Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson began his offseason by demanding a trade and planned to sit out the start of the 2021 NFL season to force a move. Now, in the wake of 22 civil suits for alleging unwanted sexual acts, the star quarterback might not be able to play even if he wants to.
The NFL is investigating a flurry of allegations against Watson, ranging from harassment to sexual assault against masseuses. He is also now under criminal investigation by the Houston police after a woman came forward with their accusations to law enforcement.
Watson and his attorney Rusty Hardin secured a recent court victory this past week when a judge ruled that 13 of his accusers in civil suits must identify themselves. However, one top NFL insider believes the latest information to come out against the Pro Bowl quarterback is a further indication that a suspension is very possible.
NBC Sports’ Peter King wrote that this week’s evidence in the case against Watson suggests there is a good chance he is either suspended or put on the Commission’s Exempt List for part of the 2021 season.
The thinking is based on developments that took place in recent days. Two women already came forward publicly to put a face to the names of his alleged victims. Since they identified themselves and spoke out, there has been significant fallout. Nike suspended its partnership with Watson, Beats by Dre severed its ties with him and additional sponsors announced they will not be endorsing the Texans’ star.
After Ashley Solis came forward to share her story, detailing how she has suffered through panic attacks, anxiety and depression since the alleged assault, the NFL released a statement. Additionally, after two Harris County judges ordered many of Watson’s accusers to identify themselves, attorney Tony Buzbee said many of them are now prepared to do so.
Examining potential fallout for Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Coming off a career 2020 season, Watson’s star was on the rise entering the spring. The Texans were refusing to trade him, despite teams showing a willingness to offer multiple first-round picks. He was quickly becoming one of the new faces of the NFL and a deal to a contender likely would have elevated him even more.
There are now legitimate concerns about his playing future. The Texans couldn’t trade him right now even if they wanted to, with every other club unwilling to acquire him amid so much uncertainty.
It will take more time for the NFL to conduct its investigation, with the league seeking to speak to as many of Watson’s accusers as possible and the quarterback himself. Even if the Houston police department doesn’t file charges against Watson, commissioner Roger Goodell still has the ability to suspend Watson.
The first step for the NFL will likely be placing Watson on the Commissioner’s Exempt List. Doing so would still mean Watson gets paid, but he doesn’t count towards the Texans’ roster and he would not be allowed to play or practice with the team.
Given this story is likely going to play out into the summer and potentially into training camp, the Texans might prefer it that way. While it would benefit the team, only Goodell has the authority to place Watson on the Reserve/CEL.