As questions about the NFL futures of a couple of star quarterbacks have been answered, the public will get a much better idea about Deshaun Watson’s future very soon. Last year, 22 women accused Watson of sexual misconduct, and 10 of them made criminal accusations. Some of the women who made the criminal accusations have been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in Texas on Friday.
Per the New York Times’ Jenny Vrentas and Juliet Macur, the lawyer for the women making the accusations against Watson, Tony Buzbee, said at least six of his clients have received subpoenas. They will be part of the case the prosecutors make before the grand jury to try and convince it to criminally indict Watson. According to the Times:
(T)he complaints released to the public were heavily redacted but listed acts ranging from Watson exposing himself, touching therapists’ hands with his penis and ejaculating on them. Three of the complaints allege sexual assault or attempted sexual assault, defined in Texas as nonconsensual penetration.
While he still has many civil lawsuits he’s fighting, in which he can also be deposed, what happens with the grand jury will likely decide his immediate NFL future. If he is indicted, it is hard to believe that a team would try to make a trade with the Houston Texans to acquire him. That would mean giving up picks and players for a quarterback who, while one of the best in the league, could be on trial at some point in the future. Maybe the Miami Dolphins knew this day was coming soon, and that is why they said last week at the combine that the “door is shut” on Watson.
Watson has maintained his innocence since the first accusations became public last spring, his attorney, Rusty Hardin, said “There has never been any crime here,” and “These are civil matters that belong in civil courts.”
Surely that’s what the two of them want at this point. If all they have to do is deal with lawsuits then Watson can play football, even if he is punished by the NFL, and the matters of dollars and cents can be sorted out by the attorneys. If a front office is willing to swallow the sour public reputation they will receive for extending a major trade offer to the Texans to try and acquire Watson, they can have a great quarterback, in his prime, under 30.
However, if Hardin is forced to present a defense in front of a jury of Watson’s peers, expect Watson to spend at least a second consecutive season out of the NFL. At that point, the situation will have advanced far past negative publicity, or even ethical questions about if Watson should even be allowed to play in the NFL. If the grand jury chooses to indict, the decision on Watson’s playing future is no longer in the hands of the NFL. If a case were to go to trial, the decision will lie in the hands of 12 people with whom the NFL will have no contact. Those people will listen to even more evidence than has already been reported, and make a decision that goes far past however many games Roger Goodell might suspend Watson for, or what a general manager of a team desperate for a quarterback is willing to give the Texans to acquire him. That group of 12 would be making a decision on if at the conclusion of the trial Watson will be sleeping in his house or in a cell.
NFL teams are free to make trades now, but the Texans currently do not have enough power to get anything close to the haul the Seattle Seahawks just got from the Denver Broncos for Russell Wilson. The only people who currently have enough power to make any decision on Watson is a grand jury in Texas.