The NFL playoffs are in full swing but the biggest storyline may be happening in cities without rooting interests in the postseason. One of the league's star quarterbacks may be on the block. A coach who won a Super Bowl less than five years ago was just relieved of his duties. The drama of the NFL offseason is starting early and in this article, we'll look at the possible outcomes for a few of the NFL's biggest conundrums right now. I'll recap some of the playoff injury news at the bottom as well.
Where Will Deshaun Watson Land?
Reports have surfaced that there is a growing rift between Watson and Houston management over a number of issues including their hiring practices. Watson was supposedly furious over the hiring of GM Nick Caserio and is not pleased with Houston neglecting to give Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy an interview for their head coaching vacancy. As the face of the franchise and the only thing keeping Houston from being at square one of a rebuild, Watson's input deserves to be considered for major hires. The modern era of football doesn't have any parallels to a player like Watson being traded but, if he's displeased enough with his organization, a deal to move him could be the only viable solution. The most likely outcome is that he's playing for Houston in 2021 but it's more fun to speculate about potential landing spots while we wait for a resolution.
The Miami Dolphins were the first team to be named as a potential landing spot, coming up as a possible destination in Chris Mortensen's original report on the whole ordeal. Miami does make the most sense. The closest thing we've seen to a Watson-like trade in the past 20 years was when the Denver Broncos traded...Jay Cutler. I didn't say how close the move was, just that it was the closest. The Broncos got two first-round picks, a third-round pick, and veteran passer Kyle Orton for Cutler, who had played three seasons of middling football after being drafted as a raw, high-ceiling prospect with the 11th overall pick. The Dolphins can offer a similar package and, although Watson is obviously worth more than Cutler was at the time, if he chooses not to play for Houston, he holds zero value for the team. The Dolphins have two first-round picks this year, one of which is Houston's top-five selection as fate would have it. With Watson in town, Miami would also have no use for their top-five selection from last year, Tua Tagovailoa. The Texans could start fresh with Tua and a few early picks while Watson joins a playoff contender.
The Jets are another team that could enter the conversation if Watson is on the block. They have four first-round selections in the next two years including the second pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. This will come down to how they feel about Justin Fields, who is likely their top quarterback on the board assuming Trevor Lawrence is gone. If they have any reservations about Fields, they could take the known commodity with Watson. Watson does have a no-trade clause in his contract so he would need to sign off on a Jets deal in order for it to happen.
The Colts, Patriots, Bears, and 49ers are all popular names for the Watson sweepstakes but none have the excess draft capital that the Jets or Dolphins possess. San Francisco and Chicago are both working with below-average cap space next year as well. The Patriots and Colts have little money committed to their current roster for the 2021 season and both could have an opening under center. All four options are possible and seeing Watson throw to George Kittle is a fever-dream most football fans have had at least once. However, one of New York and Miami are exponentially more likely to be Watson's landing place.
Doug Pederson Gets Canned
In a bit of a surprising move, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie decided to part ways with Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson. The Eagles' 2020 season was an unmitigated disaster. Carson Wentz went from a long-shot MVP candidate to the bench in the matter of 12 games. He led the league in interceptions and sacks while playing for less than three-quarters of the season. Jalen Hurts played well in place of Wentz but his season also ended in controversy as Pederson chose to trot out third-stringer Nate Sudfeld in the second half of Philadelphia's 2020 finale, a primetime loss to Washington. Hurts and much of the team were reportedly furious with Pederson and Wentz had already been rumored to be requesting a trade due to an irreconcilable rift between him and Pederson. Finally, Lurie and Pederson were unable to agree on a vision for the team's future. This all points to an increased chance that Wentz returns as the team's starter next year. Hurts played well in limited action but the team owes Wentz more than $31 million per year through 2024. The best-case scenario with this approach is that Wentz is able to right the ship and another team offers a low-end first-round selection for Hurts.
Pederson will land on his feet as a coordinator somewhere, if not a head coach. He led the Eagles to three postseason berths in five years and went 6-2 in the playoffs including Philadelphia's iconic Super Bowl win over the Patriots. Jets GM Joe Douglas served as the Eagles' VP of Player Personnel up until last year so it's possible that he reunites with Pederson next year. Teams seeking an offensive-minded head coach who don't land Titans OC Arthur Smith or Bieniemy could also see Pederson as the next best choice.
Zack Moss will miss the remainder of the playoffs with an ankle injury. The Bills don't use their running backs much but pushing all of their touches to Devin Singletary could make him an interesting DFS option in the Divisional Round. He and Moss combined for just 10 carries last week but also saw seven targets.
Cooper Kupp is dealing with a knee contusion but is expected to play through it. Both Jared Goff and John Wolford are also expected to be healthy and Sean McVay hasn't named a starter yet. Expect to see Goff back on the field for the Rams' matchup with the Packers. He led the team to an upset win over the Seahawks last week after taking over for the former AAF passer who was dealing with a neck injury.
Ronald Jones' status for the Bucs' Divisional Round matchup with the Saints is uncertain for now. He missed last week after his quad contusion swelled in pre-game warmups. Coach Bruce Arians noted that Leonard Fournette had his best game of the season with Jones out last week so it's possible that he earned himself a split of the Bucs' running back touches even if Jones is healthy.