
Before we talk about the players, let’s talk about the money.
What has made Deshaun Watson such an appealing trade option aside from his talent is his contract. The Houston Texans already have the paid up on the 2020 season. With that on the Texans books, a team trading for Watson would inherit the remainder of his deal at 5 years/ $146M (29.3 APY). That’s a big savings if you’re the Cowboys. Dak Prescott’s deal will likely be somewhere in the $39.5-$41M range once the numbers hit, allowing him to jump Watson for the number 2 spot on the QB contract chart.
Considering the looming potential for a lower salary cap for the 2021 season, teams could be forced to make some tough decisions with a salary cap window at $175M. The Cowboys could easily add relief to team by adding Watson and his contract.
But to counter that point, while the contract is appealing, the cost to get him away from Houston would require an enormous amount of assets. Most speculate that a trade of this magnitude would require at minimum two 1st round picks just to start the conversation. And considering the amount of work the defense needs, giving up a bunch of first round picks, or a bunch of picks in general doesn’t seem to be the move.
Besides, as I said before, Watson and Prescott are a lot closer than most would want to admit.
Prescott was drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 draft, while Watson was drafted a year later in the 1st round pick (12th overall) the following year. Both have displayed elusiveness inside and outside the pocket, mobility, rushing ability, and the ability to escape the pass rush. Both have also shown tremendous skill as passers in their own right, with Watson posting a QBR of 70.5 the last two seasons and a passer rating above 95 in the same span. Prescott on the other hand, has shown and made strides as a passer. Moving on from Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan’s run first philosophy to a more pass heavy system, Dak was allowed to showcase his arm talent becoming one of the better and more accurate passers in the league in 2019, especially when it came to the deep ball. Dak continued to showcase that same arm talent in the 2020 season before it was cut short because of a season-ending injury.
Watson does show to be a dangerous rusher with the football over Dak, breaking off huge runs at different times throughout his career so far. Dak has done similar in his own right, just not at the kind of pace Watson has, choosing to make more plays from the pocket or on the run while continuing to look downfield to make a play. When comparing arms, Watson has boasted the stronger arm in my opinion. That doesn’t mean that Dak doesn’t have an arm, but the difference is there. Over their careers so far, Watson gets the edge in passer rating at 104.5 to Dak’s 97.3.
In terms of accuracy, it’s close. Watson gets the edge in terms of On Target % with a 78.6% to Prescott’s 77.35%. Conversely, Prescott gets the edge making less bad throws than Watson with a Bad Throw % of 15.7 to Watson’s 16.4. Both QBs have had to deal with up and down oline play but have had the same amount of time in the pocket at 2.5 seconds. Despite that, Watson has taken more sacks than Dak with difference of 66 sacks.
Both QB’s also share something else. Their playoff record. Both QBs are 1-2 in the post season with Dak having a higher completion % (64.1/63.5) and has thrown more TD’s in the post season as opposed to Watson (5 to 4). Again, it’s still close.
All of these things factoring in, Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson are near mirror images of each other. Even in stats that Watson beats Dak in, the difference isn’t tremendous. So for the Cowboys to make a move for Watson would be lateral at best and damaging to a team that could use the collateral from trading for Watson to fix the defense, add depth to the offensive line, and simply pay Dak Prescott. I get that admitting this close comparison between Watson and Dak isn’t a popular thing considering that most love to heap praise on Watson as opposed to shading Dak.
Don’t believe me?
Just this past season, Deshaun Watson was praised for having one of his best seasons as a Quarterback in his career, throwing for a career high passer rating of 112.4 and a QBR of 70.5, 4,823 yards passing, 33 TD’s, and a career high 70.2 completion %. And that’s with the Texans going 4-12 on the season. A losing record. Yet, when Dak broke his career numbers as a passer in 2019 and the Cowboys went 8-8, Dak was criticized by everyone under the sun, having his numbers disregarded under the premise of “garbage time” or simply “empty calories”. Not to mention the narratives that “Dak can’t beat teams with winning records. Yet, no one seemed to mention that last season, Deshaun Watson’s only victories in the 4-12 season were against teams that combined for a record total of 13-35 (Jags x2, Lions, and Patriots).
All I’m saying is keep that same energy.
Deshaun Watson is a great QB, no question about it. But the Cowboys need to stay the course and take care of Dak, who’ve they’ve professed from the mountains that he’s there “franchise guy”. They’ve had plenty of chances to get a deal done and no matter what the reasons, it’s the front office’s job to get a deal done. The player isn’t responsible for watching the salary cap or giving concessions because the team made some questionable decisions in player contracts instead of taking care of the most important position on the football team.
But don’t let that noise fool you either. The Cowboys can get the deal done if they want. It’s time for them to get that deal done.