Much of the upcoming offseason will be dominated by headlines regarding Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and an impending trade that would surely shake up the environment of the NFL. According to multiple reports, Watson has begun evaluating potential fits for his services in 2022, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings have landed firmly on his radar. A potential deal with the Miami Dolphins was previously discussed, but the firing of Brian Flores and hiring of new head coach Mike McDaniel has seemingly squashed the Watson-to-Miami rumors, as McDaniel has backed Tua Tagovailoa as Miami's quarterback. Watson and his trusted team of confidants have now regrouped and shifted their focus to a pair of other quarterback-needy teams in Tampa Bay and Minnesota. It's plausible to understand why Watson has identified the Buccaneers and Vikings as potential suitors. The Buccaneers were left stunned by the retirement of Tom Brady and must now find a new quarterback capable of leading their ready-to-win-now roster. The Vikings have ushered in a new era with head coach Kevin O'Connell and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, and possess an aging quarterback in Kirk Cousins who currently has just one year remaining on a lucrative contract that was originally signed by the previous regime. The new Vikings regime may opt to move forward with a quarterback of their choosing, and Watson certainly makes sense given the offensive weapons already in place such as Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, and Adam Thielen. With that said, there are a lot of unknowns surrounding the Vikings, and the Buccaneers represent a much safer and smarter choice for Watson and his career. The Buccaneers make so much sense. They possess a Super Bowl-winning head coach in Bruce Arians who miraculously retained both his offensive coordinator (Byron Leftwich) and defensive coordinator (Todd Bowles) this offseason despite both coaches receiving interest to fill head coaching vacancies elsewhere. Tampa's highly-successful, in-tact coaching staff makes them a notable suitor for any and all quarterbacks that will search for greener pastures in the coming weeks. From a weapons perspective, the Buccaneers possess a bonafide WR1 in Mike Evans. It's easy to envision Watson and Evans immediately establishing the chemistry necessary to form one of the more feared quarterback-to-receiver duos across the NFL, much like Watson once did with DeAndre Hopkins many years ago. Evans' penchant for defeating defensive backs vertically lines up well with Watson's preference to push the ball down the field. It's Watson's strongest trait and represents one that would be appreciated and well-utilized if paired with Arians' aggressive offensive tendencies. It's true that the Buccaneers must sort out the contract situations that surround Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette, and Rob Gronkowski, as all three players are currently set to reach free agency in March. O.J. Howard, Ryan Jensen, and Giovani Bernard also qualify as key offensive players whose contracts are about to expire. Watson (or any other high-level quarterback, for that matter) would surely demand the Buccaneers do an adequate job retaining several of these players in order to keep their efficient and effective offense in place. Just how well of a job the Buccaneers do retaining some of the talent that's surrounded Evans in recent seasons could be the deciding factor for Watson and his camp. The infrastructure remains in place for general manager Jason Licht and the Buccaneers to swing big at the quarterback position in hopes of continuing and sustaining their newfound success that arrived with Brady in 2020. An aggressive and motivated move for Watson could be on the horizon.
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