If Matthew Stafford can command such a massive haul in a trade, what in the world is the younger, better Deshaun Watson going to be worth?
It’s the question that everyone in the NFL was pondering late Saturday night. The problem is using the Rams-Lions trade as a measuring stick is not an entirely apples-to-apples comparison for a couple reasons.
If the Texans reverse course from this week’s “zero interest” stance and decide to fulfill Watson’s trade request, they will want two first-round picks, two second-round picks and two young defensive starters “at the least,” according to the Houston Chronicle.
The Rams traded two first-round picks, a third-round pick and quarterback Jared Goff to the Lions for Stafford.
But one complication is that not all first-round picks are created equally.
The Rams, who have not made a first-round pick since 2016 because of a series of trades, have won at least nine games in each of the last four seasons and thus typically earn a pick after the top 20. That draft position could fall lower in the future if Stafford elevates the Rams to a Super Bowl contender.
The Jets and Dolphins – two of the primary suitors for Watson – hold the No. 2 and No. 3 picks, respectively, in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Using the old Jimmy Johnson-created points chart for draft-pick value, the Jets’ pick is worth 2,600 points and the Dolphins’ pick (originally belonging to the Texans) is worth 2,200, while the Rams’ pick at No. 25 (which now belongs to the Jaguars) is worth just 720 points. In other words, a top-three pick is worth three first-rounders in the Rams’ range.
The other complication is Goff’s contract. Whereas having Watson under contract through 2024 on a four-year, $156 million deal is seen as fair market value, Goff’s recent performance does not equate to his big deal.
The Rams would’ve been strapped to handle adding Stafford’s $20 million salary-cap hit and the four-year, $134 million extension they gave to Goff. So, they absorbed a $22.2 million dead cap hit to dump Goff’s salary.
The Lions reportedly wanted a greater return to take on Goff’s contract – hence the additional draft picks when other teams were willing to part with a higher first-round pick for Stafford.
But, because the Rams are on the hook for the prorated signing bonus money, the Lions only are making a one- or two-year commitment to Goff as their starter. He could be released after 2022 with no dead cap for the Lions.
If the reported asking price for Watson is correct, the Jets could part with the draft compensation without much impact. They have four first-round picks, two second-round picks and three third-round picks over the next two drafts.
The stickier part for the Jets would be adding two young defensive starters. The Texans almost certainly would demand rising star defensive lineman Quinnen Williams as one of the two.
A case could be made that asking for the third-year pro Williams is like asking for a third first-round pick to go with the rest of the package.