There are suggestions he may be traded to the Dolphins, or the Panthers, or possibly even the Eagles – all of these from credible reporters who do a professional job covering the NFL. There has been discussion about the possibility Deshaun Watson, who has not thrown a single pass this season, might be willing to waive the no-trade clause in his contract.
There has been no report I’ve encountered, though, that quotes even an anonymous team official as saying something as uncomplicated as: Nope. You’d think someone with a voice at one of these franchises would have the courage and conscience to declare they do not wish their team to be associated even in a news report with someone in Watson’s circumstance.
This is how best to describe Watson at the moment. He has not been charged with any crime, although that is not to say he has not been investigated. The New York Times reported in September that Houston police have “spoken to at least 10 women” who have made accusations against Watson regarding different levels of sexual offenses.
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There also was an August report from Houston television station KRIV indicating a grand jury was examining evidence relating to Watson and sexual assault allegations. The station’s sources reported a Harris County District Attorney’s office employing specializing in human trafficking was “sending out subpoenas for the investigation.”
Most of Watson’s current legal concerns are in civil court, where he faces more than 20 lawsuits alleging “a disturbing pattern of preying on vulnerable women,” according to attorney Tony Buzbee, who filed the first three lawsuits in March and subsequently came into contact with others accusing Watson of similar behavior. One suit, filed by a licensed massage therapist in March, alleged that Watson is a “serial predator.”
Like all who are accused of untoward behavior, Watson is entitled to his day in court, if it goes that far on either a civil or criminal basis.
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He is not entitled to a prominent, lucrative position on a professional football team. Someone operating one of the 32 teams must make the conscious, public decision that all these accusations do not provide the necessary dissuasion against pursuing him to quarterback its offense. The Texans have chosen not to deploy him in his previous position, where he was elected to three Pro Bowls in four seasons and last year led the NFL in passing yards. After compiling a 4-12 record in 2020, they are on course to perform even worse in 2021.
They are willing to listen to trade offers, and why wouldn’t they be? If there is another team or collection of teams willing to transfer significant assets in exchange for both Watson’s talent and his issues, that’d be a bonanza for Houston.
According to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, the offer to beat at this point is three first-round picks and some level of other draft picks from the Dolphins, who spent the No. 5 overall pick on Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa only 18 months ago. Honestly, if they were to pay such a price for a QB with these concerns in place, they’d deserve whatever grief they’d encounter from the media and a portion of the Miami fan base.
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It is easy to criticize the NFL for not taking action to this point, but it is important to understand the league’s players are protected by a players association. With no criminal charges in place and the civil actions all at the beginning of their legal journeys, it might be premature for the league to suspend him or place him on the exempt list.
Given the prevalence and prominence of reports about possible trade destinations in recent weeks, however, now would be the time for one or more team executives to step forward — even anonymously — and declare their team is not interested in trading away first-round picks and salary-cap space and any other associated costs in order to be in the Deshaun Watson business. Quarterback talent is a precious commodity, but not nearly so much as one’s own integrity.