Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

49ers have one thing no other team can offer Deshaun Watson

Jan 19, 2021 at 3:26 PM--

In the end, it may come down to what the San Francisco 49ers — or any other interested NFL team — can offer the Houston Texans for quarterback Deshaun Watson. Yes, Watson does have a no-trade clause in his contract. If he pushed the Texans to trade him, the quarterback would at least have the power to approve of his destination.

The divide between Watson and the Texans has made for an interesting offseason so far, at least for the teams not participating in postseason play. The young quarterback would be considered an upgrade for most of the teams watching the playoffs from home. San Francisco 49ers fans have to wonder what kind of magic Kyle Shanahan might dial up with Watson leading his offense.

That's also what might make the 49ers such an enticing destination for Watson — the presence of Shanahan. Yes, the head coach's influence is starting to spread across the league as more teams look to recreate the same type of creative play-calling that Shanahan's players consistently praise and opposing defenses work to stop. Other teams might be a tempting lure, but the 49ers have something that no other can offer.

Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated recently ranked the top 10 landing spots for Watson (h/t to Patrick Tulini), assuming the Texans cave and entertain offers for the quarterback. While the New York Jets, armed with a plethora of draft capital, come in at No. 1 on the list, the 49ers are surprisingly high at No. 2. A lot of that has to do with the head coach and play-caller.

"As I wrote this offseason, there is no bigger draw for quarterbacks who want to win than Kyle Shanahan himself," Orr wrote. "While his system is now responsible for head coaches and coordinators across the NFL (Arthur Smith in Atlanta, Matt LaFleur in Green Bay, Sean McVay in Los Angeles, etc., etc.,) the man himself can get more out of quarterbacks and design plays with incredible YAC potential.

"Since Watson has a no-trade clause, he can steer the direction of any potential trade talks and if he is serious about a stable culture and formidable weapon set, San Francisco has to be up there."

Of course, the 49ers don't have the same stock of draft picks as some other teams, and prying Watson from the Texans would likely require years' worth of high selections. Orr mistakenly notes that the 49ers are missing a third-round pick, but that just recently changed with the Jets hiring Robert Saleh as head coach. San Francisco will be awarded a compensatory third-round pick during each of the next two drafts as part of the NFL's minority-hiring program.

Still, that pick will be at the end of the round, after other third-round compensatory picks have been handed out. The 49ers could also offer up a temporary (or perhaps a permanent) replacement for Watson — Jimmy Garoppolo. Like Watson, Garoppolo has a no-trade clause in his contract and would need to approve any move, though.

"Jimmy Garoppolo is an interesting piece of this equation, given that the personnel executive who helped spearhead his drafting in New England is now in charge in Houston," Orr adds. "That could help ease the sting of any swap, as Garoppolo could come into a familiar setting and immediately still be one of the best quarterbacks in the division."

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