The Houston Texans are reportedly "slowly moving on" from quarterback Deshaun Watson amid more than 20 women filing civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault and harassment.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler said Sunday on SportsCenter the team's signing of Tyrod Taylor and drafting of Davis Mills signals the team is ready to move on:
"Teams I've talked to around the league are taking notice that the Houston Texans seem to be slowly moving on from Deshaun Watson because they have their bridge quarterback in Tyrod Taylor and they have their developmental draft pick in Davis Mills, a quarterback I'm told they are very high on with his instincts, his smarts and his big arm. And so, a couple of months ago, the Texans were turning down everybody who was calling them about Deshaun Watson. Carolina was willing to give them the world; they said no. They've been far less committal recently. They don't know when Watson's even going to be cleared to play. The league will consider putting Watson on the Commissioner's Exempt List later this summer if his case is still going on."
Watson requested a trade from the Texans earlier this offseason, but that has been put on the back burner amid the lawsuits. Twenty-two women, all of whom say Watson contacted them for massages, have filed suit against Watson and made accusations ranging from unwanted touching to forced oral sex.
Attorney Rusty Hardin has released several statements on Watson's behalf denying the allegations. Hardin said any sexual contact between Watson and the women was consensual.
"We’ve never run from it," Hardin told reporters in April. He continued:
"Our first [statement] has always been about consent—that on some occasions some active sexual activity would have taken place. ... I’m not going to go into what it is or the nature [of the physical contact] or the numbers or with whom. But I think you can rightfully assume that.
"The question always that we have always been emphasizing is never at any time, under any circumstances did this young man engage in anything that was not mutually desired by the other party."
The NFL is investigating Watson under its Personal Conduct Policy, and Houston police is looking into potential criminal charges. It's possible that Watson is placed on the Commissioner's Exempt List if the case is still ongoing. If he is placed on the exempt list, Watson will still receive his 2021 salary but will not be allowed to participate in any team activities.
Ashley Solis was the first woman to detail her accusations against Watson. Solis said she has suffered from panic attacks, anxiety and depression after her interaction with Watson and said she is no longer able to practice massage therapy.
"I’m not afraid anymore," Solis said. "I'm here to take back the power and take back control. I’m a survivor of assault and harassment. Some days I feel like a hero, other days I feel like a failure.
"I can no longer practice the profession I love the most without my hands shaking during the session. I got into massage therapy to heal people. To heal their minds and bodies. To bring peace to their souls. Deshaun Watson has robbed me of that."