The cloud continues to hang over Deshaun Watson and the Texans as the NFL seems to be leaving everyone twisting in the wind with no decision on Watson’s potential violations of the personal conduct policy and now the Texans may just be sitting their $39 million a year QB this year according to Aaron Wilson.
Texans are prepared to have Deshaun Watson on the 53-man roster and inactive every week, according to multiple league sources. Watson, who has issued a standing trade request with no deal imminent, would be paid his $10.54 million salary— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) August 30, 2021
I am not exactly sure if this plan by the Texans would hold up if Watson were to challenge his deactivation as long as the NFL says it is ok for him to continue to play in the NFL. A deactivation of Watson in response to his conduct off the field would seemingly be looked at as a conduct punishment. The NFL and NFLPA agreed to the CBA to not allowed deactivation for any significant period of time for what would seem to be discipline related issues.
(xvii) Conduct detrimental to Club—maximum fine of an amount equal to one
week’s salary and/or suspension without pay for a period not to exceed four (4) weeks.
This maximum applies without limitation to any deactivation of a player in response to
player conduct (other than a deactivation in response to a player’s on-field playing ability),
and any such deactivation, even with pay, shall be considered discipline subject to the
limits set forth in this section. The Non-Injury Grievance Arbitrator’s decision in Terrell
Owens (Nov. 23, 2005) is thus expressly overruled as to any Club decision to deactivate a
player in response to the player’s conduct.
The Owens situation referenced here is when he had his famous clash with the Eagles in 2005 and the Eagles suspended him and then basically told him to go away for the year rather than continue as a member of the team. That decision by the Eagles was upheld back in 2005 but the NFLPA and NFL overruled that in the 2006 CBA.
Now Watson has stated that he wants a trade from the Texans and he may not want to challenge any deactivation but he has shown up to practice this offseason and as far as I know has not refused to play. Had he refused to practice he likely would have opened himself up to a conduct detrimental suspension which would void the remaining $82.54 million in guarantees. My guess is if this is the path that the Texans are taking the plan would be to find a trade partner within the first four weeks of the season unless they have a reason to state that Watson has an injury that needs more treatment and that the deactivation is injury related.
The fault of this situation really falls on the NFL who have refused to put Watson on the exempt list despite what looks like mounting evidence of multiple violations of the conduct policy. It has left the Texans in limbo with Watson’s contract and put them in a difficult position with what to do with him.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.