What if Deshaun Watson tells the Texans, “I’m ready to play”?

Indianapolis Colts v Houston Texans
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Texans owner Cal McNair reportedly wanted the team to trade quarterback Deshaun Watson. Texans G.M. Nick Caserio wanted to get a motherlode of picks and/or players before striking a deal. The Texans ultimately were unable to reach an agreement, possibly due to the combined dysfunction of the two franchises that were trying to make it happen.

(To those of you who would say, “What dysfunction?” The Texans and Dolphins currently are a combined 2-14. More relevant to this transaction, the Dolphins didn’t receive permission to directly speak to Watson until Monday night, less than 24 hours before the deadline. How was the plane going to be landed under those circumstances, given his legal issues?)

So here we are. More accurately, here the Texans are. Still paying Watson to not play. Still wanting him to not play, because Watson’s health remains one of the keys to getting maximum value for him in March, if/when he’s traded then.

By keeping Watson, the Texans assumed one very specific risk. He could show up at any time (as soon as today) and say, “I want to play football.”

The 2006 CBA prevented teams from paying players to not play, a specific reaction to the decision of the Eagles to send Terrell Owens home for the balance of the season after a four-game unpaid suspension ended. For the last 15 years, teams who have a player they want to keep out of the building have three choices: (1) suspend him for up to four games for conduct detrimental to the team; (2) trade him; or (3) cut him. He can’t be told to stay away, at full pay.

That doesn’t mean Watson can force his way onto the field. The Texans have the right to deactivate him every week, given that multiple players on the active roster find themselves standing on the sidelines in clothing other than their uniforms, every game.

But they can’t keep him away from the facility, from meetings, from practices. From the risk that he’ll suffer while working out or practicing some sort of injury that will linger into the offseason and hamper his value in trade.

Meanwhile, if he shows up and the Texans consistently refuse to use him, the Texans could end up hearing about it from their paying customers, who are helping pay for the salary of a franchise quarterback whom the franchise won’t put on the field.

There’s no current reason to think Watson will show up. But he can, if he wants. It’s one of the risks the Texans assumed by not trading him in 2021.

17 responses to “What if Deshaun Watson tells the Texans, “I’m ready to play”?

  1. Why would they??? The optics of playing him are bad, they’ll have unpleasant discussions with Roger and their sponsors, besides they’ve already given up on the season and are looking forward to the top 3 pick, why bother with Watson? Legal troubles aside, he has a lot less leverage than the media thinks.

  2. If they tried to activate him, would the NFL place him on the Commissioners exempt list? Maybe the Texans and the NFL can work something out?

  3. tyreehelmetcatch, it’s not a question of should they. Florio is asking what if Watson refused to be shut out. The team cannot keep him away without doing one of those 3 things.

    Though Watson has publicly said he will never play for the Texans, he can force their hand. The question is, what does Watson want? If he wanted to be traded to the Dolphins, he would have settled out of court with his accusers. He didn’t do that.

    Clearly, the Texans aren’t seriously looking to trade him or they would have given permission well before Monday for the Dolphins to negotiate with Watson and they wouldn’t be playing games with their trade demands.

  4. I just think it was incredibly foolish for the Texans to ask for so much. Yes, he’s a good QB, but by March his legal situation may render him untradeable. But even if he gets past his legal issues and can be traded I think the market for him is never going to be three #1s and a player of their choice. That’s crazy for a lot of reasons on both sides of the trade.

    Say Miami trades for Watson – now you’ve got a very expensive QB on a mediocre team. The expectations from ownership, the team and fans would be IMPOSSIBLE to meet. One guy can’t save a bad team. And what if he gets hurt?

  5. Watson should’ve did exactly that before the trade deadline. He would’ve put the wheels in motion for the league and a clearer picture would have emerged as to what could’ve developed regarding a possible trade. The league is more than happy to sit on this as long as possible to avoid bungling another issue.

  6. ^^^ “One guy can’t save a bad team.”

    So true.

    That’s the Matthew Stafford story for over a decade in Detroit.

  7. Even playing him for one game would answer lots of questions trade partners have. Would the NFL let him play? Is he in shape right now? How bad would the public outcry be? Assuming answers to those questions were even halfway positive there’d be more teams interested than currently with so much uncertainty. But getting those civil cases settled needs to be priority #1 because if that doesn’t happen then those cases will drag on for years along with a higher possibility of him being criminally charged and that has to be terrifying to teams.

  8. This makes me almost long for the days of Bill O’Brien. He was a horrible GM but at least he wasn’t the slow moving trainwreck the current GM is. And by GM, I mean Easterby, not necessarily Caserio. Caserio plays Mayock to Easterby’s Gruden power wise. David Culley is just a well paid straight man for the brunt of the jokes.

    I can’t think of any player in the league worth 3 1sts, 2 2nds, and a starting player they choose.

  9. This “due to the combined dysfunction of the two franchises that were trying to make it happen” says it all!!

  10. It is simple for the Texans. If he says he wants to play, put him on the active roster. It will force the NFL’s hand to make a decision on him to put him on the Commissioner’s list. As long at the Texans refuse to activate/play him, the NFL gets by not having to make a decision.

  11. Couldn’t David Culley just tell him that he was third string, behind Tyrod Taylor and Davis Mills? Teams don’t have to start players just because they demand it. The fans might not like it, but the coach can bench him without violating the CBA.

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