The Miami Dolphins or Carolina Panthers could trade for Deshaun Watson at any time, and he could play for them this Sunday. But with very much still unknown about Watson and the 22 allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior made by his massage therapists, the NFL reserves the right to either punish or place Watson on paid leave in the future.
Deshaun Watson cleared to play
That’s the big takeaway from Roger Goodell’s news conference following Day 1 of the fall league meeting in Manhattan.
“There obviously are other, I’ll call it legal approaches, that are being made, either through the civil cases,” Goodell said when asked about Watson’s status. “Obviously the police have been investigating, also. We don’t have all the access to that information at this point in time. We pride ourselves in not interfering in that, being as cooperative as we can to make sure we get all the facts.
“But I think that process is still ongoing. And until that process [no longer] is ongoing and we have enough data and enough information to make a determination of whether he should go on Commissioner’s Exempt, we don’t feel that we have that necessary information at this point.”
Translation: There’s nothing stopping Watson from playing for any team that acquires his rights.
Are the Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers still interested in Watson?
The Dolphins remain at the top of the list of most likely destinations. There was a belief that the Carolina Panthers had also been involved in talks, but NFL Network reported Wednesday that they are not expected to pursue Watson at this time.
So are the Dolphins the frontrunners? They might be the only runners. NFL Network also reported Wednesday that Watson has only waived his no-trade clause for Miami.
The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that the Dolphins and Texans had agreed on compensation for Watson. They also said that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who declined to comment on the matter Tuesday, has signed off on a trade that would send three first-round picks to Houston.
However, the report noted that Ross wants some idea from Goodell on the length of any potential suspension. All of that said — as of now, Pro Football Network has been unable to independently confirm the Chronicle’s report.
Goodell made it clear Tuesday he is not prepared to provide any information on possible discipline for Watson. There’s also another holdup: Watson’s unresolved legal issues. Making it more complicated, clarity on his case is impossible before the trade deadline unless Watson settles those nearly two-dozen lawsuits in the next week — which doesn’t seem likely.