Deshaun Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, insists "teams are ready to jump" at the chance to trade for the Texans quarterback despite his client facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault or misconduct. At any rate, Watson isn't expected to see the field for Houston, even after reporting to training camp this week. According to ESPN's Sarah Barshop, the Pro Bowl signal-caller only showed up to camp to avoid daily $50,000 fines and is not expected to practice with the team while the Texans engage in preliminary trade talks.
The NFL's new collective bargaining agreement, Barshop notes, dictates that holdout fines are permanent, hence Watson's decision to attend camp rather than absorb daily fines while seeking a trade elsewhere. But the Texans have multiple ways they're expected to keep the QB away from the rest of the team as he sorts through his off-field issues, both legal and otherwise.
One option is to trade Watson early in camp. The Texans have already had preliminary discussions with potential suitors, Barshop reports, but "don't believe they have received a serious offer" for the QB. Houston is, however, very willing to trade Watson ahead of the 2021 season "if they find the right match," according to Barshop. That marks a significant reverse of course for an organization that repeatedly insisted it would not listen to offers for Watson earlier this offseason, especially prior to the surfacing of nearly two dozen civil lawsuits filed against the former first-round pick.
Barring a trade, the Texans could also excuse Watson from practice, have him practice separately from the rest of the team, as well as area fans and media, or suspend the QB, though the latter presently appears unlikely. It's also possible NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could place Watson on the commissioner's exempt list, which would essentially put him on paid leave while the league finalizes its own investigation into allegations against the QB.
If/when trade talks pick up, Barshop adds, the Broncos and Dolphins might be considered favorites to land the embattled QB. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler previously reported that Watson is personally intrigued with Denver, and Broncos cornerback Kareem Jackson has gone on record saying Watson wants to relocate to his team. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have reportedly been a preferred destination for Watson for months, and Miami owns three first-round picks in the next two drafts -- potential ammunition for a blockbuster deal.
Watson may still face NFL discipline during the 2021 season, regardless of whether he is criminally charged in the wake of his legal situation.