When Is Deshaun Watson a Free Agent? Trade Rumors Swirl Around Texans QB

The Houston Texans' decision to hire Nick Caserio to be the franchise's new general manager was supposed to be a step towards addressing some of the issues that have beset the organization over the last few seasons. Instead, the Texans may have created an even bigger problem for themselves, as star quarterback Deshaun Watson is reportedly disgruntled with the way Houston handled the process of filing its GM vacancy.

ESPN and NFL Network both reported Watson was "extremely unhappy" after feeling the franchise did not consult him over the hiring of Caserio, who will replace Bill O'Brien, the head coach and de facto GM fired after the Texans started 0-4 this season.

Watson offered his input on potential replacements for O'Brien and met with Texans owner Cal McNair "several times" to discuss a host of candidates he felt would be a good fit for the franchise.

Watson's suggestions, however, were ignored and ESPN reported Houston neither "considered nor consulted" the candidates its star quarterback had put forward and did not inform him of the decision to hire Caserio, who held several executive roles with the New England Patriots over a two-decade span.

On Tuesday night, shortly after finding out about the hire, Watson posted a since-deleted tweet reading: "Some things never change".

While Watson is understood to have no issues with Caserio, NFL Network and ESPN indicated he is extremely disappointed with the way the Texans handled the process, particularly as the hire of Caserio comes less than a year after the franchise traded star wideout DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals without informing Watson.

Additionally, Sports Illustrated reported the Texans have also overlooked Watson's suggestion to interview Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy for their head coaching vacancy. Romeo Crennell was promoted from assistant coach to interim head coach after O'Brien was fired in October, but Houston is looking for a new permanent head coach and Watson had championed Bienemy's cause. The Chiefs offensive coordinator has long been considered one of the main candidates for a head coaching job in the NFL, but the Texans did not even go as far as asking the Chiefs permission to interview him.

Coming off the back of a 4-12 season—Houston's joint-worst record since 2013 and only the second time in six years the franchise has missed the playoffs—Watson's disenchantment with the Texans swiftly led to rumors he could be seeking a trade away from the team that pulled him with the 12th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, as per Pro Football Talk and ESPN.

There has been no indication the Texans would even consider the possibility of trading Watson, who will become an unrestricted free agent in 2026, and parting ways with their star quarterback would involve a major financial hit. Houston signed Watson to a four-year, $177.5 million extension in September, which keeps him under contract through the 2025 season.

The contract is the second-largest in NFL history after Patrick Mahomes' monster 10-year extension with the Chiefs and includes $111 million in guarantees for Watson.

As per figures from Overthecap, the Texans would have to absorb a $21.6 million hit in salary cap should they decide to trade their quarterback, whose salary will account for 8.6 percent of their total cap next season.

Should the Texans opt to trade Watson, they could spark a bidding war as the three-time Pro Bowler has established himself as one of the league's best quarterbacks during his four seasons in the NFL. Watson threw for a league-high 4,823 yards this season and his 112.4 passer rating was second only to that of MVP favorite Aaron Rodgers.

Watson recorded league-best figures in both yards per attempt and yards per completion—8.9 and 12.6 respectively—and his 33 passing touchdowns were the seventh joint-highest tally in the regular season and he ranked third in completion percentage, behind Rodgers and Drew Brees.

According to Pro Football Focus, Watson's 5,267 yards this season accounted for 83.5 percent of the Texans offensive production, the highest percentage of its kind in the NFL.

On the flip side, trading Watson would almost certainly land the Texans a bountiful of much-needed first-round picks. Houston currently does not have a pick in the first two rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft after a series of questionable trades and is $17.7 million over the salary cap.

Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans in action against the Tennessee Titans during a game at NRG Stadium on January 3 in Houston, Texas. Carmen Mandato/Getty