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Four teams lead search for Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson

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In the wake of the grand jury’s decision not to bring any criminal charges against Deshaun Watson despite civil lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints from women alleging sexual misconduct, commercial interest in the quarterback has begun to heat up.

The Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks have expressed the most interest in Watson, two people with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the situation. Other teams, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, could end up joining the hunt for the three-time Pro Bowl selection.

The Houston Texans resisted the urge to trade Watson last year after he was adamant that he no longer wanted to play for the team due to his discontent with ownership and management. Texans brass insisted on commanding a slew of draft picks for Watson, whom they drafted 12th overall in 2017 and then in 2020 signed him to a four-year, $177.5 million contract extension with $111 million. in guaranteed money.

Houston officials have said they are ready to leave Watson behind, but still want to be handsomely compensated.

Watson can make all of this more interesting because he has a no-trade clause in his contract, so he’ll only give that up to trigger a move to a team of his choosing. So the highest bidder does not automatically guarantee that a team will get its rights.

At least four teams are showing strong interest in Deshaun Watson.

Watson wants to go to a team with a strong coaching staff and roster to ensure he has the best chance of contending for Super Bowls after four frustrating years in Houston.

It is believed that New Orleans could be at the top of his list of desired destinations. The Saints have a strong defense and a talented collection of offensive weapons. However, a strong push from the Buccaneers could influence him, some league insiders believe. The Browns are the other team best positioned to win now.

The additional uncertainty continues to weigh on Watson because it is not yet known what type of punishment, if any, he will receive from the NFL.

The absence of criminal charges does not mean he is off the hook in the eyes of league officials, whose investigation into the many complaints from women accusing Watson of misconduct during massage therapy sessions he booked with them is underway. course.

In 2010, then-Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger received a six-game suspension from the league for violating the league’s personal conduct policy despite being cleared of criminal charges after a 20-year-old college student years old accused him of sexually assaulting her in a Georgia nightclub. . The suspension was later reduced to four games.

In 2017, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott received a six-game suspension for violating the personal conduct policy despite avoiding criminal charges in a domestic violence incident.

So Watson certainly could still take a punishment from the league, with most pundits expecting a two- to six-game ban.

Still, there are some who wonder if Commissioner Roger Goodell might decide that Watson, who did not play a game the entire 2021 season and lost more than $8 million in endorsements as a result of the allegations against him, has already he paid his price. But those individuals are a minority.

There is no indication when Goodell will decide on Watson’s future. But the absence of criminal charges now makes the teams feel more comfortable going after him.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Saints, Seahawks among teams leading search for Deshaun Watson

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