The NFL trade deadline will come and go at 4 p.m. on the east coast Tuesday, and Deshaun Watson will not be traded to the Miami Dolphins, according to a source.
Womp, womp, womp.
That means the soap opera that has played out since the quarterback’s distaste for Texans’ club ownership became known last January, along with its incessant agenda-driven sourcing, can go on break the remainder of this season.
That’s the news now in South Florida.
And barring a significant change of circumstance, either within the Texans organization or in Watson’s thinking, Watson won’t be dealt to anyone else either.
But the saga will return next offseason when the current parties and perhaps some new players begin the process anew at the start of the next NFL trading period at 4 p.m. on March 16, 2022.
So why did this situation offer all bark and no bite?
The first is Watson has a no-trade clause and he wielded it like a surgeon handling a scalpel. The Texans have fielded phone calls about Watson from as many as eight different teams since last spring, according to a source.
But throughout that time, Watson’s representation has made it known he was mostly interested in playing for the New York Jets first and then the Miami Dolphins. And when the Jets drafted Zach Wilson with the second overall pick of the April draft, that left only the Dolphins.
And because Watson can refuse to waive his no-trade clause to go anywhere else, it has been the Dolphins and Texans speaking exclusively for the past week about making this trade.
The second reason is the Texans, whose asking price was set by general manager Nick Caserio, wanted three first-round picks and two second round picks. And the Texans stuck quite close to that demand in negotiations until recently.
The Texans, it should be said, have grown in their desire to offload Watson. They’ve moved from not wanting to trade him at all and not returning phone calls from interested teams, to taking calls, to having serious conversations about making a trade.
And as Watson has sat out every game this season despite collecting his $10 million salary, Houston’s desire to make a deal increased. Sources within that organization even leaked stories of a trade being imminent two weeks ago in the hope Watson would be more motivated to settle his lawsuits.
The third reason the trade didn’t materialize is the Dolphins never actually met the threshold of offering Houston’s asking price of three first-round picks and two second-round picks, according to a club source.
The club was also not allowed to speak directly with Watson despite requesting such a conversation for several weeks. The request, a source close to Ross confirmed, was finally granted Monday evening.
But Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and Watson were unable to have that chat and so nothing was resolved.
Although the source declined to say what the Dolphins were willing to give, he said the team held back on offering definitive compensation terms because it wanted certainty about Watson’s legal future, and with 22 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse still pending, that was not available to Miami.
The Dolphins wanted as much legal certainty as possible because Watson does indeed face not only a legal problem but one with the league office as well.
That’s because once all or a great majority of the legal facts are known, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will have a say in that matter.
At the NFL winter meetings in New York last week, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent told reporters that, in the event of a trade, it would be up to Goodell to decide whether Watson would be available to play for his new team right away.
Watson could be suspended, or he could be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, although that was the less likely course because Goodell could have done that already.
With no trade happening for at least four months, the legal issues that also include a police criminal investigation, will have time to find a resolution.
Then the parties can engage anew.
One variable in this situation is Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. He is expected to get the final nine starts for the Dolphins this season, barring injury.
That is a grand opportunity for the second-year player to show himself worthy of remaining Miami’s starter over the long term. It also, of course, gives the Dolphins time to decide what other direction to go in if Tagovailoa does not play well.
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