In this week’s Football Morning in America, Peter King shares the latest on what he knows about several big names and topics in the news:
DESHAUN WATSON. Very nice man. Excellent football player. Franchise quarterback, to be sure. Non-confrontational. Add this nugget: Watson, just 21 weeks ago, signed a contract making him the second-richest player in football history. It didn’t take two years for him to turn on his team. It took 21 weeks. It’s gotten to the point where, I’m told, even some respected veterans on the teams have, in effect, told Watson, Go ahead. Go. We love you. We don’t want you to get trapped here. You don’t owe us anything.
I’ve heard a few other things about Watson. The veterans on the team supported him going to owner Cal McNair a month ago and telling him the situation in the locker room was dire, and there was no faith in the management or direction of the team. When the team didn’t interview a Watson favorite, Robert Saleh, that turned off the locker room. When the team chose to keep EVP Jack Easterby (a major bone of contention with players, who do not trust him), that further soured the players, including Watson.
Obviously, the question is whether Watson has the guts to withstand the gigantic pressure that comes with turning his back on the team in the fifth-largest market in the country, and turning his back on the team that he emotionally thanked for the huge contract last September, and turning his back on the team that paid him $29.4 million in 2020. It’s easy to say today he’ll stay strong—and he very well may. But if the Texans don’t trade him, a mountain of crap will come down on all their houses over the next eight months.
Close observers think there will be no real forward progress with Watson as long as Easterby is in the picture. Obviously, the question is whether Watson has the guts.
THE $2.4-MILLION QUESTION. If the Texans play hardball and refuse to trade Watson, the cost will be different from the costs in past years. Now, per the new 2020 CBA, fines cannot be forgiven. Watson, as a player under an existing contract, would be fined for missing the mandatory offseason minicamp, fined for every practice he skips in the preseason (approximately 28), and fined for every game he misses in the preseason (likely to be three, if the NFL goes to a 17-game schedule in 2021). The total fine, by my calculation, would be about $2,355,877. That’s money out of his pocket. You might say, Who would give up that kind of money?! Understandable. But let me tell you a story.
In 2017, I did a Christmas story for NBC’s “Football Night in America” about Watson’s immense gratitude for his family receiving a Habitat for Humanity house from Warrick Dunn when Watson was a child in Gainesville, Ga. Watson was emotional about it, because it was so important to his needy family at the time. I don’t know how this is going to go—truly. But until very recently, Watson had not made big-athlete money. Money doesn’t rule him. I don’t think it’s that important to Watson that his bank account might go down 10 or 20 percent, for a while. Part of that is principle, but the other part is that he knows if he stands firm, at some point he’ll be able to play for another team and make untold millions.