Texans trade quarterback Deshaun Watson to Browns

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) throws a pass against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Houston. (Sam Craft/AP)

The Houston Texans traded Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns after the quarterback agreed to waive his no-trade clause.

Cleveland sent its 2022, 2023 and 2023 first-round picks as well as a 2023 third-round pick and a 2024 fourth-round pick. Watson will also get a new five-year $230-million contract with the Browns that includes $150 million guaranteed at signing.

"I felt it was the right move for our organization as we head into the new league year focused on building our roster for the 2022 season," said Texans GM Nick Caserio in a statement. "Our priority right now is adding talented players to the foundation we have already put in place over the last 15 months and this trade supports that plan. As we navigate through the rest of the offseason, we remain open-minded to all avenues that allow us to improve our roster and add to our program." 

"I'm extremely proud of the way Nick Caserio navigated us through this challenging situation, said Texans Chair and Chief Executive Officer Cal McNair in a statement. "He remained patient before ultimately making the decision that is best for us in both the short and long term. We're confident in our plan to build a championship program that can sustain success and our entire organization is excited to move forward together."

Watson initially told the Browns he would not be joining them. Now the team has a decision to make with quarterback Baker Mayfield demanding a trade when Cleveland made their interest in Watson known. The Browns initially turned down that request but will likely move the former No. 1 pick.

The 25-year-old is a three-time Pro Bowler with a career regular-season record of 28-25 and has appeared in three playoff games.

Through 54 career games with the Texans, Watson has completed 67.8 per cent of his passes for 14,539 yards, 104 touchdowns and 36 interceptions, while also rushing for 1,677 yards and 17 scores. The Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons all reportedly expressed interest in Watson.

Editor's Note: The following story deals with sexual assault, and may be distressing for some readers.

If you or someone you know is in need of support, those in Canada can find province-specific centres, crisis lines and services here. For readers in America, a list of resources and references for survivors and their loved ones can be found here.

Watson did not play a game in 2021. On March 11 a grand jury declined to indict Watson following a police investigation sparked by lawsuits filed by 22 women who have accused him of sexual assault and harassment.

The grand jury's decision came about a year after the women first filed their suits, accusing Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his penis or kissing them against their will during massage appointments. One woman alleged Watson forced her to perform oral sex.

Houston police began investigating Watson in April 2021 after a criminal complaint was filed. The FBI also was reviewing the allegations.

Prosecutors presented evidence and testimony to the grand jury for over six hours related to nine criminal complaints against Watson, Johna Stallings, chief of the adult sex crimes and trafficking division with the Harris County District Attorney's Office, said. She declined to say what possible charges were presented to the grand jury for consideration.

"We respect the grand jury's decision," Stallings said.

Stallings said that decision ended criminal proceedings related to Watson in Harris County, where Houston is located.

Watson's lawyers have said "some sexual activity" happened during some of the massage appointments but that he never coerced anyone.

"We are delighted that the grand jury has looked at the matter thoroughly and reached the same conclusion we did. Deshaun Watson did not commit any crimes and is not guilty of any offences," Rusty Hardin, Watson's lead attorney, said in a statement.

Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing the 22 women, said the criminal case is separate from the civil cases and he will continue the process of questioning Watson as the lawsuits move toward trial. Buzbee recently questioned Watson during a deposition, the first the NFL star has given as part of the lawsuits.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league is "closely monitoring all developments" and that matter "remains under review of the personal conduct policy."

- With files from the Associated Press.

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