Several Houston Texans players have reportedly signaled their support for quarterback Deshaun Watson to do "what's best for himself" amid rumors he could seek a trade after growing discontented with the franchise.
Greg Bishop and Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated reported Saturday "many" teammates expressed similar feelings to those that Texans defensive end J.J. Watt delivered to Watson following the team's Week 17 loss to the Tennessee Titans to complete a 4-12 season:
“He just wants out," a source close to Watson told Sports Illustrated.
Watson was terrific throughout the campaign, ranking second in the NFL in passer rating (112.4), but it appears his frustration stems from what has happened since the season ended.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Jan. 7 the 25-year-old Clemson product wasn't happy the Texans hired New England Patriots executive Nick Caserio as their new general manger after a process in which they "neither considered nor consulted" with his preferred candidates for the position.
Watson also "quietly broached with teammates the possibility of requesting a trade," per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
The three-time Pro Bowler caused a stir Friday afternoon with a cryptic Twitter post:
Schefter had reported Sunday that Watson's anger level after the Texans traded DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals in March was a two. After Caserio's hiring, it was a 10.
Texans chairman Cal McNair said Friday he understands Watson is frustrated with how the GM hiring played out and noted he's contacted the quarterback via text to keep him in the loop about the club's head coaching vacancy.
"That's the intent," McNair told reporters. "We want him in the loop and part of the process."
The question is whether the latest efforts by the Houston brass have come too late.
Watson was already upset by previous comments by McNair during his news conference to introduce Caserio, when he said he "understood [Watson's] point of view before meeting with candidates," which the quarterback found "patronizing," according to the Sports Illustrated report.
The Georgia native also received words of wisdom from two of the best players in franchise history, Hopkins and Andre Johnson, who suggested executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby is a problem:
Franchise quarterbacks are hard to find, and if tensions between the sides reach a point where the front office has little choice but to seek a trade, it'll likely take years before the organization is able to find a replacement for Watson.
So the Texans are likely to utilize an all-out blitz to restore the relationship, highlighted by giving him a major say in the head coaching search. Still, there's no doubt the situation has become one of the major storylines of the offseason.
A blockbuster trade could shift the NFL's balance of power heading into the 2021 campaign.