Bengals: It’s unlikely Deshaun Watson finds a home in the AFC North
Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting Deshaun Watson has requested a trade but it’s unlikely he finds a new home in the AFC North. Although it’s an extremely rare occurrence to have a shot at nabbing a bonified superstar signal-caller, three out of the four teams within the division, including the Cincinnati Bengals, are in a solid spot when it comes to the quarterback position.
Owner Mike Brown isn’t giving up on Joe Burrow’s tremendous upside and cheap contract anytime soon. It’s hard to imagine the Baltimore Ravens turning away from former league MVP Lamar Jackson either. Although the Cleveland Browns should be intrigued, it seems most likely they’ll stick with Baker Mayfield after experiencing their first encouraging season in quite some time.
If any team within the division should be involved, it’s the Pittsburg Steelers. The Bengals’ bitter rivals are already being floated as a good landing spot for Watson. However, there doesn’t appear to be a realistic path for them to acquire the electric playmaker’s services.
For starters, their cap situation is an utter mess. Right now, Pittsburg is projected to be roughly $28.5M over the cap this offseason. They’ll already have to part ways with important contributors as it is.
The only thing that could potentially save them is if Ben Roethlisberger decided to retire, causing his $41M plus cap hit to fall off the books. It’s doubtful he’d pass up a payday of that magnitude, however.
Of course, Roethlisberger could restructure his contract, but even then, Pittsburg would be miles away from being able to handle Watson’s nearly $16M cap hit.
The Steelers and Browns are lacking trade assets
Even if the Steelers could work out the salary cap, they’re unable to offer as intriguing of trade packages as some of the other franchises out there that will certainly be vying for Watson’s services.
Tomlin and co. are owners of the 24th overall pick this year. While valuable, a team like the New York Jets or Miami Dolphins can and likely will be able to offer up top-three selections to the Houston Texans. Plus, they’ve got young quarterbacks to exchange as a consolation prize in Sam Darnold and Tua Tagovailoa.
If the Browns decided they wanted to make a bold move and cut ties with Mayfield in favor of Watson, they’re in a similar position as the Steelers.
Their pick falls even further down the board than Pittsburg’s, at 26th overall. Sure, Cleveland would have Mayfield to offer up in return, but they don’t have the top draft selection to pair with him in a package.
Between the statuses of the quarterbacks in the division, the Steelers’ salary cap situation, and the lack of trade assets, it seems unlikely that the AFC North becomes the new home of Deshaun Watson. Good news for a Bengals team that’s already facing a mountain of obstacles on the path back to relevance.