The leaking of an alleged Deshaun Watson settlement offer suggests his legal cases will continue to loom over the NFL this offseason

As the trade deadline approached for the NFL last November, details emerged from trade talks between the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans that had a clear mandate: For any deal involving Deshaun Watson to advance, the Dolphins wanted the quarterback’s legal issues settled. First and foremost, the 22 civil suits that were pending against the Texans QB in the Harris County Court system.

The leaking of an alleged settlement offer from Watson appears to indicate the quarterback was at least open to that possibility.

The Daily Beast reported the offer, presenting a redacted document allegedly from Watson’s legal camp that was reportedly advanced to one of his 22 accusers. The document included a settlement of $100,000 to “buy peace,” as well as a legal withdrawal from the accuser’s suit, plus confidentiality and non-disparagement agreements. As part of the alleged settlement offer, Watson would also continue to deny all claims, liabilities and facts alleged by the accuser. The redacted document also included a date-of-agreement marker, which suggested it was drawn up in October. The NFL’s trade deadline was Nov. 2.

Neither Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin or the attorney for the 22 accusers, Tony Buzbee, responded to requests for comment Friday. However, a source familiar with talks between the two legal camps confirmed that there was an “on and off” dialogue about potential settlements up to the NFL’s trade deadline. Still, the source indicated that a global settlement of all 22 cases was never close to being negotiated. The source added that there has been little communication since the trade deadline passed — leaving Watson and his accusers to move forward with potential depositions in the coming weeks and months.

While the alleged settlement document appeared to be a standard version of an oft-used legal tool, it is suggestive of two things if authentic: First, that Watson appears to be open to settlement to move his NFL career forward, including the possibility of individual settlements rather than one global pact; and, second, that the two sides are at such a deadlocked state that someone representing the accuser has felt compelled to leak a settlement document that otherwise would have remained secret.

Those realties would suggest that Watson’s civil cases continue to be on track to see the inside of a courtroom, regardless of the outcome of a grand jury investigation that could wrap up as early as the end of January. It also suggests that Watson’s first deposition in the civil cases, which is slated to be taken in late February, is still moving forward as scheduled. In short, all of his legal issues — both civil and criminal — continue to loom over both the league and NFL teams that continue to monitor the quarterback.

Asked about Watson’s status Friday, Texans general manager Nick Caserio indicated little had changed for the team.

“There is going to be a number of things that we talk about during the offseason,” Caserio told reporters in his season-ending wrap-up. “That particular situation, I don’t think there’s any more clarity today than there was here previously. But we’re going to work through it. Ultimately, we’re going to do what we feel is best for the organization.”

Caserio also spoke of his reasoning for firing head coach David Culley this week. While Caserio said he and Culley had different philosophical visions on the future, the change isn’t expected to impact Watson’s trade demands moving forward.