By now, we all know Deshaun Watson wants out of Houston. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard this ad nauseam for the last two weeks. To say the rumors, predictions, and theoretical trade proposals have run rampant is an understatement. And rightfully so, as bonafide superstar quarterbacks in their 20’s rarely hit the trading block (and this is assuming the Texans relent and ultimately make Watson available).
When discussing potential trade partners, the Raiders were rarely mentioned, if at all, and when they were, it was in passing rather than something with actual substance. That is, until yesterday when Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Jon Gruden and company were interested in acquiring the disgruntled Texans quarterback through a three-team trade. The biggest hurdle? What this would mean for incumbent Raiders starter, Derek Carr, who just produced the best season of his relatively short career, throwing for 4,103 yards to go with 27 touchdowns, nine interceptions, and a QB rating of 101.4.
Over the course of the last two years combined, Carr has amassed 8,157 yards, 48 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, and a rating of 101.1. It’s safe to say he’s officially found his footing as a star in the NFL. And it’s because of this success that Carr has become a sought-after commodity in a league where the majority of teams are perpetually searching for an answer at the most important position in all of sports. It’s also the reason why such a complex transaction would even be possible.
In order for Watson to ultimately land in Las Vegas, the Raiders would have to stockpile, realistically speaking, four first-round draft picks to send to the Texans. This is where a third team comes into play. Reportedly, the Colts, Bears, Patriots, Saints, and the Washington Football Team (still weird to say) have all made calls to check on Carr’s availability. In theory, for Chicago to acquire Carr, they’d have to give the Raiders two first-round picks which Las Vegas would then send to the Texans along with their own first-rounders in 2021 and 2022.
Of course, in a perfect world, the Bears would go directly to Houston to work out a deal for Watson. But, thanks to the Rams, who sent two first-round picks, a third-round selection, and Jared Goff to Detroit in exchange for Matthew Stafford, the price tag for Watson may simply be too much of a bitter pill for the Bears to swallow. Which is why a trade for Carr, while still expensive, is more sensible and would afford Chicago a greater opportunity to fill multiple holes on the team’s roster. This becomes even more important when you consider how age is becoming a factor on defense.
In recent years, the Bears have been short on draft capital due to the Khalil Mack trade, forfeiting their first-round selections in 2019 and 2020 as well a third-round pick in 2020. If not for this, I’d be first in line clamoring for the Bears to correct their brutal miscalculation of choosing Trubisky over Watson/Mahomes. And, since the Bears chose not to tank, instead backing their way into the playoffs, they currently hold the 20th pick in the draft, at which point the top quarterback prospects will, in all likelihood, be off the board.
Which leads us back to Carr, who, despite his gaudy numbers over the course of the last two years, comes with red flags attached, most notably, as pointed out by my colleague Lucas Perfetti, Carr’s propensity to underperform in cold weather. Last season, he continued this trend when the Raiders visited Cleveland in Week 8, throwing for only 111 yards with one touchdown and a rating of 87.3 in a game Las Vegas somehow won 16-6.
However, in Week 13, he showed signs of breaking out of his cold-weather funk against the Jets when he put up 381 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception with a rating of 97.9 (game-time temperature of 39 degrees). In Week 17, he followed that up with another solid performance (371/2/2/91.0) at Denver. If he were to join the Bears, he’d obviously have to carry this momentum into next season seeing as how temperatures in Chicago tend to start dropping by the end of October.
Nevertheless, besides the two first-rounders it would take to acquire Carr, the risk is minimal in terms of his age (30) and contract, which expires in 2022. If he doesn’t live up to expectations, you let him walk. If he continues putting up the numbers he’s produced the last two years, you extend him or apply the franchise tag which allows the team to either work out a long-term deal or trade him to regain the draft picks they would give up to get him in the first place.
Most likely, the Raiders chose to stand pat and maintain their top-ten offense while using their draft picks to improve on defense. After all, many within the Raiders organization feel they’re only a few defensive players away from usurping the Chiefs for the AFC crown. But if, and when, an opportunity to add a player of Watson’s caliber comes along, it’s intoxicating and the Raiders have a history of being bold. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they pushed all their chips to the center of the table.
If they do, would the Bears steer their attention to Carr? Only time wheel tell.
I said I’d stop. I lied.