Sean Pendergast

Two Weeks Of Legal Silence: What's Next For Deshaun Watson?

The silence surrounding Deshaun Watson's legal saga has been deafening, of late.
The silence surrounding Deshaun Watson's legal saga has been deafening, of late. Photo by Eric Sauseda
For a month, the Deshaun Watson legal saga was non stop chaos, on special media and in the news realm. If it wasn't another few lawsuits dropping, it was Tony Buzbee firing away at Watson and Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, on social media. That would typically be followed by a statement of some sort from Hardin, and on and on we went.

However, since a status hearing on Thursday, April 22, the first time both attorneys had been in the same physical courtroom throughout this ordeal (as opposed to being in the same courtroom via Zoom, which had already occurred), there has been nothing from either side. It's been dead silent, even through the NFL Draft this past weekend.

In fact, the only person speaking on the Watson situation at all recently was Texans owner Cal McNair, who repeated the same company line at a charity function on Tuesday afternoon, when asked about the Texans' likely-to-be-traded-eventually signal caller:

“I really don’t have anything new,” McNair said. “There’s ongoing investigations, and we really can’t comment until they run their course.”

The silence has led to rampant speculation about possible resolutions for the 22 lawsuits facing Watson, and a city full of football fans wondering what this all means. Let's explore the possibilities:

It could mean we are close to some settlements
This appears to be the speculative leader in the clubhouse, that the two attorneys are laying down their electronic weapons and working constructively on an exit strategy from this sea of litigation. Let's face it, if these two sides decide to go to trial, it could take years to resolve, even in an optimal court era. With the COVID-induced backlog in the courts, it is decidedly suboptimal for trials. And that's also a key distinction here — the word "trials," PLURAL. There are 22 plaintiffs, so even the settlement solution is likely protracted and slow, as there may not be a "one size fits all" amount, considering there are several lawsuits that allege higher degrees of misconduct than others.

It could mean we are still stuck identifying some of the plaintiffs
While the two sides may be working toward settlements, the one assignment we KNOW both attorneys were handed in the courtroom back on April 22 was finding a reasonable solution to nail down the identities of four out of the 22 plaintiffs. According to Hardin, there are four plaintiffs with "common names," thus making 100 percent accurate identification of them a challenge, so Hardin requested Social Security numbers or Texas Drivers License numbers. Buzbee fired back that the request was ludicrous. So Judge Collier told both attorneys to essentially "go figure it out," and to do so by May 7. That's this coming Friday. There's a chance, I suppose, that there is still a hold up. If that's the case, then we are truly moving at a glacial pace on all of this.

If there is resolution soon, then what?
A resolution of the legal entanglements does not mean that the Texans are free and clear to move Watson for reasonable value. To be clear, they can trade the quarterback anytime they want, but until there is clarity on Watson's future, no team will offer reasonable value. Clarity on the legal side is just one step. The equally crucial step is learning what, if anything, the league is doing to punish Watson. Most league insiders seem to think there will be a suspension of some sort coming. The length of suspension will depend on what the league's investigation yields. If there are settlements, one of the conditions might be prevention of the plaintiffs from speaking to and cooperating with the NFL in any investigation.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast