Comparing Washington's 'sleeper' QB options in Watson, Stafford originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Entering the offseason, Washington's top priority is solidifying the quarterback position for the franchise. Just two weeks removed from the NFC Wild Card loss to Tampa Bay, the stove is already heating up.
Two of the early names Washington is rumored to be in the mix for are Deshaun Watson and Matthew Stafford.
Watson seems to be on his way out in Houston as mismanagement in the organization has led to a 'growing sense' that he's played his last snap for the Texans. Washington is reported to be a sleeper team there.
In Detroit, reports have surfaced that the Lions are opening up trade talks for their veteran passer as a new regime begins. Again, Washington is looked at as a darkhorse to acquire Stafford, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
Both are legitimate options for Washington and there are plenty of reasons Ron Rivera and company should try to acquire one in the coming weeks or months. But, when putting the two side-by-side and comparing skillset, cost and other variables, is one a better option than the other?
Here's a comparison of Watson and Stafford with a look at the pros and cons for each.
Pro: Watson will turn just 26 during his 2021 season, wherever it may be. Though he already has four years of wear and tear on his body -- which can impact a mobile quarterback -- the performance of other great passers in the league would suggest that his peak and plenty of good seasons most likely lie ahead.
His 2020 campaign is in line with that thinking as well. He's coming off a season in which he threw for the most passing yards (4,823) and passing touchdowns (33) of his career. Year over year Watson has continued to grow and evolve his game. By landing him, Washington would lock down the quarterback position for years to come.
Con: None really, Watson's age can really only benefit Washington.
Pro: Set to be 33 during the 2021 campaign, Stafford shouldn't be viewed as "old" by any means. He just started 16 games for Detroit and still has elite arm strength and some mobility. There's no reason to believe he can't put together a few more solid seasons. The quarterback is a great win-now candidate.
Con: Though Stafford played all 16 games in 2020, he did so while battling through numerous injuries and there is some reason for concern about the future given back issues he's experienced. At his age, a major injury could change everything. Furthermore, he is probably at the point where a decline is more likely than an incline. Unlike Watson, this wouldn't exactly be a long-term play. Stafford is a move for the present, but not the future.
Advantage: Watson - It wouldn't be a bad move for Washington to grab Stafford, but Watson's age makes him the easy choice when comparing this aspect. With Stafford, Washington gets a win-now quarterback. With Watson, Washington gets a win-now and win-later quarterback.
Pro: The quarterback signed a four-year, $156 million extension with the Texans prior to his frustration with the franchise boiling over. That means Washington would be paying a premium price for the QB. However, the positive way to spin this is that Watson is already locked in through the 2025 season. Therefore, Washington would be guaranteed a chance to use the passer through potentially some of his best seasons. A great quarterback is always going to cost money, so it's not a major knock.
Con: It still is a lot of money, and Washington most likely does want to upgrade other positions and bring in impact players elsewhere. Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Scherff is also someone who will need to be paid this offseason. Grabbing Watson puts tighter boundaries on cap space, and there is a chance that another big contract could come in the future. That would also mean that Watson is performing well and acting as a franchise quarterback, which is again worth the money.
Pro: Stafford is less money for Washington to fork up in 2021. The quarterback is set for a cap hit of $33 million in 2021 and $26 million in 2022 before he is a free agent, and that could change in a trade. It's nothing small, but it's less than Watson's $42 million next season and gives the team a little more flexibility to add other pieces while still upgrading under center. In addition, if Stafford doesn't work out, Washington isn't on the books for very long.
Con: The risk here is paying the amount of money and not getting a great investment back. Stafford won't be in Washington as long -- though he might demand a contract extension like the one Alex Smith got after his trade here from Kansas City. So Washington needs that short-term price to be worth it quickly and not get locked into a long-term deal with an aging player. There is slightly more financial risk is rolling with Stafford than going with a sure bet in Watson despite his higher cost.
Advantage: Stafford - Paying for a Watson is fair and could easily be the right move, but in terms of financial flexibility for a team that needs help in other areas as well, Stafford allows for a little more of that.
Pro: Hard to really find a positive in what Washington is going to have to give up for Watson. It's going to cost the whole farm, and rightfully so.
Con: What would that farm consist of? Well, most likely the base is going to be three first-round picks. That's already a lot of the future to mortgage and Houston could ask for a player in addition. Quarterback is the most important position, but it's not going to be cheap.
Pro: Stafford isn't going to command the same return, as Washington's No. 19 pick in 2021 and potentially a little additional draft capital could do the job. The first round pick this year is important, but one could look at it as Stafford becoming that pick. In that case, that's a pretty good addition, right?
Con: It still would be nice to have that No. 19 pick this year, especially since there are other positions that need upgrades and the 2021 draft class has a great amount of talent.
Advantage: Stafford - It comes down to Washington not having to give away almost everything and still getting a solid quarterback in return. One first round pick is more than fair for Stafford.
Play on the field
Pro: Watson is a polished passer who can hit every throw and is also exceptional at making plays outside the pocket and moving his feet. A true dual-threat quarterback, he's what every offense wants in a quarterback and adds another dimension to Washington's unit instantly.
Pro: He's also continuing to improve. As mentioned above, 2020 was some of his finest work yet and that came on a dreadful team that wasn't always helping him. The sky is the limit for Watson.
Pro: The quarterback can be viewed as a proven winner even though his career is still young. He has a 28-25 record that is largely influenced by the recent 4-12 campaign. He has two trips to the playoffs and one win, and with the right pieces around him there's no reason to think he can't lead a team to a Super Bowl.
Con: Based on the number of pros here it's clear that Watson's play is truly top-notch. It's hard to find flaws right now in what he can do as an individual. His mobility could be a cause for concern in terms of injuries and durability, but that is really nit-picking for a con.
Pro: Stafford's right arm is dangerous and the elite talent as a passer is still there. He can sling it with the best and even has the flare of a no-look pass from time-to-time. He's a safe bet for 4,000 yards and has the experience to command an offense. For a Washington team that could desperately use someone to stretch the field, Stafford would be a solid fit.
Pro: He's also the ultimate competitor. No injury or adversity is going to stop him from trying to get on the field and help his team win. This mic'd up clip from 2009 in which he threw a touchdown pass with only one working shoulder pretty much proves that.
Con: Turnovers can still be a worry at times. Besides injury years he's always hit double digits in that department and they sometimes seem to come at the most inconvenient time due to him trying to force the ball. As a veteran passer, there isn't a ton of worry about his decision-making and game management, but turnovers are never helpful.
Advantage: Watson - No disrespect to Stafford but this is an easy choice. Watson has the arm talent to equal or even surpass the veteran and has the mobile component to his game. He's one of the top quarterbacks in the league, and if it was as simple as a pick 'em, Watson is the selection.
Both quarterbacks have pros and cons and either will work in Washington. With the pieces around then in D.C., Stafford and Watson can propel this team to its next level. What it truly comes down to is what Washington wants to do with its present and future.
If Washington wants to upgrade at quarterback while not giving up all its chips, Stafford is probably the right decision. He's cheaper in draft capital and isn't a long-term monetary investment, giving the team a little more flexibility.
Yet if the goal is to win-now and secure the position for years to come, then Watson's asking price and contract are not too large to consider. By bringing him in, Washington has its answer at quarterback for 2021, 2022 and beyond.
In the debate of Watson or Stafford there is no right answer, only what Washington is willing to give up to improve the position.