With each additional allegation against Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, it becomes more and more difficult to downplay or explain away the situation. Thirteen women and counting have accused Watson of sexual assault during massages. More may soon file suit. It’s becoming a more and more significant distraction for the league, the Texans, and Watson — especially since Watson’s team has done hardly anything to push back against these charges.
And so the question becomes whether the NFL eventually will push Watson out. Out of the league, until all cases are resolved. At some point, the sheer volume of the allegations overpowers the situation. With 13 cases filed and up to nine more expected, will the NFL exercise its broad power to place Watson on the Commissioner-Exempt list?
That would have significant consequences for Watson, and for the Texans. Watson would be barred from practicing or playing. The Texans, however, would be required to pay Watson his salary — more than $10 million in 2021.
The question then would become whether the Texans would simply cut Watson to avoid owing him salary that he wouldn’t be allowed to earn.
The mere possibility of paid leave turns the entire relationship between player and team on its head. Before last Tuesday, Watson wanted nothing to do with the Texans. Now, remaining on the Texans could be Watson’s only path to getting paid in 2021.
If the Texans were to cut him, would anyone sign him? Maybe a team would roll the dice on the possibility that, eventually, it will have a franchise quarterback on the roster. When will that be, however, and what will be the cost?
Beyond the financial expenditure, signing Watson at this point will create a major P.R. hit, unless and until Watson’s P.R. team finds a way to counter the damage that has been done to his overall image in just six days.
With each passing day, it’s getting worse instead of better. At some point, it could get so bad that Watson won’t be on the field until all of these claims are behind him, and until he has served whatever suspension the league decides to impose.