Deshaun Watson’s legal situation isn’t getting any clearer, and with training camp right around the corner, it may force the NFL into making some sort of decision on his status.
In a recent appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show,” Albert Breer of The MMQB thinks that the league might consider placing Watson on the commissioner’s exempt list at the start of training camp. Placement on the exempt list would mean Watson is paid his salary, but is not counted as a member of the active roster and cannot practice or play in games.
The situation is somewhat complicated by Watson’s stated desire to leave the Houston Texans, meaning the quarterback might not show up anyway. However, teams cannot forgive training-camp fines under the new CBA, so putting Watson on the exempt list might be a way to placate both the team and the player.
"I think there's a good chance he plays in 2021. I do not think he'll be playing for any team in Week 1."
–@AlbertBreer on Deshaun Watson
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) July 16, 2021
“My sense is the league would probably try to kick the can down the road as long as the legal situation’s still playing out, and the way they kick the can down the road is that exempt clause. They put the player on paid leave and they basically push pause on the whole thing. With the training camp reporting date being a week and a half, two weeks away, you would think that they would have to make a decision whether or not to put him on the exempt list unless Watson’s lawyers can find a way to reach a settlement between now and July 27.”
Breer added that league discipline of some sort is still expected for Watson, and the quarterback is unlikely to play to start the season no matter what. However, he did suggest that Watson had at least a decent chance of playing at some point in 2021.
“I think there’s a possibility and a good chance he plays in 2021,” Breer said. “I do not think he’ll be playing for any team in Week 1.”
Watson is facing allegations of sexual assault from multiple women. The NFL investigation is proceeding slowly, as Watson had yet to be interviewed about the allegations as of last month. There is still some talk that Watson could be traded, perhaps to the Eagles, despite him facing multiple lawsuits and the likelihood of league discipline.