PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The clarity and closure that Texans coach Lovie Smith was seeking have been obtained.
In the wake of a blockbuster trade, one of the most significant moves in NFL history, that sent Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns, everyone can move forward in certainty.
That goes for Watson, the recipient of a record-breaking, fully guaranteed $230 million contract. That goes doubly for the Texans, who ended 15 months of awkwardness after Watson requested a trade due to displeasure with the organization.
They obtained valuable draft capital in the trade: a haul of three first-round picks, a 2023 third-round selection, a 2022 fourth-round pick, and a 2024 fourth-round choice to the Texans in exchange for Watson and a 2024 sixth-round selection.
For Smith, heading into his first season as head coach as the replacement for David Culley, it's a new day.
"I thought that was best for both parties," Smith said Monday morning at the annual NFL owners meetings. "That’s happened, so Deshaun has moved on. We have. It’s final, and we're looking ahead. And that’s all we wanted to do, to look ahead to know exactly what we’re going forward with and now we know that.”
Two separate Texas grand juries have declined to charge Watson with a crime after facing 10 criminal complaints alleging sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior in his massage therapy sessions. He's still facing 22 civil lawsuits with no intention to settle them at this time.
Watson was asked why he wanted to be traded from the Texans months after signing a four-year, $156 million contract.
”It’s hard to get too far into the details,” Watson said. “It was time for us to part ways. I was honest with the organization. They were honest with me, and we came to the conclusion this was the best situation.”
Watson initially turned down the Browns and Carolina Panthers. He was considering the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints as he weighed waiving his no-trade clause.
Ultimately, he turned back to the Browns because of their roster, the unprecedented contract, and his conviction about the AFC North franchise after meeting with general manager Andrew Berry, head coach Kevin Stefanski, and owner Jimmy Haslam at Hardin’s law office in Houston.
Watson emphasized that the contract wasn’t why he chose the Browns and said he didn’t know about the offer until he told his agent, David Mulugheta, about his intentions to go to Cleveland.
“It wasn’t necessarily a turn-down,” Watson said. “I think the media was kind of rushing me to make a decision, and I wasn’t comfortable making that right decision. So, the news gets out and things like that. But, for me, I knew that Cleveland was the best situation from a football standpoint and just for a community and family atmosphere.”
The Texans, meanwhile, can go forward with Davis Mills as their projected new starting quarterback. They also have five draft picks in the first 80 selections this spring.
"It's really kind of, 'OK, everybody kind of move forward and try to put our team together for the next however many weeks,'" Texans general manager Nick Caserio said. "I think it's kind of an endpoint. Over the last 15, 16 months, there's been a lot of things that have taken place, a lot of things that were up in the air. Everybody kind of knows where we are currently. Our focus is to try to build a team as best we can.
"Honestly, the next phase is our offseason program on April 11 and we can really get our players in the building. I would expect there to be a decent amount of players around. We've actually had 25, 30ish that have been in the building the last few weeks. It's exciting for everybody. Everybody is looking forward to getting together again and working on football. That's the most important thing."
Aaron Wilson is an NFL reporter and analyst for Pro Football Network and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.