Some things about the Houston Texans' predicament with quarterback Deshaun Watson are unchanged. He still wants a trade. The 22 sexual assault lawsuits pending against him are still in play. His decision to skip OTAs is as well.
And the Texans are willing to trade him. Somehow. Some day.
But there is a possibility that Watson puts on a Texans uniform once again.
And there are 20 million reasons that drive that possibility.
As ProFootballTalk.com notes, Watson could see the league place him on the Commissioner Exempt list, in which case he’d be financially wise to show up for camp.
Now, PFT insists "he’ll show up'' because of the dollars-and-sense consequences tied to the decision. Going on the Exempt list means he is on "paid leave.'' ... meaning a $10 million 2021 payday.
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But, as PFT writes, "If he sits out all of 2021 without showing up, the total cost will be upwards of $20 million.''
It is a bit more complicated that this. As pound-foolish as it might be, Watson could still opt to skip camp - $10 million be damned. He could also show up, assuming the Exempt list is coming ... and then see the NFL not move him to that status.
And then he's an active player. On the Texans roster. And in the Texans camp.
As PFT writes: "So if he shows up expecting to be placed on paid leave and isn’t, he’s stuck. ... He’ll have to practice and play, unless he opts to “hold in,” deliberately providing minimal effort and/or refusing to practice or play based on embellished, exaggerated, and/or fabricated injuries.''
The Texans could of course still trade him at that time. But what "treasure chest'' is another team (maybe the Eagles but maybe not the Broncos?) willing to give for a player who is "faking'' reasons to sit out practice? For a player who, depending on what the courts do in the future and what the league does in the future could still face a some-day suspension?
A player under contract who "holds out'' costs himself a great deal of money in chasing "principle.'' There is therefore logic in Watson reporting for camp - as much of a circus that would be for all involved - while hoping he is either placed on paid leave or traded.
Meaning that maybe Deshaun Watson's time in a Texans uniform isn't quite over just yet.