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NFL teams reportedly won’t pursue Deshaun Watson trade until legal issues resolved

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

When an in-season Deshaun Watson trade fell through in 2021, everyone’s attention shifted towards the offseason for a blockbuster deal. While a move is going to happen, no NFL team is reportedly willing to move on him until his legal issues are resolved.

Watson is facing 22 sexual misconduct and assault allegations. Many of his accusers were deposed in December with the civil case moving into 2022. The Pro Bowl quarterback is also facing 10 criminal complaints and investigations by the FBI, NFL and Houston Police Department.

  • Deshaun Watson stats (2020): 4,823 passing yards, 8.9 ypa, 33-7 TD-INT, 112.4 QB rating

However, updates on the investigations and his civil case are sporadic. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported on Jan. 9 that the Houston prosecutor handling the criminal complaints was expected to make her stance on potential charges clear in “the next several weeks.” However, very little information has come out since.

Importantly, Watson’s deposition couldn’t take before Feb. 22 and there is a pre-trial conference scheduled for May. It signals that the legal battles could extend long into the offseason, but the Texans have wanted to move him by March 16. However, that might prove to be a problem.

NBC Sports’ JP Finlay reported Saturday that the consensus belief around the NFL is there won’t be any movement on a Deshaun Watson trade until a resolution is reached with his legal issues. The sentiment is also backed up by an NFL executive who spoke to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network.

“It’s about the legal stuff with Watson right now, and nothing but that, of course. How many teams would be interested if he didn’t have the lawsuits and the possible charges? I would say at least six to 10 teams would step up. It’s a thorny issue because there’s going to be some fallout as far as public relations and the community. If you’re going to trade for him, you have to have your owner fully onboard. Otherwise, it’s a non-starter.”

NFL executive on the issues preventing a Deshaun Watson trade

There’s no doubt general managers across the NFL want Watson on their team for his on-field ability. Even after the allegations came out, multiple teams still wanted Watson. With that said, no team would give up the required asking price without answers to important questions.

What NFL teams are interested in Deshaun Watson?

NFL: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Before the 2021 NFL trade deadline, the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Washington Commanders and Philadelphia Eagles were among the parties interested in Watson. Since the season ended, that list expanded.

Related: New York Giants owner says no to Deshaun Watson trade

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers are also expected to be in the mix. While Miami dropped out of the race and the Minnesota Vikings are committed to Kirk Cousins, Houston will have a bidding war for its franchise quarterback.

Before any general manager and owner signs off on a deal, they want a resolution to this legal battle. Even if Watson settles with his 22 accusers, the NFL can still serve him a multi-game suspension for violating the personal conduct policy. While he wouldn’t miss the entire 2022 season, his penalty could be a 4-to-6 game ban. Because of that, any team that acquires Watson will need a viable backup quarterback behind him.

  • Deshaun Watson contract: $40.4 million cap hit (2022), $42.4 million cap hit (2023), $37.4 million cap hit (2024), $32 million cap hit (2025)

The Texans obviously want to move on from this saga, unloading Watson and landing an unprecedented return of draft picks and young talent. For now, general manager Nick Caserio will have to keep being patient. When everything is figured out, we’ll see one of the biggest trades in NFL history.