The Texans' offseason Organized Team Activities (OTA's) continue this week, with a Thursday morning session that is open to a handful of media members. This will be the first look anybody outside the building is getting at the most bizarre roster assembled in team history, where the best player on the team is at home being sued by 22 women, and the group of players actually at the facility is about 50 percent brand new Texan employees.
Of course, it's Deshaun Watson who is home pondering the legal tidal wave he is facing, and according to Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com, Watson's absence will not be limited to the next couple weeks worth of OTA's. It is likely to extend into June, when the Texans' first mandatory calendar milestone is taking place — full team minicamp:
Watson is not attending OTAs, and a source said the Texans loosely expect Watson to follow through on his trade desires by missing minicamp, too, unless those plans change.
Prior to the lawsuit deluge that began on March 16, it was believed Watson would be long gone by now, traded to a team with a brighter future and, presumably in Watson's eyes, a more capable front office and ownership group. Alas, the lawsuits happened, but the NFL calendar doesn't stop for Deshaun Watson. If Bashop's report is accurate, then Watson is willing to incur whatever fines the team levies for missing the three day session in June.
From there, it cruel get very interesting. A few thoughts on the matter:
What about training camp in late July?
The NFL announced this week that the opening of training camp would happen simultaneously for 29 of the 32 teams (Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Pittsburgh will open earlier because they're involved in either the Hall of Fame game or the Thursday night regular season opener, or both), and would be a major celebration of football. It will also be a feeding frenzy for the big , drama-laden storylines, of which Watson is at the top of the list. If Watson hasn't been traded by July 27, then there is a good chance that he shows up at NRG Stadium. Why would he do that?
Well, because if Watson holds out and stays away, he gets fined significantly for each day he is gone. If he shows up, then Watson could be eligible for Roger Goodell to place him on the Commissioner's Exempt list while the league further investigates whether or not to suspend him. That list would force Watson to sit at home, AND get paid at the same time. So in short, at least showing up on July 27, and clocking in, keeps Watson eligible for paid leave, as opposed to racking up fines from a lengthy holdout.
When exactly could NFL-mandated paid leave happen for Deshaun?
Before harboring a guess as to when (or if) a paid leave trip to the Commissioner's Exempt list might happen, it's probably important to establish what type of intel Goodell needs to put Watson in that category. There are three instances that would trigger a trip to the exempt list, and the one that applies to Watson for now is as follows:
“When an investigation leads the Commissioner to believe that a player may have violated this Policy by committing any of the conduct identified above, he may act where the circumstances and evidence warrant doing so. This decision will not reflect a finding of guilt or innocence and will not be guided by the same legal standards and considerations that would apply in a criminal trial."
It's tough to forecast when Goodell could mandate Watson go on the CE list, because it all depends on how long it takes the league to thoroughly investigate the allegations against Watson. One definitive instance that would send Watson to the CE list immediately would be if HPD charged him with criminal activity for the accusations levied in the civil lawsuits. As of right now, ten of the women have gone to the police, and the police have yet to rule on whether to charge Watson or not.
What are other teams thinking, as they watch this play out?
As we've discussed several times here, the number of teams keeping an eye on this situation, with designs on possibly trading for Watson, is several. Throughout the last several months, the names of the teams may have changed, but what hasn't changed is the fact that Watson the PLAYER represents a significant upgrade over most signal callers in the NFL. If Watson is cleared of all wrongdoing, or at the very least gets clarity on what his punishment will be, no fewer than five teams will be calling Nick Caserio to entertain serious trade talks. Take that to the bank.
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