Will Deshaun Watson play again?
Veteran NFL observer Albert Breer was asked that question last week, and the Sport Illustrated reporter replied that Watson will but “not until 2022.”
“Now I don’t want to trivialize the other, much more serious legal matters at hand,” Breer told his readers. “But from a football standpoint, I think it’s become pretty clear that the Texans comfortable with where they are right now, and O.K. with riding out the rest with Watson.”
Deshaun Watson’s immediate future in Houston became very clear when starter Tyrod Taylor went down with a Week 2 injury and the team refused to activate their superstar quarterback.
The franchise chose to go with rookie Davis Mills who only managed to produce 9 points in a loss to the Carolina Panthers on Thursday.
Watson isn’t being held out by the NFL, but his relationship with the league is complicated.
He’s not on the commissioner’s exempt list and still getting paid, but off the grid. Some people are upset that the NFL hasn’t done that yet.
Unclear how the NFL and Houston Texans can be on such different pages with Deshaun Watson.
Either he did something wrong and must be taken off the field (Commissioner’s Exempt List / Suspended) OR he should be playing.
Starting a rookie QB instead exposes the NFL’s mishandling. pic.twitter.com/RlgZNgcH7d
— Dan Lust 🎙 (@SportsLawLust) September 20, 2021
According to definition, “While on the commissioner’s exempt list, a player is paid as if he were on the active roster, yet he does not count against his team’s 53-man active roster limit. A player on the exempt list is not allowed to practice or attend games, but he is allowed to be present at the facility for meetings, to work out, and to receive treatment.”
Eventually Watson could end up on that list, but the Texans aren’t playing him so that speaks volumes, and the NFL doesn’t really have to make a move. He’s no longer the face of the franchise. Even if Texans fans consider him such, the team and the NFL aren’t allowing it.
Watson not being thrust into emergency duty on Thursday tells us everything we need to know about his status going forward this season. He probably won’t ever take another snap for the Texans, certainly not in 2022.
Why would anyone think an injury would cause the #Texans to activate Deshaun Watson for Thursday night when it's clear they're not going to play him all season no matter what. The next down he plays will be for another team next year. #NFL #NFLTwitter
— Bill Lekas (@BillLekas) September 20, 2021
Watson’s future outside of the team also remains unsettled.
He’s embroiled in a potential scandal that continues to grow legs as he’s currently facing 22 civil suits and 10 criminal complaints alleging sexual assault and misconduct.
The 26-year-old rising star first demanded a trade in January, months before these allegations against him emerged. The Texans refused to honor his request, but once the accusations surfaced, Houston was open to considering different trade proposals.
Even as more accusers came forward and Houston realized it was time to move on from Watson, the asking price for the uber talented signal caller didn’t change. Houston is looking to fleece anyone attempting to trade for Watson and there’s no rush on their part to trade him while the investigation makes him virtually untouchable at this point.
An offer would have to overwhelm Houston’s front office. They are in no danger of losing him — unless it’s to the long arm of the law. Besides, they missed the window for unloading him at top market value. As great as Watson is, he’s damaged goods until he’s exonerated.
Miami sports anchor Josh Moser reported back in August that super agent Drew Rosenhaus said he wouldnt be surprised if Watson ended up in Miami.
.@DrewJRosenhaus tells me that he “Would not be surprised to see Deshaun Watson with the @MiamiDolphins for the first game of the regular season.” More tonight on @7SportsXtra! #Watson #dolphins #nfl #Tua #NFLTwitter @ian693_ @PhinManiacs @wsvn @NFLonFOX @DolphinsTalk pic.twitter.com/nARMdixv54
— Josh Moser (@TheMozKnowz) August 30, 2021
The Dolphins were reportedly the frontrunners in a deal to land Watson in late August, but talks broke down.
He could still end up there, depending on how much the Dolphins are willing to gamble on his innocence.
— hialeahbred (@hialeahbred) September 27, 2021
An All-time Talent
In 2020, Watson passed for 4,823 yards, 36 total touchdowns, with a 112.4 passer rating and a 70.2% completion percentage. He had elevated to top five in the game and right before the season began Watson signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension.
“I am going with @deshaunwatson as my MVP of the 2020 season.” 🏆
It’s time to revisit our 2020 season predictions… 🔮
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) December 2, 2020
You can’t just give up on a talent like that until all options are exhausted or he is convicted of some kind of crime that’s too egregious to give him a second chance. As of now there’s no reason to believe a trade for Watson is imminent, but the situation is fluid.
The Texans are in the first year of a rebuild and can afford to wait and see on Watson, whose legal issues put them in a precarious situation. If he’s found guilty of something then his career is immediately up in the air and the franchise could lose him and get nothing in return.
If they find a team willing to take him off their hands now, they can acquire some draft picks and some talent for Watson. The Texans have to be really willing to do a deal and not just try and get over on a team.
Watson is facing more than 20 allegations and more women have recently come forward to share their encounters with Watson and file complaints.
— Keith Thomas (@ktjazz14) July 28, 2021
The Wheels Of Justice Move Slowly
Watson’s lawyer is Rusty Hardin, the same guy who defended Roger Clemens in his PED battle with MLB. Watson is in great hands on the legal front and has been fully cooperating with law enforcement.
The NFL’s investigation is stagnant at this juncture. As per policy, the NFL doesn’t investigate certain alleged offenses until the criminal proceedings are complete.
The Texans don’t want to risk the PR nightmare of activating Watson, who long ago decided that he didn’t want to play for them. Maybe that situation changes now that Watson has no leverage and no immediate prospects for employment elswhere.
With such uncertainty swirling around these accusations, Watson is one big risk for everyone involved. So, everyone is waiting for clarity with the criminal investigations.