It’s no secret that the Atlanta Falcons were oh-so-close to acquiring Deshaun Watson. At one point, just before he shocked the world and decided to go to Cleveland, it was widely believed that the Falcons were the clear-cut front-runner for the former Houston Texans quarterback.
It’s not like the organization was making it a secret, either. They reportedly had anyone and everyone from the ATL out to recruit the controversial QB.
They even delayed Matt Ryan’s roster bonus when they believed that they were very much in the running for Watson’s services.
Simply put, this was a team that was clearly hoping to land Deshaun Watson. And there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that they would have pulled the trigger on a deal immediately, had Watson chosen them.
What I’m trying to point out here is that the Falcons’ pursuit of Watson was anything but “exploratory.” However, in a pathetic attempt to save some face and avoid the criticism of aggressively attempting to acquire a player who’s currently facing 22 lawsuits for sexual assault, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank decided to take the cowardly approach and downplay his team’s involvement in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes.
Here’s how Blank described it all during the league’s meetings this past week (via PFT):
“We explored it enough to where we spent some time with him for maybe an hour and 15 minutes,” Blank said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He and his agent and trainer or something. So I mean it got to that stage. So it was a worthwhile use of our time. We had an opportunity to understand [things] from his perspective and ask some questions and what have you. But after that, we didn’t have any really further interaction with either the Texans to speak of or with his agent…
“I think for us, to the level of pursuit that we had, the exploratory stage, I think was the right thing to do,” Blank said. “Would it have made sense to go further than that? It would depend on, you know, what a much more intensive process would have revealed or discussions we would have had. . . . The word ‘explore’ is the key word. I would say exploring it, and we matched the amount of work we were doing to the word exploring. And it wasn’t more than that. It wasn’t less than that. That was the commitment we made, and we had the interview with him, and that was the last of it. So it certainly is an area of concern. … I don’t know what the truth is. I know what Deshaun says. But I also know there are 22 allegations out there and that’s a very significant [number] and [a] serious subject. … I don’t know what’s going to come of [the 22 cases].”
There are numerous holes in Blank’s story, as ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio points out. Most notable is the fact that the Falcons had already given the Texans their trade offer. And it must have been accepted by Houston, as that was always considered a prerequisite to having a meeting with Watson himself. So there really was no need for any “further interaction” with the Texans. They had already taken care of that side of the deal.
The fact that Blank makes is seem as though the team had a lot more investigating to do on their part is questionable as well. Are we to believe that, had Watson chosen Atlanta, Blank and company would have then asked him to wait a few more days as they conduct more research on his sexual assault lawsuits — especially with the Matt Ryan bonus deadline looming?
I’m not sure about you, but I’m not buying any of this “exploratory” crap for a second. The Falcons wanted Watson. And they would have taken him in a second had he chose them. Trying to deny it at this point is only going to make them look worse.