Let's begin by addressing the MVP caliber QB sized elephant in the room, Deshaun Watson.
I've mostly strayed away from this topic for several reasons; majority of leaked information is skewed by either party to shape their respective narratives, the severity of the subject should be treated delicately and with fair judgement to both sides which is a level of morality that is rarely seen among mass public discourse and I'm honestly not educated enough on all the legal aspects to bring a well-informed deep dive from that perspective.
So, why am I bringing it up now? Well, while it is difficult to navigate the rocky waters of the allegations, it would be disingenuous to ignore it completely, so, here's my best attempt.
I'm not going to share my belief on which side I believe is true, or if there is a clean truth at all, however I will discuss the football ramifications.
These next 72 hours will likely act as a nuclear countdown to many Texans fans, hoping and praying that the shreds of hope of a Deshaun return were not for nothing.
Liked tweets, Instagram stories, leaks from his camp, they don't really matter until Wednesday at 9:00am CT, when the chance to re-establish himself as the starting QB for the Texans arises.
See, I had written more about the hypothetical situation of Deshaun Watson reporting for training camp, but as of Sunday morning, it's being reported that THAT hypothetical is becoming a reality. Deshaun will be at training camp.
Plenty of natural questions came to mind after reading that alarming notification from my phone.
1. Why is he returning now?
2. What's it going to take for him to play for the Texans in 2021?
3. What does this mean for a potential trade?
Let's answer them: firstly, Deshaun reporting for training camp is likely heavily influenced by the fact that he would've been fined $50,000 for each day of camp he missed.
While Deshaun has made good money from his rookie contract, a lot of his sponsorships were cancelled/postponed and he is only on year 1 of his mega-extension. Thus, it's in his best interest to show up for a relatively low maintenance, injury-free (fingers crossed) camp where he can send a message to the rest of the NFL that he's motivated to play, while making some good dough.
As for question two, based on the reporting that Deshaun has not changed his stance on wanting to be traded from the Texans, I don't think him reporting to camp makes it substantially more likely that he'll don the Battle Red in 2021. I do think it is one of the few steps that needed to be taken to help reconcile this broken relationship, though.
Simply getting Deshaun in the building for the next month allows for the opportunity to change his mind. It'll likely take a marriage of factors for this to happen though; believing in the culture change that Nick Caserio and David Culley are so insistent they've brought, believing in a more talented team with better surrounding pieces that could lead to a more competitive season, and even peer pressure (for lack of a better term) from teammates to recommit to the process and avoid the label of being a "quitter" that so many fans have quickly thrown around.
Do I like the odds of Deshaun as a Texan going forward, not particularly. But, I like them a whole lot more today than I did yesterday, and the slightest shred of good news is something I'll happily accept with how this past season+offseason has gone.
Now, question 3; much has been made about the timing and package of an eventual Deshaun trade and I am of the belief that you should not under any circumstance trade an MVP caliber QB who is just 25 years old and getting better every season.
However, these are no normal circumstances and thus we must entertain the hypotheticals. If Deshaun's reporting to training camp is nothing more than trying to earn the money provided on his contract and reparations with the franchise are deemed impossible, trading Deshaun cannot happen until the 2022 NFL Draft order is set.
I don't care which star player is rumored to be unhappy and could be "getable" in a trade, the most important realistic capital the Texans can receive is future draft picks, particularly ones who can help land us the next Deshaun or blue-chip prospect on a rookie deal.
Thus, trading for Miami, Philly, New York or whoever's first round pick(s) before we know where they land would be idiotic.
The volatility and unpredictability of win/loss records year-to-year is wild, take the Texans giving the Dolphins the #3 pick in 2021 as part of the Laremy Tunsil trade for example.
We've waited this long for a conclusion to the standoff, the Texans need to stand their ground too and recoup the maximum capital possible, NEXT offseason.