Although the recent dream-trade attention in the Chicago Bears world has been focused on Russell Wilson (and they’re still holding out hope!), his was not the first top-tier name to hit the theoretical trade market this offseason. In fact, it was Deshaun Watson who was the pipe dream long before Wilson, and he was also the guy who seemed far more likely to be traded, since he’s all but said he flat out won’t play for the Texans again.
But the hopes of landing Watson faded because (1) the Texans have continued to be resolute in saying they will not trade him (and reportedly aren’t even taking phone calls), and (2) even if that’s just a negotiating tactic, everyone knew the price tag on Watson would be historic. The Bears simply do not have the trade capital to match other potentially interested teams.
Now, though, there’s a much more serious reason to doubt the Bears would be pursuing Watson in the coming weeks. The 25-year-old quarterback, who’d otherwise had a pristine off-field record, has been accused of sexual misconduct and assault by multiple massage therapists in civil suits. An attorney representing the plaintiffs has reportedly claimed there could be upwards of 22 victims.
Watson responded to the initial report of a single claim last week, though he has not spoken further as the volume of claims increased last week (via Twitter):
“As a result of a social media post by a publicity-seeking plaintiff’s lawyer, I recently became aware of a lawsuit that has apparently been filed against me. I have not yet seen the complaint, but I know this: I have never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect. The plaintiff’s lawyer claims that this isn’t about money, but before filing suit he made a baseless six-figure settlement demand, which I quickly rejected. Unlike him, this isn’t about money for me — it’s about clearing my name, and I look forward to doing that.”
The process will play out, and although there are no criminal charges filed at this time, that remains a possibility. Furthermore, the NFL is investigating the allegations to determine whether Watson violated league policy. That is to say, even if you could ignore the ugliness of the allegations, you would also have to deal with the potential ramifications of a suspension (and the fallout thereafter of your franchise quarterback being a guy who was suspended for sexual assault).
That said, it’s possible that Watson will eventually have his name cleared. You want to believe women who come forward in these situations, and you also want to ensure that there is an opportunity for a clarity in information on both sides. Watson deserves the opportunity.
In the meantime, though, it’s very hard for me to see any team giving up organization-altering trade capital to acquire Watson and his four-year, $156 million contract until there is more clarity on the situation.
… yet there are several teams reportedly still interested. Per the Houston Chronicle, which quoted a number of anonymous executives, the interest is still out there while teams monitor the assault allegations. Moreover, the report listed six teams as still interested in trading for Watson, according to sources: the Eagles, the Panthers, the Jets, the Dolphins, the 49ers, and the Broncos.
Noticeably missing there? The Bears. A team everyone otherwise knows would desperately love to acquire a franchise quarterback.
Maybe it’s an omission tied to the lack of trade capital. Maybe it’s an omission tied to the Bears’ very public pursuit of Wilson. Or maybe it’s an omission because, in the current moment, the Bears are not going to seriously pursue Watson while these sexual assault allegations are lingering out there.