As has been reported, the Houston Texans are willing to listen to offers for QB Deshaun Watson. This is a change for the team’s front office — but not for Watson, who initially requested a trade in January. The Texans are now open to offers, Watson still wants out, and many teams are interested in the 25-year-old QB. However, any team considering a trade for Watson must consider a few factors, including eligibility questions.
Specifically, there are two layers of eligibility in question: criminal and league. In terms of the former, there are 22 active lawsuits filed against Watson with allegations of sexual assault during massage sessions.
As for league eligibility, the NFL issued a statement on Tuesday: “The NFL’s review of the serious allegations against Deshaun Watson remains ongoing and active.” The statement continues, “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.”
Historically, the NFL has opted to wait for legal investigations to be completed prior to suspending players under the personal conduct policy. What’s most likely is Watson being placed on the Commissioner Exempt list. If that happens, he would be paid his base salary of $10,540,000 in accordance with the CBA. Players such as Greg Hardy (2014), Reuben Foster (2018) and Kareem Hunt (2018) have all been placed on the Commissioner Exempt list.
In 2010, Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was suspended six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Roethlisberger was the first player who hadn’t been arrested or charged with a crime to be suspended by Commissioner Roger Goodell. Prosecutors did not charge Roethlisberger for a case in which he was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old college student in a Georgia nightclub.
As such, even if the criminal case against Deshaun Watson were resolved, he could still be suspended by the league. This makes it unlikely a team will trade for him.
Reportedly, the asking price has been a combination of five high draft picks and starting-caliber players. It is unclear at this time whether the Texans will ultimately receive offers that are close to this asking price. But what’s clear is that there are more important factors at play here. Interested teams must continue to monitor Watson’s situation from both the criminal and league side. While Watson reported to the Texans’ training camp on Wednesday, it remains to be seen if he will suit up for them or any team this season.