Multiple NFL teams offered packages including three first-round draft picks and two third-round picks for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in talks with the Texans before last week's trade deadline, sources say.
The lack of resolution to Watson's legal situation scuttled the chances of finalizing a deal. But those offers likely set the market for the record package it'll take this coming offseason to land Watson, who continues to face allegations of sexual misconduct in 22 civil lawsuits, as well as investigations by Houston police and the NFL. Watson has denied wrongdoing.
The Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins both engaged with the Texans in the week leading up to the deadline. But Panthers owner David Tepper decided not to move forward before the deadline, and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross followed suit hours before Tuesday's deadline in part because Watson hadn't settled the civil cases. The Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos also did due diligence on Watson and could re-engage in the offseason.
Watson has a no-trade clause and to this point has only waived it to the Dolphins.
Sources say the Texans have continued to seek five or six assets, including at least three unconditional first-round picks, plus additional high picks and/or premium players. And multiple teams were willing to meet that price, provided that certain aspects of Watson's legal situation were resolved. But there was no settlement in his civil cases and the police investigation remained open when Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline passed.
It remains to be seen if that changes before the start of free agency March 16 and the NFL Draft April 28-30.
On the civil side, Watson's deposition in the 22 civil cases can be taken no sooner than Feb. 22, and a pre-trial status conference is set for May. The timeline is less certain on the criminal side; police continue to look into 10 allegations and eventually will hand over their findings to the district attorney, who most likely will pass it along to a grand jury for a charging decision. Once the police investigations are closed, the NFL will seek additional evidence and ramp up its own investigation, which could yield a suspension under the personal-conduct policy.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Oct. 26 the league doesn't have enough information to place Watson, 26, on the Commissioner's Exempt List (paid leave) while the legal process plays out. So, Watson remains eligible to play for now. But Watson requested a trade in January, before the first accusation became public, and has told the Texans he'll never play for them again. The sides agreed at the start of camp that Watson would work out the facility but not play, and he continues to collect his $10 million salary.