Something dawned on me this morning, while Simms and I were reviewing the latest developments in the Deshaun Watson case on PFT Live.
With the Texans apparently content to pay Watson to not play, the league office doesn’t need to put him on paid leave.
Taking it another cynical step farther (cynicism is usually warranted in matters of this nature), it’s possible that unofficial, backchannel discussions between league and team have resulted in an understanding that, as long as Watson isn’t playing, the league won’t put him on paid leave.
Paid leave is a PR tool, aimed at getting a controversial player facing serious allegations away from the cameras during games. Using paid leave creates an unavoidable news cycle of bad PR, however, with plenty of coverage devoted to the decision to prevent a player from playing pending the resolution of off-field accusations.
In this specific case, the fact that Watson doesn’t want to play for the Texans, that the Texans want to trade him, and that the two sides have apparently agreed that he’ll be in limbo until he can be traded for the kind of compensation the Texans want allow the league to put Watson on paid leave without putting him on paid leave. Basically, the league has to do nothing, other than make it clear to all involved that, if he decides to play, he’ll be placed on paid leave.
I have no idea whether that’s happening. But it would make plenty of sense if it were. Why should the league do anything when doing nothing gets the league to the exact same place?