The NFL’s legal tampering period opened March 14 with the New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers as the two most-likely trade destinations for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
But don’t rule out the Atlanta Falcons just yet.
NFL reporter Dianna Russini of ESPN reported Tuesday that Watson has shown interest in the Falcons and even personally reached out to the franchise.
The feeling is mutual. NFL Insider Adam Schefter of ESPN reports Falcons owner Arthur Blank “is fond” of Watson, who is a former Atlanta ballboy.
Watson is from Gainesville, GA, which is a little more than 50 miles northeast of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Watson stayed in the southeast for college, playing and winning a national championship at Clemson.
NFL Insider Ian Rapoport reported Watson will meet with the Falcons on Wednesday. Watson talked to the Saints and Panthers on Monday and met with the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday.
From Free Agency Frenzy: #Texans QB Deshaun Watson meets with the #Browns today, the #Falcons are slated for tomorrow, and he met with the #Saints and #Panthers yesterday. Potentially a decision coming Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/0bqTphy1S5— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 15, 2022
While Rapoport said on The Pat McAfee Show on Tuesday that Atlanta is “not the favorite” to land Watson, Watson reportedly showing interest in the Falcons is obviously a good sign. It should also confirm Atlanta as a serious contender for the quarterback — thus, ruling out that the Falcons have only entered the Watson sweepstakes to raise the asking price on the quarterback for division rivals.
Watson has faced legal trouble over the last year with multiple women alleging he had harassed and sexually assaulted them. While the quarterback still faces 22 civil cases and possible discipline from the NFL, a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against Watson this month.
With criminal charges no longer a possibility, it’s not hard to figure out why the Falcons are interested in Watson. He led the NFL with 4,823 passing yards and threw for 33 touchdowns with only seven interceptions in 2020. In four NFL seasons, Watson has averaged 8.3 yards per pass and thrown 104 touchdowns versus 36 interceptions.
Watson is also a dual threat. He has posted 5.5 yards per carry with 17 rushing touchdowns in 54 career games.
It’s yet to be seen what trading for Watson and then dealing Matt Ryan will do to the Atlanta salary cap, but Rapoport says a trade can be done.
The Falcons and Watson are interested in exploring the possibilities.