Confident teams in Deshaun Watson’s camp will trade for him after grand jury fails to indict

Deshaun Watson’s stay in Houston could soon be coming to an end.

A Harris County grand jury elected on Friday not to indict the Texans quarterback for nine alleged cases of sexual assault or harassment during private massage appointments, a development according to Watson’s attorney, Rusty. Hardin, will appease suspicious NFL teams enough to trade for the three-time Pro Bowler even though civil lawsuits alleging similar conduct are still pending.

Watson, speaking publicly for the first time since January 4, 2021, a conference call that preceded his trade request after a tumultuous 2020 season, declined to share his response to the allegations that contributed to his 15-month silence, but he said he was “ready to get back on the court” as he continues sworn depositions regarding the 22 civil lawsuits against him.

Tony Buzbee, who represents women who have filed complaints, began filing Watson on Friday in a session that Buzbee said lasted about three hours with several hundred questions. Watson declined to respond to each, taking legal advice from Hardin to assert his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself until the criminal case was resolved.

Buzbee said depositions would resume on Tuesday, and Hardin said Watson would begin answering questions now that the grand jury has made its decision.

The timing of the civil litigation, which may span several months, should not dictate when NFL teams will sue Watson. Hardin said he knows several franchises are willing to trade for Watson even though the civil lawsuits are still pending. The grand jury’s decision could also prompt Watson’s representation to try to settle some or all of the cases quickly.

Buzbee confirmed that a Miami Dolphins mediator reached out in October, before the NFL’s Nov. 2 trade deadline, in an effort to settle civil matters so the Dolphins could acquire Watson. The schedule proved too tight, the Dolphins backed down, and Miami owner Stephen Ross and general manager Chris Grier have publicly closed the door on any talks with Watson since head coach Brian Flores was fired. who had a common interest with Watson.

Since then, no one has approached Buzbee with a request to settle the cases, the attorney said. But Buzbee has “no doubt” that a mediator will contact him “and want to resolve the matter”. He said he will forward these requests to his customers, as he has done before. One of the 22 women suing Watson was offered $100,000 in a proposed and unsigned settlement, but Buzbee says some of the women say they will never sign a settlement.

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and his attorney Rusty Hardin speak to reporters after a grand jury declined to indict Watson on criminal charges. Video: Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle

Watson said he has yet to personally hear from the NFL or the Texans, and he referred any questions about conversations with other franchises to his agent, David Mulugheta, who did not respond to attempts. of comments. Hardin said he always believed that “the most important thing in other teams making a decision” about Watson was whether there were any criminal cases pending.

“Miami was different because the owner insisted that all 22 cases had to be settled before trading for Deshaun,” Hardin said. “And Deshaun, that’s where Deshaun wanted to go back then. When some women didn’t want to settle down, that solved the problem. But all of that only took Miami off the board. Now for the rest of the teams, they make their own decisions.”

NFL teams can start signing free agents on Wednesday. Most major moves will happen quickly as franchises try to acquire talent that can immediately improve their rosters.

Many quarterback-needy franchises have already acted. The Broncos acquired Super Bowl winner Russell Wilson in a blockbuster trade from the Seahawks. The Commanders, one of the most desperate teams in the NFL, spent less on a trade with the Colts for Carson Wentz.

The trend indicated that NFL teams might not be willing to wait much longer to find a quarterback elsewhere. But former manager Bill Polian said Watson’s talent will keep teams interested in the months leading up to the April 28 NFL Draft, even after. There are “lots of places” that would be willing to absorb controversy, Polian said, and teams could structure contracts that would be voided if he was accused of similar behavior in the future.

There may not be a comparable situation in the history of the NFL.

are even more egregious” and “from an ethical and team culture perspective, I don’t believe I would buy Watson if I was sitting in the decision maker’s seat.

Banner wrote that Vick’s case was different because he had served time in federal prison and the Eagles were confident that Vick would not be involved in any further inappropriate behavior.

Teams will also be monitoring NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision following the completion of Watson’s criminal investigation. The NFL, which has not concluded its own investigation, could suspend Watson. That decision, Polian said, is “pretty difficult to determine” without knowing the outcome of the civil litigation. But teams could include protections in any potential contract with Watson.

“He’s a good enough player that if you look at what’s on the market compared to him, if there’s any chance you could acquire him given all the other ramifications that I described, there is no deadline,” said Polian, a six-time NFL player. Executive of the Year in 22 seasons as general manager of the Bills, Panthers and Colts. “The only real practical timeframe would be the draft, because Houston would want to exercise their draft picks, I think.”

Texans general manager Nick Caserio will certainly seek a return that reflects what a perennial Pro Bowler like Wilson is worth. Denver parted ways with two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick plus starting tight end Noah Fant, defensive end Shelby Harris and 2019 second-rounder Drew Lock to acquire Wilson and a fourth-round pick.

Who can meet Caserio’s asking price? The Seahawks could be a suitor if they want to spend their recently acquired stockpile of assets to trade for him. Franchises don’t often intentionally part ways with a decorated quarterback like Wilson without a plan in mind

The Saints, who could still pursue the re-signing of Jameis Winston, have the draft capital and roster talent to negotiate (and were a 2021 trade partner with the Texans for running back Mark Ingram and running back). corner Bradley Roby). But with the second-worst cap space in the league, they currently lack the flexibility to take on the four-year, $156 million extension signed by Watson in September 2020.

The Steelers and Panthers both have cap flexibility that ranks in the top 13 in the league, although Carolina currently does not have a second-round selection. Still, the Panthers have been open to offers for running back Christian McCaffrey, a former All-Pro whose frequent injuries have cut his last two seasons short. McCaffrey could fill a major need position for a Texas team that launched its worst rushing offense in team history last season.

Watson, must also waive his no-trade clause with any potential suitors.

Texans coach Lovie Smith said last week that the franchise “wants an early resolution” to Watson’s situation, and that a trade would free up approximately $24 million in cap space associated with Watson’s contract. , according to Over The Cap, giving the Texans a bigger budget to sign free agents. But there’s no indication the franchise is in a rush to offload Watson’s contract in time to hunt big free agents once the league’s tampering rules are temporarily lifted on Monday.

“Time normally takes care of everything,” Smith said during the NFL Combine. “We understand it’s Year 2, and I know Deshaun (Watson) wants to play, and it will come to a head. I have faith in that. We just have to give it some time, and I hope everyone is happy with it. I’m sure it will.

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