Bad news for 49ers fans could be good news for former San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
Miami Herald columnist Armando Salguero reported Saturday that Deshaun Watson told people this week that his preferred trade destination is the New York Jets because of Saleh's hiring as their head coach. The Houston Texans quarterback's second choice "at this time" is the Miami Dolphins, Salguero added.
It's not clear where or if the 49ers rank on Watson's list, should the Texans agree to trade him.
While this might not sit well with 49ers fans looking for a change from Jimmy Garoppolo under center in Santa Clara, at least they can take comfort that Watson would be in good hands with Saleh.
The Jets finished the season with a 2-14 record and fired head coach Adam Gase before hiring Saleh. Sam Darnold has been their starting quarterback since they selected him as the No. 3 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, and he has a 13-25 record overall.
Darnold still has one more season on his rookie contract. Saleh, who has been in New York for only a week, has refrained from making any solid commitments to Darnold, but he did compliment the quarterback’s physical abilities and intelligence.
“We’re just getting the staff in the building,” Saleh said Thursday in his introductory press conference. “So there are so many things we have to do just from an evaluation standpoint in regards to the entire roster, not just the quarterback. To give you that answer now would not be fair.”
Watson reportedly is a fan of Saleh, and even recommended that the Texans interview him and Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for their head-coaching vacancy. The relationship between the quarterback and the Texans appeared to sour, however, when the team did not interview the ex-49ers coach before the Jets hired him.
Houston, which still hasn't made a hire, was the only NFL team with a head-coaching vacancy not to interview Saleh.
The Dolphins also have an incumbent quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa, but Watson, who has been selected to three Pro Bowls in his four NFL seasons, has a proven track record that could make him an attractive addition to their roster. Tagovailoa is 6-3 as a starter after Miami made him the No. 5 selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Both the Jets and the Dolphins have a lot of draft wealth that could make a Watson trade with the Texans feasible. The Jets own nine picks, five of which are in the first three rounds, including the No. 2 pick. The Dolphins have 10 picks in the 2021 draft, including the Nos. 3 and 18 selections. Additionally, they have two picks in the second round.
The 49ers have 10 draft picks in 2021, including the third-round compensatory selection received from Saleh's promotion to a head-coaching role. Unlike the Dolphins and the Jets, the 49ers' earlier picks do not pack as much firepower, though, making a Watson trade with the Texans less realistic.
Still, on draft day, anything is possible.
49ers 2021 draft selections
- Round 1, Pick 12
- Round 2, Pick 43
- Round 3 (comp pick)
- Round 4, Pick 108
- Round 5, Pick 139
- Round 5, Pick 157 (Saints trade)
- Round 5 (comp pick)
- Round 6, Pick 170
- Round 7, Pick 194 (Jets trade)
- Round 7, Pick 204