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Deshaun Watson is reportedly still hoping to be traded from the Houston Texans, even while facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault or misconduct. But any team interested in acquiring the quarterback would have to do so knowing Watson’s legal status may not be resolved until after the 2021 season. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Sarah Bishop, the Texans signal-caller cannot be deposed, or asked to provide a sworn out-of-court testimony for his case, until at least Feb. 22, 2022.
The Watson case has officially entered discovery, or the exchange of facts and evidence in a case, per Fowler. But the 22 women suing Watson for misconduct aren’t set to begin depositions until September. Court dockets also dictate they would be deposed before Watson, the QB’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, confirmed to Tuesday to ESPN. The 2021 NFL season ends Feb. 13, 2022, with Super Bowl LVI, meaning the case — barring a settlement between Watson and his accusers — would remain unresolved for Watson’s entire 2021 campaign. That, of course, isn’t accounting for the fact the NFL could suspend the QB anyway, regardless of legal results.
Hardin reiterated Tuesday, as ESPN reported, that Watson has not yet engaged in any settlement discussions with his accusers, all of whom allege misconduct from private therapy sessions. Earlier this month, the QB’s attorney suggested Tony Buzbee, the plaintiffs’ attorney, has already attempted to settle the case on multiple occasions — a suggestion Buzbee himself denied. Hardin, meanwhile, maintains that Watson wants any potential settlement amount to be made public.
Amid the ongoing legal process, Watson is skipping Texans OTAs in hopes of fueling a future trade, per Fowler. Houston, meanwhile, “loosely expects” the former first-round pick to maintain those desires through the offseason. Multiple teams are still monitoring the situation in the event of a future resolution, Fowler reports, but it’s still possible Watson could face a lengthy suspension. The NFL has been conducting an independent investigation of the case since early in the process and could discipline the QB for a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy, even if he’s never criminally charged for his alleged misconduct.