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Saints weren’t interested in Deshaun Watson under Sean Payton; post-Payton, they are

A grand jury declined to indict Deshaun Watson, but Mike Florio and Myles Simmons aren't sure whether the NFL might still impose discipline on the QB stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct.

In 2017, the Saints were preparing to select quarterback Patrick Mahomes with the eleventh overall selection in the draft. They came within one pick of getting him. (For more, check out Playmakers. Coming Tuesday.)

When the Saints were on the clock that year, they could have had quarterback Deshaun Watson. They instead picked cornerback Marcus Lattimore. (Watson went No. 12 to the Texans, who traded up with the Browns.)

With Sean Payton as coach of the Saints, Watson wasn’t an option at No. 11. Mahomes would have been. Payton saw Mahomes are being a significantly better prospect than Watson.

With Payton now gone, and despite a high degree of continuity on the coaching staff, that Saints are indeed interested in Watson, PFT has confirmed.

Whether the Saints can make the move remains to be seen. They still have plenty of cap work to do, and they’d need to figure out how to incorporate Watson’s $35 million salary under the 2022 cap.

Then there’s the question of compensation, along with the all-important issue of whether Watson will waive his no-trade clause for the Saints.

It’s no coincidence that the list of teams that are or could be interested in Watson is growing in the hours since he learned he won’t be prosecuted on nine different criminal complaints. By our count, the list now includes the Panthers, Eagles, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Saints, Vikings, Browns, and Cardinals.

There are mixed reports as to whether the Steelers are interested; they should be, given that their current starter is Mason Rudolph. The Dolphins reportedly shut the door on a trade for Watson, and since G.M. Chris Grier didn’t say that Miami has “no intention” to trade for Watson, we’ll take Grier at his word.

The Raiders could possibly be in play, if the Texans were wiling to bring the brother of David Carr to town, and if Carr was interested in playing for Houston. The New England-rooted relationships make it easier for the two teams to get on the same page.

Wherever it goes, it should be going quickly. The most important question continues to be this: Where does Watson want to play?