The first step to reviving Deshaun Watson’s NFL career has begun with criminal cases against him being dropped.
On Friday, a grand jury in Harris County, Texas, declined to indict the Houston Texans QB, leaving him free of criminal charges stemming from sexual misconduct accusations made by nine massage therapists in Texas.
“I know we’re far from being done handling what we need to handle on the legal side,” Watson said during an emotional media briefing. “But, today is definitely a big day. I want to thank my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for letting the truth be heard.”
The latest on Deshaun Watson from the 6pm SportsCenter: pic.twitter.com/verP62dM2C
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2022
The First Step
According to reports, Johna Stallings, Chief of Adult Sex Crimes and Trafficking for Harris County, presented nine criminal complaints and evidence to the grand jury.
“We respect the grand jury’s decision,” she said after the grand jury returned its no bill of indictment decision. The decision closes the criminal proceedings in Harris County.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office also released a statement.
“After a Harris County grand jury was presented all the evidence and had the opportunity to hear from all witnesses, grand jurors declined to indict Deshaun Watson.”
“Grand jury proceedings are secret by law, so no information related to their inquiry may be disclosed.”
Deshaun Watson’s contract would be as such for a team acquiring him in a trade:
2022: $35M salary, $35M cap hit
2023: $20M salary, $17M roster bonus, $37M cap hit
2024: $32M salary, $32M cap hit
2025: $32M salary, $32M cap hit
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 11, 2022
Looking To The Future
Watson has wanted to be traded to another NFL team. He needed to get past this part to be considered for a trade.
“We are delighted that the grand jury has looked at the matter thoroughly and reached the same conclusion we did,” said Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin. “Deshaun Watson did not commit any crimes and is not guilty of any offenses.
“Now that the criminal investigations have been completed, we are happy to move forward with the civil case depositions. We will vigorously defend those cases with every ounce we have. It is time to let Deshaun move on.”
The Deshaun Watson media coverage has been, well, not a good look for the industry.
— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) March 12, 2022
The Long Road Ahead
Watson and his attorney have vehemently denied any wrongdoing, claiming that the incidents were consensual.
However, Watson had additional accusations in California, Georgia, and Arizona, although it is unclear if he might face criminal charges in those states.
Being picked by a new team is Watson’s top career priority, and he has more legal hurdles ahead. The beleaguered quarterback is still up against a slew of additional lawsuits.
NFL free agency starts next week. It is an opportunity for players to land lucrative paydays or find better team fits. It also serves as another avenue for teams to upgrade and improve their rosters.
There is “expectation around the league” #Texans QB Deshaun Watson will be traded to the #Seahawks, per @MoveTheSticks
They have extra picks now after the Russell Wilson trade to get it done. pic.twitter.com/HdpMz24Z33
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) March 12, 2022
The League Process
Watson has a four-year, $156 million deal with the Texans, but he still faces 22 civil lawsuits from accusers alleging various misconduct rising all the way to sexual assault. Also, the NFL investigation is still “ongoing and active,” according to the league statement.
“The NFL’s review of the serious allegations against Deshaun Watson remains ongoing and active,” the NFL said. “We are working cooperatively with the Houston Police Department and ensuring that the NFL’s inquiry does not interfere with their investigation.
“As we continue to gather additional information and monitor law enforcement developments, we will make appropriate decisions consistent with the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Personal Conduct Policy. At this time there are no restrictions on Watson’s participation in club activities.”