Although Watson is on the team’s roster, he’s facing 22 civil lawsuits with allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior. Watson asked for a trade in January, before the lawsuits were filed, because he wasn’t happy with the direction of the team was going. It remains to be seen whether another team will trade for Watson amid the ongoing lawsuits.
Here’s a look at the Texans’ quarterback situation and where things stand in Houston:
Why did Watson report to training camp?
It’s pretty simple: He didn’t want to get fined $50,000 for each day he didn’t report. The new CBA, which went into effect in 2020, says fines for holdouts can no longer be forgiven.
The Texans chose to cancel their mandatory minicamp in June. Watson would have been fined $95,877 had the Texans held minicamp and he did not show up.
Two sources who were at the facility on Sunday when Watson reported said it was clear the quarterback’s stance on being traded had not changed and that he reported so he would not be fined.
General manager Nick Caserio and coach David Culley were clear in January they had no intention of trading Watson. But as the lawsuits were filed in March and April and Watson’s legal situation played out, it became increasingly clear the quarterback would eventually be traded.
It remains to be seen if that’s this week, before the Nov. 2 trade deadline or after the season once slots for draft picks have been set. Still, don’t expect Caserio to trade Watson just to get him off the roster if the return value isn’t there. The Texans’ price for trading Watson has been a combination of five high draft picks and starting-caliber players, two league executives told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
Where do the lawsuits stand now?
After a lot of public sparring between lawyers Rusty Hardin (Watson’s attorney) and Tony Buzbee (the attorney for the 22 plaintiffs), it has been quiet as the sides go through the discovery phase.
According to the docket for the case, if these lawsuits continue to trial, depositions are set to begin in September. The plaintiffs would be deposed before Watson, who can’t be deposed before Feb. 22, 2022, per the court schedule.
Without a settlement, the lawsuits would not be resolved until after the 2021 NFL season.
What about any criminal charges?
Ten women have filed complaints with Houston police about Watson, Hardin told ESPN’s John Barr on Monday. According to Hardin, eight of the women are among the 22 women who have filed civil lawsuits against Watson; two of the women have not filed civil lawsuits against the Texans quarterback.
Houston police would not comment on either the investigation or the number of women who have filed complaints.
What’s next for Watson?
On Wednesday, the team will take the field for the first time during training camp. Watson is not expected to be out there, according to two league sources. Before practice starts for the Texans, here are a few options for the team and Watson:
The Texans trade Watson: The Texans already have had preliminary discussions with other teams but don’t believe they have received a serious offer, according to sources.
Although the talks have not reached a significant stage as of Monday morning, the Texans are willing to trade Watson before the start of the season if they find the right match, according to sources.
Commissioner Roger Goodell puts Watson on the exempt list: If Goodell puts Watson on the exempt list, it would prevent Watson from playing but allow him to be paid. The CBA says Goodell could put Watson on the list under three circumstances:
“First, when a player is formally charged with: (1) a felony offense; or (2) a crime of violence, meaning that he is accused of having used physical force or a weapon to injure or threaten a person or animal, of having engaged in a sexual assault by force or against a person who was incapable of giving consent, or having engaged in other conduct that poses a genuine danger to the safety or well-being of another person. The formal charges may be in the form of an indictment by a grand jury, the filing of charges by a prosecutor, or an arraignment in a criminal court.”
Watson has not been charged with anything that would fall under those circumstances. It does also include, “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.”
“… Third, in cases in which a violation relating to a crime of violence is alleged but further investigation is required, the commissioner may place a player on the commissioner exempt list on a limited and temporary basis to permit the league to conduct a preliminary investigation.”
The Texans excuse him from practice or have him practice inside: Houston could decide they don’t want the distraction of having Watson at the facility and either keep him inside (away from the media and fans) or excuse him from being there all together.
Watson is suspended: This seems unlikely given where the lawsuits stand and the short time before practice starts on Wednesday.
Watson stops showing up: Again, also unlikely, after Watson already reported Sunday because he didn’t want to get fined.
If the Texans trade Watson or he’s not available, what’s Houston’s plan at quarterback?
Taylor is expected to start the season for Houston, barring a Watson trade that brings a quarterback to Houston. The biggest question is how long will he start for the Texans? In 2022, Houston is going to have to make a decision about its quarterback of the future, and to do that, it needs to see what it has in Mills. If Houston struggles at all early in the season, expect to see Mills getting playing time.
Where could the Texans trade Watson?
The Eagles are an interesting potential trade partner because they have multiple first- and second-round picks in 2022.
According to reporting by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Denver is a team that intrigues Watson as a possible destination, but while the Broncos have been noncommittal on anything other than preparing Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater for the season, they are monitoring the quarterback landscape. Watson is eager to join the Broncos, former teammate (and current Bronco) Kareem Jackson said in June.
From Carolina’s perspective, Watson, who starred at nearby Clemson, could be a surer thing than recently acquired Sam Darnold, though the Panthers already picked up Darnold’s 2022 option for a guaranteed $18.8 million.
Meanwhile, Miami could be Watson’s preferred destination, sources told ESPN in January. The Dolphins also have three first-round picks in the next two drafts. Watson does have a no-trade clause in his contract, so he could choose to veto a trade the Texans are willing to make.
D’Andre Swift won’t be limited in Detroit Lions’ season opener vs. San Francisco 49ers
ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift, who had been slowed by a groin injury throughout the preseason, is expected to be ready to go with no limitations in Sunday’s season opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
Lions coaches had expressed concerns during training camp Swift’s status, as the groin injury limited his participation in practice and preseason games. But the second-year running back was a full participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
“I’m very bad at counting reps,” Lions running backs coach Duce Staley said. “If he’s out there being productive … I don’t know how to take him off.
“I get caught up in the game, he’s gonna get caught up in the game and every good player — every good running back that I know anyway — once he starts feeling it, you don’t want to pull him off. We can count the reps Monday.”
Swift is expected to be the lead back for Detroit this season, with Jamaal Williams set to thrive in a strong complementary role. As a rookie, Swift had 114 carries for 521 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, joining former Lions star Billy Sims (1980) as the only rookies in franchise history to score eight rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns.
Swift also had 46 catches for 357 receiving yards last season.
“When he is available, he’s a weapon,” Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn said. “You can do a lot of things with that young man. So I’m looking forward to seeing him go Sunday.”
Baltimore Ravens fear RB Gus Edwards, CB Marcus Peters have torn ACLs, sources say
The Ravens believe Edwards and Peters tore their ACLs during Thursday’s practice, sources tell Schefter. Both players are undergoing testing to confirm the initial diagnosis.
This continues a horrid run of injuries for Baltimore and delivers a major blow to the Ravens’ Super Bowl aspirations.
Edwards becomes the third running back to suffer a season-ending injury in a span of 12 days. J.K. Dobbins tore his ACL in the preseason finale on Aug. 28, and Justice Hill hurt his Achilles on Sept. 9.
Ty’Son Williams, a practice player from a year ago who doesn’t have an NFL carry, becomes the Ravens’ lead back. The other two running backs on the roster — Trenton Cannon and Le’Veon Bell (practice squad) — only started practicing with the Ravens on Wednesday.
The loss of Peters would represent the most significant injury to the defense this year. The Ravens have depth at cornerback, but it will be difficult to replace Peters’ playmaking ability. His 31 interceptions lead the NFL since he entered the league in 2015.
The Ravens open the season at the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football.
New Orleans Saints complete trade with Houston Texans for CB Bradley Roby, sources say
The New Orleans Saints have finalized their trade for cornerback Bradley Roby, sending a 2022 third-round draft pick and a 2023 conditional pick to the Houston Texans, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
In order to facilitate a trade to the Saints, the Texans converted $7.6 million of Roby’s base salary into a signing bonus, a source told ESPN’s Field Yates. When Roby officially gets traded to New Orleans, his base salary for 2021 is now $1,862,645, which fits into the Saints’ salary-cap space.
Roby was a first-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 2014. He spent the past two years in Houston and has started 49 career games with 10 interceptions.
The 29-year-old Roby is entering the second year of a three-year, $31.5 million extension that he signed with the Texans last year. He will miss the first game of the season, however, as part of a six-game suspension that began in 2020 for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
The Saints have identified cornerback as a “must-fill” position ever since they released former starter Janoris Jenkins in March as part of a massive salary-cap purge and then lost one potential starting contender, Patrick Robinson, to a surprise retirement early in training camp. They even attempted to trade up nearly 20 spots in the NFL draft to land top prospects Jaycee Horn or Pat Surtain II.
New Orleans signed veteran Desmond Trufant on Monday to compete with Ken Crawley and rookie Paulson Adebo for the No. 2 starting cornerback job across from Pro Bowler Marshon Lattimore. However, Roby now becomes the front-runner to lock down that job following his suspension.
ESPN’s Mike Triplett contributed to this report.