No matter which teams try to pry Deshaun Watson away from the Houston Texans, the price will be astronomical.
Watson, 25, just led the NFL in passing and is just entering his prime. He's a top-four quarterback in the league and only will get better, especially if he is given the proper talent and coaching around him.
The 49ers are one of many teams that have been seen as a potential landing spot for Watson should the Texans start to actually entertain offers (they shouldn't). The cost of trading for a 25-year-old generational quarterback has to start at three first-round picks. The Texans reportedly also would want two young defensive stars, which in the 49ers' case would put Nick Bosa in the deal.
That's something that NBC Sports' Chris Simms doesn't think San Francisco would be willing to do.
"I have a hard time thinking that they would give up Nick Bosa," Simms told NBC Sports Bay Area. "Again, rookie year Bosa, what they've seen from him, they can't give up on him. They are not going to give him away to anybody. Nick Bosa, even after his rookie year, was arguably in the conversation for best defensive player in football not named Aaron Donald. After his rookie year. So I don't imagine that, especially with that defense's scheme that they are playing there in San Francisco. Things aren't going to change. That pass rush is very valuable to how they want to run that defense and the pass rush especially.
"In some ways, Deshaun Watson to the 49ers makes sense. In a lot of ways, where I look at Watson, I don't think it's the Jets of the world and the poor team that are going to be in the race for Deshaun Watson. One, he has a no-trade clause. I don't think he's going to go to one of those teams. What is he going to say, 'OK, I'll go to the Jets so I can be in the same crappy position I was in with the Houston Texans and now they've traded away all their assets to get me so we can go 4-12 every year like I did in Houston.' I don't see that. I do think it will be a team like the 49ers where we just talked about -- they are set up already, the only thing they need is a little depth here and there. But the frame of the team is already big time and in place and ready to win a Super Bowl. But you have to balance out. Yes you're going to have to trade three first-round picks or something like that. I don't think Nick Bosa is an option, but yes it will take two- or three-first round picks and two big-time players for a guy like Deshaun Watson."
Let's break this down a bit.
The 49ers' window to win a Super Bowl is now, but it might be shrinking as they look to retool their defense on the fly and return to contention in 2021. They still have questions about whether Jimmy Garoppolo is the type of quarterback who can lead them to a Super Bowl. If they spend another year on the Garoppolo experiment and it turns out he's not the long-term solution, they will have wasted a vital year of their closing window.
Bosa is a phenomenal talent. There's no doubt about it. He was dominant as a rookie and is on track to be one of the best edge rushers in football for the next decade.
But how many wins does Bosa add overall? Take the 2020 injury-ravaged 49ers. Had Bosa not torn his ACL in Week 2 and played a full season, how many more wins do the 6-10 49ers record? One?
Now, swap in Watson at quarterback. Upgrading from the Garoppolo/Nick Mullens/C.J. Beathard trio to Watson, an elite signal-caller, almost certainly gets the 49ers wins over the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and Washington Football Team, getting them to 9-7 and a playoff berth despite their rash of injuries.
It's incredibly difficult to win a Super Bowl without either an elite quarterback or an above-average quarterback playing at an elite level for three weeks in the playoffs. Only the 2015 Denver Broncos, who had a loaded defense and an aging Peyton Manning, have won the Super Bowl with subpar quarterback play in the last 15 years. Nick Foles and Joe Flacco played the best football of their careers en route to titles, and Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger are the other quarterbacks to win a title since 2005.
If you want a more recent example, look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That defense that hounded Mahomes in Super Bowl LV is almost the same unit from last season. Shaq Barrett led the NFL in sacks in 2019 and the Bucs, with Jameis Winston at quarterback, went 7-9. Enter Brady, and the Bucs go 11-5 and take down Brees, Rodgers and Mahomes in succession.
Quarterback is the most valuable position in sports. Players like Watson come around once in a generation and almost never are available for trade at age 25.
Watson could be the difference in the 49ers capitalizing on their Super Bowl window or watching it shut without a return trip.
If Bosa and three first-round picks get you Watson in his prime, I don't think it should be much of a discussion.