How the NFL's inaction could lead to a reunion between Watson, Texans

Now it's a waiting game. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The NFL's deadline for teams to cut their rosters down to 53 active players has come and gone. The eight-man practice squads have also been set. As per every year, there are some surprise releases and keeps. The Patriots cut Cam Newton, but the Falcons kept Josh Rosen. The Vikings cut four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Everson Griffen. Although he's been rumored to possibly resign with the team, his release is still surprising. One other move that wasn't as surprising was the Texans keeping Deshaun Watson on their 53-man roster. The thing that was surprising is the fact that the league isn't stepping in to quell the fire around Watson by putting him on the Commissioner's Exempt List or suspending him.

According to league rules, since Watson hasn't been formally charged with any criminal charges, the NFL won't act until the criminal charges and investigations are settled. While there are 10 criminal complaints filed, those investigations are ongoing. This puts the Texans in an awkward position. While he's on the roster, he's likely to be a healthy scratch for several reasons.

One thing the team doesn't want to do is risk getting Watson hurt, or diminishing his value by subpar play due to his lack of reps and severe void of talent around him. This would undoubtedly dwindle his trade value. The league doesn't want to overstep its bounds by taking action before they're legally able to do so. Another thing the team doesn't want to do is play Watson and have to make him available to the media. Not only that, but it would put an unnecessary cloud over the team by having teammates and coaches constantly answer questions about Watson.

Crazier things have happened

This leaves a glimmer of hope for a possible reunion. While the team has put out feelers and/or listened to offers for Watson, a trade hasn't been formalized for obvious reasons. With the league taking a hands-off approach, this leaves the team to figure it out for themselves. I've previously stated that Jack Easterby would drool at the opportunity to help Watson rehab his image, but would Watson and his team ever tuck tail and go back to the Texans? Perhaps.

The scenario would have to play out like this: Watson is cleared of criminal charges due to lack of evidence. The civil suits are ruled favorably for Watson whether settled out of court or by judge's orders. However, teams are unwilling to meet the Texans' trade demands. The ones that are, Watson refuses to waive his no-trade clause for. This leaves them both to try to mend fences in order to save face. If the team is as bad as they could be, they'll have high draft picks and tons of cap space. If general manager Nick Caserio can convince Watson (and his team) of a plan to retool the team and transfer them into contenders, what if he sees that as an opportunity to rehab his image? This could lead to, at minimum, a temporary reunion to help Watson regain his image and value. If he feels like his image is better, he still wants out, and the team is willing to oblige, there could be a trade after the 2022 season.

I know I've said this in passing in past articles about Easterby helping Watson rehab his image, but there's about a plastic cheese slice cover of a possibility of it actually happening. We'll never know how all this will play out until it plays out. This is pure speculation on my part. I truly think this will end with Watson on another team next offseason and the Texans using whatever draft capital to rebuild the team. However, if things take a wacky turn, I'd like to see it play out with Watson staying...even if it may mean Easterby gets fully entrenched in the organization.

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1. Davis Mills had an up-and-down day under center Friday. One play saw Mills drop back and try to get rid of the ball as Jonathan Greenard was rushing him only to have Greenard leap up and intercept Mills for what would have been an interception returned for a score.

2. A few plays later Davis Mills showcased his short memory. Mills surveyed the field, looked off the safety, and pitched a strike to Brevin Jordan over the middle, wide open, for a touchdown.

3. Davis Mills doesn’t stack bad plays. It is rare to see multiple bad plays happen in a row and Mills be the cause, or a cause, of the play not working. When he misses something, he usually makes up for it the next play.

4. It was a makeshift offensive line on Friday. Max Scharping played a lot at left guard. Charlie Heck saw some snaps at left tackle while Laremy Tunsil took a breather. Veteran lineman Cedric Ogbuehi played some at right tackle. There was plenty of work emphasized on the rushing attack Friday. The offensive line was fine, nothing special. I would say slight edge to the defense overall.

5. Rookie Kenyon Green didn’t practice. Right tackle Tytus Howard didn’t practice either. Pro Football Network is reporting Tytus Howard is out with a positive Covid test. Kenyon Green was banged up last practice, but Lovie Smith expects both back in the coming days.

6.The offensive line had its hands full with the defensive line today. Jonathan Greenard made the above-mentioned play of the practice with an interception. It felt constantly like there was some level of success from the defensive line. Not to say they dominated, but I would think the defense is happy with their day.

7. Maliek Collins has been a nice player in camp. He looks a bit quicker than last year. Collins downplayed how many “close” plays he had last year citing that everyone knows the saying “close but no cigar.” I asked him if he expected a lot of cigars this year. He chuckled and said yes. Teammate Roy Lopez gushed about what he believes Collins can be for this team and called his teammate one of the best defensive tackles in the league.

8. I almost wonder if quiet Derek Stingley days are good days. Stingley wasn’t involved in a lot of plays, but I know Davis Mills saw him on Friday. Mills dropped back on one play and made a read to his left seeing Chris Moore. Stingley darted from coverage towards Moore causing Mills to move off Moore and head to Nico Collins for a score. Yes, the defense allowed a touchdown, but Stingley did his job.

9. Rookie safety Jalen Pitre is a “starting” safety for the team according to Lovie Smith. Pitre had an interception, depending on who you ask, in practice. It is clear the Texans trust him and have put a lot on his plate. I would expect to see a lot of the rookie safety, good or bad, this season.

10. Lovie Smith praised the team’s depth at linebacker earlier in camp. I scoffed a little at the notion, but there seems to be a new linebacker making a play each day. Christian Kirksey had a nice stop in the run game today. Kevin Pierre-Louis, who played very little last year, has flashed. There’s some depth here, despite my skepticism.

11. Ka'imi Fairbairn doesn’t have a challenger in camp this year. I believed this offseason should have seen at the very least someone to challenge the kicker heading into his seventh year in the league. He’s been solid in camp so far, but there have been some misses. It is tough to judge distance, but the team clearly has faith in him with no challenger in sight.

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