NFL should let Texans, Deshaun Watson know whether he’ll be on paid leave if cases aren’t settled

Divisional Round - Houston Texans v Kansas City Chiefs
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It’s been nearly three months since the first of 22 lawsuits was filed against Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson alleging misconduct during massage therapy sessions. The NFL has had a full and fair chance to conduct a preliminary investigation. Soon, the NFL should decide whether Watson will be placed on paid leave pending the resolution of those cases.

As explained a few weeks back, the league has broad discretion to decide whether to utilize the Commissioner Exempt list for Watson, even in the absence of formal criminal charges. If the investigation causes Roger Goodell “to believe” that Watson “may have violated” the Personal Conduct Policy by engaging in a “felony offense,” a “crime of violence,” or a “sexual assault by force,” Goodell can place Watson on paid leave.

Whether Goodell already has or hasn’t come to that conclusion, it’s only fair that Goodell come to some conclusion before training camp starts. Goodell will have had more than four months to make a decision as to whether Watson “may have violated” the policy in one of the various ways that justify placement on paid leave. For the Texans and Watson, it shouldn’t be a guessing game when the time comes for Watson to show up for training camp.

If Watson believes he’ll be placed on paid leave, he’ll definitely report for training camp. That would result in Watson receiving his full $10 million salary for 2021. If the Texans believe Watson will be placed on paid leave, the Texans possibly will trade him for whatever they can get, shifting the $10 million obligation to his new team.

Conversely, if the Texans and Watson know he won’t be placed on paid leave, the Texans could trade Watson for considerably more, since his new team (possibly the Broncos, Dolphins, or Eagles) would know that he’ll be playing this season.

The league still could suspend Watson without pay for his behavior, but the league would be more likely to wait for the final resolution of the civil cases before reaching a final decision. Absent a settlement, that won’t happen until 2022.

In 2019, the league played coy with teams interested in signing receiver Antonio Brown on the question of whether he’d be placed on paid leave based on the filing of a lawsuit alleging that he committed sexual assault and rape, along with an allegation that he retaliated against another person who had made allegations about Brown to The league’s unwillingness to commit one way or the other operated as a de facto unpaid suspension, with Brown missing 14 games (and 14 game checks) as teams hesitated to sign him for fear of paying him to not play.

That was unfair to Brown. It would be unfair to the Texans, to Watson, and to any team that wants to trade for him to force a guessing game here. Watson is getting $10 million this year from someone, whether he’s on paid leave or not. Before the Texans can make the best decision for the franchise before camp (as G.M. Nick Caserio said they will do on Monday), the Texans need to know the answer to the simple question of whether, based on whatever the Commissioner has learned since mid-March, Watson will or won’t land on the Commissioner Exempt list.

It’s a complicated situation. There are nuances. There are sharply disputed questions of fact. And maybe the league will decide from a P.R. standpoint that the sheer number of allegations mandates paid leave — even if none on them standing alone would require the league to stray from the notion that Watson is entitled to the presumption that he’s innocent until proven guilty.

Whatever the league decides, the league owes it to the Texans, Watson, and his potential next team to make that decision by late July. Frankly, there should be no reason not to make a decision right now.

13 responses to “NFL should let Texans, Deshaun Watson know whether he’ll be on paid leave if cases aren’t settled

  1. Why should the NFL say? It is better for the NFL to make the Texans take the action.

  2. How could he NOT be on placed on the restricted list? If the cases aren’t settled it’s a no-brainer. If they are then on some level it’s an admission of guilt regardless of what his team says publicly. The NFL has no choice but to take action.

  3. texans should just bench his sorry ass, regardless. if he’s on paid leave, they have to pay him and he doesn’t play. if he’s not on paid leave, most of Houston can’t stand the scumbag, so the texans should sit on him, not let him play, or practice, pay him, and see if any sucker, er, other team, is interested in him next year…if not, bench him again…his skills will rot…he’ll get paid, sure, but no team will want him at the end of things…same as no one wanted Kaepernick.

  4. Sorry but why should Watson get a paid vacation over the disguising things that he has done? He should not ha allowed to come back and receive any compensation until all of these cases have been settled.

  5. Watson doesn’t need to know what’s going to happen. And I think the league and the Texans already have a plan in place.

  6. Watson should report to work regardless of the decision by the NFL. It wasn’t Roger Goodell that got himself into this mess. The league will decide what they decide when they decide it. Until players negotiate a timeframe for situations like this into the CBA, that will always continue.

  7. Well, if Deshaun was serious about not playing for Houston, better off for Houston he doesn’t know since he may not show up and thus, won’t get paid. If he knows he will be suspended, might as well show up since he won’t be playing for Houston, which is his goal.

  8. My crystal ball says that He will definitely be on the Exempt list. He had better report to pick up his paycheck before he is put on the list.

  9. The NFL had one of their people interview one or more of the women involved, and I don’t believe that interview went so well for the women accusing Watson. So, the NFL may or may not give this lawsuit much credibility. The case obviously wouldn’t make it in any U.S. criminal court, but that doesn’t matter. The NFL has done a ton of research already, and I’m sure they have a lot of personal information on all those involved. It wouldn’t surprise me if the league just lets everything play out. I don’t see them punishing Watson, unless something comes out that so far has been kept hidden. The league is not easily fooled, and this is a very high profile case. They’re not going to risk screwing this up. Was Watson a perfect gentlemen? Probably not. Did he do anything illegal? Probably not. The league has the power to do as they wish, regardless, and I just don’t see them doing anything.

  10. Nothing has changed at all since he first signed his deal and then let it be known he didn’t want to play for the Texans. Yes you have all of these lawsuits and allegations, but that’s all they are – allegations. The NFL can’t suspend or put him on any exempt list based solely on allegations, and he won’t even be deposed until February – right after the season. So basically nothing has changed, and the Texans are NOT going to trade him. They weren’t going to trade him when his value was sky high, and they’re certainly not going to trade him now with his value so low. Plus they wouldn’t trade him and set a precedent across the NFL that QB’s can just pick and choose where they want to be. They’ll just wait until he starts losing money from training camp or the reg season, and then he’ll come back smiling and saying everything is worked out. Doesn’t matter how he feels, no player wants to lose 30 million dollars.

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