Deshaun Watson also can opt out, but he has no reason to do so
Yes, Aaron Rodgers can opt out of the 2021 season and save more than $20 million — if he’s willing to make the irrevocable decision to not play football by next Friday. Another franchise quarterback who wants to be traded likely isn’t thinking about the same approach.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson could indeed opt out for the 2021 season, since his latest contract was signed before October 1, 2020. However, he has no reason to do so.
Watson wants to play in 2021, and the Texans seem to be willing to trade him. The impediment relates to the 22 pending lawsuits and the uncertainty over whether the NFL will place Watson on paid leave if the cases aren’t settled before the start of training camp.
There’s no reason for Watson to decide by Friday, July 2 to take off the entire year, giving up $10 million in 2021 salary and bumping his entire contract back by a full year. If he doesn’t opt out, he either gets his $10 million salary while on paid leave or he gets the trade he wants.
So it would be very different for Watson to opt out than it would be for Rodgers to opt out. Rodgers would opt out to avoid playing for the Packers and to save more than $20 million. Watson wants to play and he wants to be paid to play. He doesn’t want to sit out the season. He wants a trade.
Watson could, in theory, threaten to opt out to leverage a trade. If, however, Watson would opt out, the Texans would probably like it. They’d avoid paying him $10 million while on paid leave, and they’d preserve the ability to trade him after the 2021 season.
So, yes, Watson can opt out. And, no, he shouldn’t and most likely won’t even consider it.