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The Atlanta Falcons have emerged as a dormant team in the hunt for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, league sources told ESPN.
The Falcons join the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns as teams that have met with or are interested in trading for Watson.
“All options are open, but it’s not going to be easy,” a Falcons source said of a potential Watson deal.
Another source described the Falcons as a “long shot” to land Watson. However, the team still has not met with Watson, but could have the chance to persuade him personally.
The Falcons have been committed to veteran quarterback Matt Ryan, but owner Arthur Blank has talked about eventually finding his successor and resetting the franchise’s future. That task has been given to second-year general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith. But a source said Blank is fond of Watson from the days when the former Gainesville (Georgia) High quarterback worked for several years as a Falcons ball boy and developed a relationship with Blank’s family. Atlanta assistant TJ Yates also has a connection to Watson when Yates was assistant quarterback coach in Houston.
The Falcons are said to have restructured Ryan’s contract – trimming his salary cap this year from $ 48.7 million to $ 36.7 million. However, there is still no official deal and nothing has been filed with the NFL. If the Falcons trade with Ryan after June 1, they could free up space worth $ 8.75 million in salary caps. If Atlanta acquires Watson, it could seek to send Ryan, who has a no-trade clause, according to sources.
Watson has already met with other teams and is said to be impressed with the Panthers, Saints and Browns. Each team that has been in discussions with Watson has also been in concurrent talks with the Texans. Trade compensation is not expected to hold back any potential trade, as parameters for any trade that would involve the quarterback are already in place, league sources said.
The last part of any potential trade would be that Watson agreed to waive his no-trade clause so he could be transferred to another team and sum up his NFL career. Watson did not play at all last season following an offseason request to be traded and the emergence of 22 lawsuits against Watson alleging sexual assault and inappropriate behavior during massage sessions. A large Texas jury on Friday refused to prosecute Watson.
On Tuesday, he answered questions about two of the 22 lawsuits filed against him during an ongoing landfill, the plaintiff’s attorney, Tony Buzbee, told KHOU 11. Watson had invoked his fifth amendment when the landfill began Friday.