Deshaun Watson loves Atlanta. It's his home. It's where he'd love to be.
Several league sources have suggested he is the driving force behind the Falcons emerging as a potential landing spot. But it begs the questions, with the Falcons now among the teams in pursuit of the quarterback – facing 22 civil cases and allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct – why did the Falcons spur teams that were interested in Matt Ryan for weeks? Why didn't they get themselves in better cap and personnel decision to make a trade of this magnitude? And how competitive will they be willing to be to beat out the field for the controversial QB?
If the Falcons were as all about being as prepared to be in position to land Watson as one would think they might be, one would think they may have acted a little differently leading up to their meeting with Watson. Of course, logic and reason would have dictated peddling Ryan for what you could get for him a year ago, rather than continuing to double down on his cap-wrecking contract, but owner Arthur Blank wouldn't have that. Now, the specter of that deal – renegotiated once more – hangs over anything else the franchise attempts to accomplish, and could require Atlanta reeling in a third team to the trade mix in order to be able to facilitate this transaction.
The sense among many executives I spoke to this week was that the Falcons were fine with driving up the price on fellow NFC South teams New Orleans and Carolina for Watson, but that it would be difficult for them to pull off the trade themselves. We'll likely find out in the coming days, but for as much as Watson's heart might be in the ATL, and for as iffy as he is on Carolina or Cleveland, from what I'm told, the Falcons will have a lot of work to do to make this happen.
The Texans have to sign off on any trade, obviously. Several GMs suggested that they demand the inclusion of tight end Kyle Pitts, Atlanta's top selection a year ago, in any trade package. The Falcons lack the kind of impact defensive players – Jeremy Chinn and Brian Burns – that Carolina could include, and the Falcons' roster is a shell of what New Orleans has to offer. With Calvin Ridley suspended for the year, and no young, cheap blue chip players to boast of on defense, the Texans should squeeze them for Pitts and three first-round picks and a few second rounders as well.
The Saints seem like the best trade match from a personnel standpoint. If Watson lands in Atlanta, especially without Pitts, he will be devoid of any weapons and with a shoddy offensive line and joining a team that will be short on draft picks for years to come to fill those absences. Be careful what you wish for. And in the end, the Texans trading him elsewhere might end up being best for them, and him.
Collusion? Agents claiming it's obvious
The C word in the NFL is collusion, and I have heard to whispered – and shouted – this offseason more than any before.
The business of football is booming. There is another decade of labor peace and the pandemic is currently in the rearview mirror and the gambling money is pouring in and the cap is soaring, and yet so many players are so many positions are finding themselves staring at very similar offers no matter which teams their agent happens to speaking to.
Don't get me wrong – collusion is almost impossible to prove and I don't think anything will come from this. But it's fairly remarkable how many teams have the same $8-$10M evaluations on the same offensive linemen and how they have the same $15M-$16M evaluations on the same pass rushers and how similar many of these offers are. It certainly gets the wheels turning and makes one wonder about how so many teams could arrive at the same conclusion.
"Worst collusion I have ever seen, and I have been doing this a long time," said one prominent agent. "Somehow all of these teams arrive at the same value for my player."
"Hard for me to believe this is a coincidence," another agent said. "So many teams shopping the same offers for the same positions. It's almost like they got the same memo."
I highly doubt anything comes of it, or that the NFLPA pursues any sort of investigation, but in this of all offseasons, with the cap back up and only so many impact players available, it has been quite interesting to see how the money has flowed – or not flowed – at several vital positions of need.
Jaguars' moves baffling other GMs
NFL GMs are thankful that Jaguars GM Trent Baalke continues to assume personnel control, on one hand – he might be uniquely equipped to never tap into Trevor Lawrence's immense potential – but also disgruntled, on the other hand, that he spends money in a haphazard manner.
If there is a discernible plan somewhere amid the Jaguars' scattershot spending spree, please let me know. I am open to edification. Because most of their peers seem to believe they are throwing money around in a bizarre fashion and messing up the markets for players at multiple positions. It's weird … but also not unexpected for the Jaguars, who tend to oscillate between ridiculous spending and total teardown – only with the actual wins and on field results not alternating much between either course of action.
"Total joke," one NFL GM said of their approach to free agency. "I don't understand what they hell they are doing."
"They spent a lot of money, and I'm not sure they are really any better," another NFL exec said. "It's kind of ridiculous. I keep thinking one day (owner) Shad (Khan) will figure it out, but this is a strange way to try to build a team."
Color me skeptical any of this will make much of a difference come Week 1.