If the new Houston Texans' general manager and the new head coach -- whomever he might be -- are unable to convince quarterback Deshaun Watson to stay, at least half the teams in the NFL should be interested.
And, of course, the 49ers would be among them.
Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch both stated in recent weeks they believed Jimmy Garoppolo would be the 49ers’ starting quarterback in 2021.
They left the door only slightly open, though, for the possibility something extraordinary could present itself. Watson’s sense of disillusionment with Texans chair and CEO Cal McNair qualifies as something extraordinary.
Watson has the power to force his way out of the NFL’s most dysfunctional and toxic organization. And with a no-trade clause he can help pick his next landing spot -- if there is a next landing spot.
Imagine what Watson could accomplish in Shanahan's system.
Garoppolo had a fine 2019 season as the 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl. But Garoppolo, 29, has appeared in more than six games just once in his seven-year career.
Watson is four years younger. He missed one game the past three seasons while averaging nearly 4,300 yards passing and 470 yards rushing.
But, let’s be real, it would still take an extraordinary event for the 49ers to acquire Watson, who led the NFL in passing yards this season and still has a future of at least a half-dozen years in his prime.
Frankly, the 49ers are not in a position to supply the kind of package Texans GM Nick Caserio could acquire from other teams.
The 49ers have only two picks in the first 100 selections of this year’s draft: No. 12 in the first round and No. 43. The 49ers could make a significant rebound in the standings next season, which would mean their future picks would be considered less valuable, too.
The Jets have five picks in the first 86 slots, including first-round selections at Nos. 2 and 23.
The Dolphins, reported as a desirable spot for Watson, have quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to offer, as well as first-round selections at Nos. 3 and 18.
As for Watson, he reportedly likes the idea of playing in Florida, where there is no state income tax. California and New Jersey, by the way, rank Nos. 1 and 3 for highest state income taxes.
The 49ers do not have the impressive draft capital to offer the Texans. But would it make sense to include some of their front-line players?
Garoppolo could go there in a trade, but his $25.5 million in salary and bonuses is nearly $10 million more than what Watson is scheduled to count against the Texans’ cap.
And Garoppolo is signed for just this season and next, so he would not satisfy Houston’s long-term quarterback problem.
The 49ers’ most valuable commodities to offer in a trade are linebacker Fred Warner and edge rusher Nick Bosa. Let’s look at those situations from both sides.
Warner is unlikely to step on the field again without a new contract, so the Texans would have to immediately sign him to a mega-deal in the neighborhood of $15 million a year.
Bosa is coming off a torn ACL, and he is under contract for just two more seasons. If Bosa has a big season in 2021, he would be in the same situation as George Kittle last year and Warner this year. He would be in line for a big contract extension entering his fourth season.
Obviously, the 49ers do not want to part ways with either of those defensive standouts. They are important players. Warner and Bosa are players who make everyone around them better -- and that includes the 49ers’ offensive players.
The balancing act would be to make an attempt to acquire Watson without stripping away the roster to a point where it would make it difficult for him to succeed.
And all this must also be done surreptitiously, too.
In the likely event the 49ers are unable to acquire Watson, the organization would certainly not want it known that they went down that road of trying to replace Garoppolo.