With Watson's legal bills likely mounting, and possibly millions of dollars in settlement checks that he may need to write someday to the 22 plaintiffs currently suing him, reporting to camp would probably be the prudent decision, and on Sunday morning, we got confirmation from Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network that reporting to camp is exactly what Watson intends to do:
Quarterbacks are reporting today in Houston, and #Texans QB Deshaun Watson is expected to be among them, source said. He’s showing up for testing to begin entry into training camp. However, Watson’s stance about the organization and desire to be traded remains unchanged.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 25, 2021
This situation, unprecedented in so many ways, is as fluid as it gets, so things can change quickly, as we've learned on so many fronts with the Texans over the last two years. Let's look at the important questions surrounding Watson's decision to report to training camp:
Why exactly is he showing up, if he reportedly still wants to be traded?
Well, let's be clear about one thing — Watson never said publicly (or even through third parties) that he intended to hold out. The fact of the matter is, had the 22 civil lawsuits not happened, Watson would be in another uniform right now, so by the time holding out was a relevant option, Watson's camp had shut up about anything and everything, other than denials of wrongdoing from Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin. With that said, I don't think Watson showing up is some olive branch about reconciling. I think it is all about being able to avoid $50,000 per day in fines, and avoid losing game checks. (Watson is slated to make over $10 million this season.) Now, if the Texans still have some good ol' fashioned delusion coursing through their collective veins, and they think retaining Watson long term is still a possibility, I would pay money to watch the sales pitch, which begs the question...
Do the Texans even WANT to keep Watson, at this point?
It's been widely reported that the Texans were ready to move Watson for a gargantuan haul of picks and players, before the lawsuits began flying in March, so the plan is likely still to trade him eventually. I do think it's an interesting point on which to speculate, though — if Watson had NOT requested a trade, has he admitted to enough in this legal saga to where the Texans might move on from him anyway? The Texans have one of the highest thresholds in the league for player conduct, and Watson has admitted to some fairly unsavory things, most notably consensual (according to him) sex with a massage therapist. That, plus his very sloppy use of social media to schedule massage therapy with over 50 specialists, would probably be enough to move on from most players. Deshaun Watson is not most players, though. He is a top five quarterback in the NFL.
Um, how awkward is this going to be?
If Watson is even allowed in the building, let alone practicing with his teammates, the whole thing will be awkward! First, for the first time, Watson is meeting the new head coach and general manager, two guys who went balls-to-the-wall to say that the team was retaining Deshaun Watson, in the case of Culley, almost to the point of delusion. What about the other quarterbacks? Tyrod Taylor came to Houston to become the new starter, and Davis Mills was the team's first draft choice back in April. That's going to be weird. And then the coup de gras would be Watson bumping into owner Cal McNair or Vice President of Football Operations Jack Easterby, the two men likely most responsible for Watson's current feelings about the organization. Can we just please make Watson wear a Go-Pro as he walks around the building this week?
What's the best case scenario for the Texans here?
The best case scenario is that somehow, some way, this renewed face time with their franchise quarterback results in a reconciliation. However, I think that ship has likely sailed. Look, it's going to be super awkward, even if they send Deshaun home with an excused absence. In other words, there is no scenario under which Watson isn't some sort of distraction, as long as he is still (a) an employee of the Texans, and (b) has no clarity on his legal situation, with the plaintiffs and with the NFL. Best case scenario is that the league makes some sort of ruling on Watson, preferably announcing whatever his suspension is going to be (I am assuming he is getting SOME sort of suspension), and honestly, at that point, the longer it keeps him away from the Texans, the better. From there, my hope would be Nick Caserio waiting until NEXT offseason to trade Watson, because his value should be back to it's "early 2021" peak again.
Either way, buckle up! It's gonna be a bumpy one this week!
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