Embattled Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson is on the Texans' initial 53-man roster, and he might remain there the entire season unless a complicated blockbuster trade can be hammered out.
As of now, that high-profile scenario isn't developing.
The Texans haven't agreed to trade Watson to the Miami Dolphins, the primary suitor for the former Clemson star, and no deal is regarded as imminent despite a lot of conversations and speculation surrounding the three-time Pro Bowl selection, according to multiple league sources not authorized to speak publicly.
While the Dolphins have talked with the Texans, there hasn't been an offer commensurate with what the AFC South franchise wants in exchange for one of the most dynamic players in the game. The Texans want at least three first-round draft picks, two second-round draft picks and players to consider parting ways with a player as talented as Watson.
Although this is a somewhat awkward situation, Watson remains a popular figure in the Texans' locker room as he attends meetings and training sessions while not participating in practice most of the time since reporting to training camp to avoid $50,000 daily fines. He's due a $10.54 million base salary as part of his $156 million contract and the Texans are prepared to have him be inactive every week, if need be, while they navigate the uncertain future of trying to get compensation for him that they regard as in line with his multidimensional skills as the NFL's leading passer last season.
"I've said from Day 1 that Deshaun Watson is part of this team," Texans starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor said after the initial 53-man roster was filed with the league. "We'll continue to handle business accordingly.He’s a friend of mine. He’s a teammate of mine.
"And we’re all in it to put our best foot forward and to do whatever it takes to to help the team win. And that shows and that comes in different roles on this team and we’ll all do our part to make sure that everyone’s on board."
Watson, who's facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct and/or sexual assault and 10 criminal complaints from the Houston Police Department while not being charged with a crime and a parallel NFL investigation, isn't being placed on the NFL commissioner-exempt list at this time. That status is unlikely to change, unless he's charged with a crime.
"The NFL’s review of the serious allegations against Deshaun Watson remains ongoing and active,"the NFL said in a statement at the start of training camp. "We are working cooperatively with the Houston Police Department and ensuring that the NFL’s inquiry does not interfere with their investigation. As we continue to gather additional information and monitor law enforcement developments, we will make appropriate decisions consistent with the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Personal Conduct Policy. At this time, there are no restrictions on Watson’s participation in club activities.
The Texans aren't interested in making conditional picks part of a potential trade for Watson. The reason other teams are broaching that idea is because of Watson's unresolved legal situation.It may take as long as a few more months before a decision is made on whether a grand jury will or will not be presented a case with no decision reached yet on if an indictment will be sought.
Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, recently denied any wrongdoing on behalf of the NFL player. Hardin said that Watson has yet to speak to NFL investigators, including former Manhattan, N.Y. sex crimes prosecutor Lisa Friel, which is customary in personal-conduct policy investigations.
It's entirely possible Watson could remain on the Texans' roster until the 2022 offseason. Watson is due a $35 million base salary in 2022 as part of the $156 million contract extension he signed last year. That was a year ago and before Watson became completely disenchanted with the Texans organization for multiple reasons, including not getting to give the input he wanted and was told he would have into the hiring process of general manager Nick Caserio and coach David Culley.
Watson led the NFL with 4,823 passing yards last season and passed for a career-high 33 touchdown passes.
For now, though, he's the Texans'third-string quarterback behind Taylor and rookie Davis Mills.
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.