It was just a few months ago that all of the talk surrounding Deshaun Watson involved a potential trade from the Houston Texans. The former first-round pick was coming off yet another banner season despite team-wide struggles in Houston.
Seen as one of the top-three young quarterbacks in the NFL, the 25-year-old Watson had also just signed a four-year, $156 million extension with the Texans. He followed that up by tallying north of 5,000 total yards with 33 touchdowns against seven interceptions.
Watson was also seen as a pillar within the Houston community, taking the role as the face of the Texans’ organization seriously while working with then-teammate J.J. Watt to help those in need. All of this while Watson requested a trade from the franchise due to a rift with the front office.
Everything changed on a dime back on March 17 when a then-unnamed woman accused Deshaun Watson of sexual assault. Initially, the details were not well known. Said accusation came in a civil suit with no criminal investigation from authorities in Houston pending at the time.
Since then, north of 20 women have come forward with accusations of either sexual assault or sexual misconduct levied in the young man’s direction.
Timeline of Deshaun Watson sexual assault allegations
- March 17: First woman comes forward
- March 18: Reports indicate that a third accuser had come forward
- March 18: NFL opens up investigation into allegations
- March 19: Text messages allegedly show Deshaun Watson apologizing to accusers
- March 19: Allegations against Watson now include 12 women
- March 22: Deshaun Watson faces four new lawsuits
- March 28: Watson potentially facing 20 lawsuits
- March 30: Texans call allegations troubling; now open to a trade
- April 3: Houston Police Department opens criminal investigation into Watson
- April 6: First accuser speaks publicly about allegations
- April 7: Nike suspends relationship with Deshaun Watson
As you can see, this timeline and the number of women who have come forward to accuse Watson of sexual assault is not great news for the quarterback.
We fully understand that an individual is innocent until proven guilty in the United States. With that said, there’s a backstory to this. It’s all about Watson’s future in the NFL and the inability of other teams to trade for him amid these troubling allegations.
NFL trade market now completely bare when it comes to Deshaun Watson
When news first broke that Watson had requested a trade from the Texans, there was not a limited number of teams interested in his services. The San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins were seen as frontrunners to land the Pro Bowl quarterback with the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears close behind.
Since these allegations became public record, a vast majority of these teams were forced to move off a potential Deshaun Watson trade and find solutions at quarterback in other areas.
After seemingly preparing a trade offer for Watson, San Francisco shocked the football world by moving up from the 12th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to No. 3 overall. That’s under the guise of finding a quarterback of the future. Interestingly, the bounty these 49ers paid to the Dolphins (three first-round picks, third-round pick) was the baseline for previous talks with Houston about Watson.
Earlier this week, the Panthers moved three valuable picks to the New York Jets for struggling quarterback Sam Darnold. That came after owner David Tepper showed interest in acquiring Watson. Even recently, the Panthers were still kicking the tires on Watson. They just couldn’t pull the trigger amid these allegations.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears were in on both Watson and Russell Wilson. Once the allegations broke and Seattle turned down a massive offer for Wilson, the Bears shockingly settled on Andy Dalton as their QB1.
Noticing a theme here? All of these moves happened after the allegations against Watson become public record. It’s not in any way a coincidence. Teams simply can’t give up draft capital for a player facing the aforementioned allegations. Add in the court of public opinion, and trading for Watson would have been seen as a black eye.
The NFL and Deshaun Watson
This is another major backdrop. Regardless of what happens from a legal standpoint, commissioner Roger Goodell and Co. boast the ability to discipline Deshaun Watson.
The league’s investigation will include interviews with the accusers. And as we’ve seen with the likes of Ezekiel Elliott in the past, the NFL has a different model than the American criminal justice system. Back in 2017, Elliott was suspended six games after allegations of domestic abuse came up. Said suspension came despite the fact that the running back was never charged criminally.
There’s also a major backdrop when it comes to an NFL that is always paying attention to its public reputation and has bungled issues like this in the past. The league can’t afford that right now.
What does this all mean? Forget about a trade until the legal situation plays out. We can also easily conclude that Deshaun Watson might not play football this coming season altogether. Given the timeline we mentioned above, things seem to be trending in that direction.
For now, it’s the waiting game.