Deshaun Watson Not Going to Saints Proves To Be Blessing in Disguise

Deshaun Watson passing football
Deshaun Watson” by KA Sports Photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Every NFL offseason, teams around the league seek the one or two players that could make or break their year. Just one key offseason signing can turn a middle of the road NFL team into a Super Bowl contender. This offseason is no different as NFL teams scrambled for new players. 

With every player signed by an NFL team comes some type of baggage. Whether the baggage is front and center for the world to see or hidden, there is always an X-factor that comes with every new signing.

In the case of DeShaun Watson, the baggage is available for the world to see – at least most of it and more could come out in the future. There is still more information that is coming out about the former Houston Texans quarterback that makes for difficult reading for many people. 

According to the New York Times, 24 women have filed civil lawsuits in the state of Texas alleging Watson of “coercive and lewd behavior”. Watson has already settled 20 of those lawsuits, while it should be stressed that only two of the 24 cases have alleged sexual assault against the quarterback. One of the big questions is whether or not more women will step forward to accuse of Watson of sexual misconduct?

Every piece of news released on the Watson case and upcoming NFL suspension leads to a sigh of relief from one football team, the New Orleans Saints. General manager Mickey Loomis must be thanking his lucky stars on a daily basis for missing out on the ex-Texans quarterback. 

A simple look at Football Reference shows just how poor the Saints quarterback corps was in 2021. The Saints missed the NFL Playoffs for the first time in five seasons with a 9-8 record. Although New Orleans finished second in the NFC South, the quality of teams left a lot to be desired. 

Head coach Sean Payton’s use of Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston, and Trevor Siemian, showed a team with a lack of options at the NFL’s most important position. Each got game time under center, starting a minimum of four games. Let’s not ignore the fact that Winston suffered a torn ACL in Week 8, causing some of the shuffling Payton was forced into. Yet, the quarterback situation in New Orleans splits fans over who should lead the team in a post-Drew Brees world. Winston has his supporters and detractors in equal measure. 

The Saints were in the market for a new quarterback this offseason with Watson high on their list of potential recruits. Even with Watson facing civil lawsuits, the Saints explored the chance of signing the player in the spring before the Texans ultimately traded Watson to the Cleveland Browns. 

Perhaps the deciding factor in the Saints not landing Watson likely came with the amount of money Cleveland offered him. The Browns agreed on a $230 million guaranteed deal for the 26-year-old, something the Saints were wise not to offer. Another deciding factor for Watson could have been the chance to get out of the Texas-Louisiana area and to move away from the legal issues he faces. Those problems are not set to go away for Watson no matter where he goes in the continental United States, however. 

So, what does New Orleans’ not signing DeShaun Watson mean for 2022? It appears that the Saints have dodged a major bullet with an NFL suspension looming for the player. There are even rumors that the suspension could be made permanent. 

Had the Saints signed Watson, they would have gone through a tremendous number of public relations problems. An indefinite suspension would have only caused more headaches for the front office and taken the team’s No. 1 quarterback away from the playing field. The Saints would be right back in the same position they were in at the end of last season, waiting for Winston to return from injury. 

The public relations nightmare that the Saints avoided cannot be overstated. The team could have fractured its fanbase and alienated its female audience. In the world of sports, time and winning heals all wounds, however (just ask Michael Vick). It would have taken years for the Saints to mend fences with fans and there is always the risk that Watson could be accused of sexual misconduct once more. Would the Saints have been guilty of bringing a sexual predator to the Big Easy?

On the playing field, New Orleans have hung onto the players and draft capital the team would have had to send to Houston to acquire Watson. Even if New Orleans would have acquired an NFL starting quarterback, it would have given up a group of players that may not be easy to replace. 

The Saints have kept their first-round NFL Draft picks for the next three years by not trading for Watson. The team could have lost additional picks to acquire Watson, too. Losing three consecutive first-round draft picks and potentially more picks in other rounds could have been devastating to the Saints, setting them back years. 

While the draft is a lottery when it comes to players and whether they will succeed in the NFL, losing out on three years of first rounders immediately takes away players that could possibly step in as a starter from day No. 1. 

The Saints are hoping Winston will return to the team for preseason ready to go. Winston’s future was up in the air with Watson on the team’s radar. Turns out, Winston would have gotten a chance to play even if the Saints had signed Watson. 

In March, after missing out on Watson, the Saints signed Winston to a new two-year contract worth a base of $28 million. Just two years older than Watson, Winston has plenty of NFL experience, although it hasn’t been as high-profile. Looking at both quarterbacks’ numbers, they are very similar in many areas.

The re-signing of Winston has plenty of upside for New Orleans. For one, Winston has played with the Saints since 2020. He knows the offense and is familiar with his surroundings. 

Of course, the big issue (other than his surgically repaired knee) for Winston could playing under new head coach Dennis Allen. Allen takes over for Payton after the former coach retired in January. Allen has been with the Saints since 2015, so there is familiarity there. 

Winston has already worked with offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. Rather than bringing in Watson and getting him up to speed, Winston already knows the players and coaches around him. Now, the Saints simply must get the quarterback to full health for a grueling 17-game NFL season. Easy, right?

Remove the lawsuits and the potential permanent suspension for Watson and there are still plenty of questions around the quarterback’s ability to lead the Saints. He led the Texans to the playoffs in two of his three and a half seasons as quarterback. It is a great figure. It shouldn’t be ignored that Watson’s best yardage and touchdown numbers came during a 4-12 season for Houston in 2020. COVID-19 pandemic aside, there are no guarantees the Saints would be any better in 2022 with Watson under center. 

Missing out on Watson is already a blessing in disguise for the Saints off the field. It could turn out to be a blessing on it, too.

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