Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson will not face criminal charges, despite multiple sexual assault allegations, a Texas grand jury decided on Friday.
Watson was accused by 22 women of that worked as massage therapists of sexual assault. The grand jury heard testimony regarding nine potential charges on Friday from some of those women before deciding not to bring charges against Watson. Watson is still the subject of several civil lawsuits, which can more forward more substantively now that criminal prosecution is off the table.
The end of his criminal case does not necessarily mean that Watson will escape punishment by the NFL, which was been waiting for the legal process to play out before revealing the results of its own investigation. There is precedent for the league to suspend a player that was not charged with a criminal act, as it did when Ben Roethlisberger was suspended in 2010.
The Texans plan to trade Watson, who had asked for a trade before the allegations were made public in 2021. Watson sat out the entire 2021 season at the team’s request while his legal issues were settled. General manager Nick Caserio said at the 2022 NFL Combine that the team was waiting for those legal issues to clear up before acting on trading Watson/
“Once the information becomes more relevant or prevalent we will handle that accordingly,” Caserio said. “My philosophy from the beginning has always been doing the right thing by the Houston Texans organization. We are going to continue to do that here moving forward.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers could have interest in Watson, as they are searching for a replacement for Roethlisberger after his retirement in January. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Shaun King, now a host for VSiN, said that the Steelers have interest in the player. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette beat writer Gerry Dulac reported that the Steelers are not interested.
The asking price for Watson is also unknown. The team had been asking for something in the range of three first-round picks, but it’s unclear if the current quarterback market will bear that price.
Watson is one of the last sure-fire starting quarterbacks available with Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz and Russell Wilson off the market, but the abuse allegations, along with his season away from the game, could depress what teams are willing to pay for the former Clemson star.
His on-field results through four seasons are impressive. He led the NFL with 4,823 passing yards in 2020, while also finishing first in yards per attempt and yards per completion. His career 104.5 passer rating is tied with Aaron Rodgers for second among active quarterbacks, trailing on Patrick Mahomes.