As if the NFL wasn’t already dealing with a thorny problem that won’t go away regarding the WFT emails (plenty of media outlets are helping the cause by looking the other way, frankly), the league may soon have another pot boiling over on the front burner of the P.R. stove.
The NFL has not yet decided whether to put Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson on paid leave because, as previously explained, the NFL doesn’t have to. the Texans already have placed Watson on de facto paid leave. The league has no reason to do anything about Watson if he’s not trying to play. Why create a headline and a debate topic by putting Watson on the Commissioner Exempt list when he’s yet to be charged with a single crime?
If the Texans trade Watson to the Dolphins or Eagles or Panthers or whoever, and if Watson then grabs a helmet and heads to the field, the league has to decide whether to let him play. Take no action, and risk catching flak from those who say the NFL isn’t taking the sexual misconduct allegations against Watson seriously. Act, and risk inviting criticism from those who would attack a decision to ignore the presumption of innocence for someone who hasn’t even been officially accused by a prosecutor of being guilty.
That’s why the league would prefer to have to make no decisions about Deshaun Watson.
For the team that trades for Watson, the potential risk of paid leave much be factored into the transaction. Houston scoffs at the impact of short-term unavailability on the trade value, viewing it as a ten-year transaction not a two-year move. If a team is willing to embrace Watson knowing that there’s a good chance he won’t be on the field until 2022 at the earliest, the deal can be done by November 2.
So why do it at all before November 2? Waiting until the offseason could result in even more teams coming to the table, as other teams admit that the quarterback they currently have under contract isn’t and won’t be the answer. That would potentially drive the price higher.