HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – Texans General Manager said he had strong “conviction” for adding Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson to the Texans roster after visiting with him throughout the draft process. Smith’s conviction for Watson was so strong that it led him to do something he has rarely done as a general manager.
Smith, normally considered conservative in regards to his approach to the draft, had never taken a quarterback in the first three rounds, let alone the first round, during his tenure in Houston.
On Thursday the Texans moved from the 25th selection to the Browns pick at 12 by trading their first round selection in 2018. It was the earliest the franchise has drafted a quarterback since the Texans took David Carr with their first ever selection with the top pick in the 2002 draft.
While Smith has made jumps up on the draft board for players before, none of those moves could be described as bold franchise altering deal that could ultimately be among the most important in the history of the franchise.
“When we watched him in the building here around our players, it was pretty apparent that that leadership trait that he has, it’s infectious,” Smith said of Watson’s visit last week. “We had the conversations all throughout the day with respect to possible moves and what that might look like. As the draft unfolded, Bill (O’Brien) and I kept talking about the possibility of doing it at various points and decided to make the move.”
Smith couldn’t help but gush over Watson’s ability, mentioning his leadership on several occasions during the post selection press conference at NRG Stadium.
“When he came to our building and I watched him sit and talk for 30 minutes with different players and players continue to come up to the table and talk to him and he engaged,” Smith said. “It seemed to me to be a really good fit and just really solidified what I felt about the young man in my mind.”
Smith made a deal earlier in the offseason with the Browns when the jettisoned failed free agent signing Brock Osweiler in an NBA-style salary dump onto the Browns. The Texans essentially attached next year’s second round pick to Osweiler in exchange for a fourth rounder this year to rid themselves of the albatross of Osweiler and some cap relief.
“The foundation for this move was laid earlier with (Browns GM Sashi Brown), ” Smith said. “You’ve got all kinds of scenarios that you have to run to be prepared, because as much as you think you’re prepared when the draft starts, it’s such a fluid process that you have to be able to react.”
The Texans knew they wanted Watson, but as teams were moving up take quarterbacks and a team with a need sitting at 13 in Arizona a move was necessary. Kansas City’s move to the 10th spot in a trade with the Bills was the near trigger point for Smith to make an absolute decision with the Browns and Watson.
“We started talking about it around then – around pick 10 – to really think about doing something, and whether or not we wanted to do it,” Smith said. “Once New Orleans made the pick, I picked up the phone and called Sashi and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to do it.’ That’s kind of how it played out.”
While the Texans have invested a lot to bring in Watson, they are not committing to any role for him in 2017. Both Smith and head coach Bill O’Brien emphasized in their press conference that Tom Savage is still the starting quarterback.
O’Brien did say that there will always be an opportunity to compete.
“Everybody will be given a chance to compete, but there’s got to be a starting point, and the starting point is that Tom is our starter,” O’Brien said. “We’re moving forward with that, and then Brandon (Weeden) is there and then Deshaun comes in and he begins to learn our offense and add to that competition.”
Alex Del Barrio covers the Houston Texans for Sportsradio610.com and is the color commentator for the Houston Dynamo. He also hosts “ADB and Murph” with Matt Murphy which can be heard on Saturday afternoons 4-7 pm Follow Alex Del Barrio on Twitter: @alexdelbarrio