HOUSTON — The Cleveland Browns are exploring their options at quarterback and as part of that process are set to meet with Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson—but not before he takes the stand and answers questions at his deposition for two of the 22 civil lawsuits filed by women alleging sexual misconduct.
Watson is scheduled to answer questions under oath Tuesday, fielding questions from lawyers regarding two of the 22 lawsuits, which have a range of sexual misconduct allegations, from sexual assault to harassment stemming from massage therapy sessions Watson had with them.
Some of the women in the lawsuit allege Watson exposed himself, purposely touched their hands with his genitals, or forcefully tried to kiss them and perform other sexual acts during separate massage sessions.
After his meeting, he'll meet with the Browns, who have traveled to Houston to meet with the quarterback on the trade market. The New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers met with Watson on Monday, but the Browns wanted a meeting of their own.
Browns general manager Andrew Berry and the organization have been very clear about their intent to explore every avenue, not just at the clear needs like a receiver and along the defensive line, but even in the murkier positions like quarterback, evaluating Baker Mayfield's position with due diligence.
Whether the due diligence evolves into real interest remains to be seen, but perhaps more clarity on that will come after their meeting. Watson has a no-trade clause in his contract with the Texans, meaning he'll get to decide if he wants to waive it for a specific team. He'll have a say whether the Browns are an option even before the team decides how interested they are in taking the meeting from due diligence to a full-blown pursuit.
Watson's deposition comes after a grand jury declined to indict him following a police investigation following the filing of the 22 civil lawsuits. While the grand jury's decision meant no criminal charges for Watson at the moment, new evidence could be presented to the grand jury to change that as his depositions continue.
In addition to the legal battle ahead of him, Watson also faces possible discipline by the NFL, which could include suspension. That remains to be seen.
What impact the due diligence the Browns are doing at quarterback will have on Mayfield also remains to be seen. It may sting his ego to see his job being poured over by front office eyes, but Mayfield has been in the league long enough and has to know that's the name of the game.
Mayfield may use the offseason goings-on as the chip he's known to appreciate having on his shoulder. Perhaps it helps get the most out of him this season, should the Browns explorations into his position lead to him remaining as the starter in 2022, which is still the case as of Tuesday morning.
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