ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Thursday the Texans' hire of new head coach David Culley will "not alter Watson's thinking." Josina Anderson later reported her understanding is "Watson has not formally waived his no-trade clause, yet."
The situation has been trending toward Watson trying to leave Houston since early January, but it was previously unclear whether the three-time Pro Bowler had officially asked for a trade.
Schefter reported Jan. 7 the 25-year-old Clemson product was frustrated the franchise "neither considered nor consulted" his candidates for general manager before hiring longtime New England Patriots executive Nick Caserio to fill the position.
The same day, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk noted "Watson has quietly broached with teammates the possibility of requesting a trade."
Former Texans wide receivers Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins then sided with the quarterback while pointing the finger for the Texans' problems toward executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby, who's influence within the front office had steadily grown in recent years:
Jenny Vrentas and Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated took a deep dive into Easterby's tenure in December with one team source saying owner Cal McNair is "blinded" by the polarizing executive, while another NFL executive questioned his rapid rise despite a lack of football background.
"It's still a long-, long-shot story, right?" the exec, who previously worked with Easterby, said. "You're not going to be the team chaplain, then, 10 years later, you're the interim GM. That just doesn't happen in our league."
Watson then caused a stir on social media two weeks ago:
Based on the timeline, it's possible he made the trade request around the same time as that tweet. Watson hasn't spoken with either Caserio or Easterby about his decision, per Schefter.
The question now is how the Texans decide to move forward.
Watson is tied to the organization through the 2025 season as part of a four-year, $156 million contract. It gives the team some leverage as it tries to seek fair market value in a trade since replacing a franchise quarterback of his caliber is incredibly difficult.
Aaron Wilson @AaronWilson_NFL
Deshaun Watson has requested a trade from the Texans, according to league sources. Has a no trade clause in his $156 million contract. Texans don't want to trade Watson and want to repair the relationship. This is a big step in the disconnect between Pro Bowl passer and Texans
The next key date would be the first round of the draft on April 29 since Houston is likely to demand a king's ransom of picks in any deal. If a trade isn't made by then, the focus will probably shift toward whether Watson is willing to sit out regular-season games as part of his trade request.
For now, it looks like the Texans are trending toward a new quarterback under center to open the 2021 season.