What’s next for Deshaun Watson after reporting to Houston Texans training camp?

One of the first big mysteries of the 2021 season — will Deshaun Watson hold out of Houston Texans training camp? — got an answer Sunday morning.

Deshaun Watson will report to Texans training camp

Watson will indeed report for pre-camp testing, NFL Network first reported, but his underlying position has not changed. He wants a trade out of Houston. He just decided a holdout — which would have come with $50,000 a day in mandatory fines — is not the best way to force one.

An important caveat — a trade does not seem imminent. Not with the dual NFL and criminal investigations into a series of sexual misconduct accusations Watson faces in civil court. The prevailing belief is no trade is possible until there’s some sort of resolution to the lawsuits, which, absent a settlement, could take months if not years.

So, what next? Let’s explore the possibilities.

Deshaun Watson is placed on paid leave

If an NFL suspension is coming, it’s probably not coming anytime soon. Roger Goodell often lets the criminal process play out before handing down discipline. And while Houston PD continues to investigate, it’s significant that four months into this saga, he has not yet been charged.

But it’s possible the league puts him on the commissioner’s exempt list. Goodell has some latitude to sit players down that he believes — based on substantial evidence — may have committed a violent or sexual crime, even if said player has not been charged. According to the CBA, players placed on the exempt list cannot practice or attend games but are not necessarily barred from meetings and workouts.

Deshaun Watson is eventually traded

The sense around football is it’s become a matter of when, not if, Watson gets his trade wish. The most intuitive teams who would be in the mix for his services are the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins. We’ve heard the Dolphins have been quietly keeping tabs on Watson’s situation. Thus, they have not ruled out making a play for him.

As we reported earlier this month, it’s hard to see how a trade is consummated without real clarity on whether A) Watson will be arrested and B) if he’ll be suspended.

But if a settlement is reached with his 22 accusers that include non-disclosure agreements, the league and Houston police will have a much harder time finding the evidence they need to act. If there are no cooperating witnesses, there’s no case.

Dates to watch going forward: Aug. 31 and Nov. 2.

The first date is when teams must cut their rosters down to 53 players. The second is the trade deadline for the 2021 season.

Deshaun Watson plays for the Texans

As of now, Watson is one of four quarterbacks on the Texans’ roster. It’s possible that, despite his insistence upon being dealt, he accedes to the reality that he’s untradeable at this point in his career.

Granted, it’s possible that the Texans simply tell him he will not play for them while his situation is under review. In that case, he would be paid not to play. But Watson is not only their best player, he’s also their highest-paid. Watson’s $15.9 million cap number this year is easily the largest on the team.

With respect to Tyrod Taylor, who signed as a backup this offseason, Watson still gives the Texans their best chance to win. By electing not to hold out, there’s still a chance he does just that.

Watson, who turns 26 in September, is a three-time Pro Bowler who led the league in passing last year. Watson signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension in September 2020. However, less than six months later, he decided that he had enough of the Texans’ front-office dysfunction and began positioning for a trade.

But his plans came undone when nearly two-dozen massage therapists sued him based on their claims that he acted inappropriately during private sessions. Watson, through his attorney, has denied wrongdoing.

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