What do Friday's grand jury proceedings mean for Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans?

HOUSTON -- With news a grand jury will hear evidence Friday in the case involving Deshaun Watson, there are questions about whether the Houston Texans -- as well as other NFL teams -- will have more clarity on the quarterback’s legal situation.

While a decision on criminal charges could come as early as Friday, grand jury deliberations could go into next week.

Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, told ESPN in July that 10 women had filed complaints with Houston police about Watson. Eight of those women have also filed civil lawsuits against Watson with allegations ranging from harassment and inappropriate behavior to sexual assault during massage sessions.

In total, Watson faces 22 civil lawsuits alleging inappropriate behavior and sexual assault.

The grand jury process does not require a unanimous vote. Hardin told ESPN on Tuesday that if nine of the 12 grand jurors return a "true bill" under Texas law, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg could choose to proceed with a criminal case against Watson.

The range of potential criminal charges Watson faces include indecent assault, assault and harassment -- all misdemeanor offenses. Indecent assault is classified as a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine. Watson could also be charged with sexual assault, a second-degree felony in Texas which is punishable by two-to-20 years in prison.

While these grand jury proceedings are unrelated to the outcome of the civil cases, NFL teams interested in trading for Watson, who didn't play last season but was on the active roster, should have more clarity in the next week on whether he will face criminal charges and how that might affect his NFL future. However, unless Watson and the 22 plaintiffs settle the civil lawsuits, a pretrial conference related to those lawsuits is scheduled for early May, according to court documents.

If there is a conclusion to the criminal investigation (i.e., he is not charged), that could begin the process of NFL discipline. Hardin had previously told ESPN he didn’t expect Watson to talk to the league investigators until the criminal investigation had ended.

If Watson is charged, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could also choose to put the quarterback on the commissioner’s exempt list, something he did not do last year. Watson was a healthy scratch for all 17 games while collecting a $10.5 million base salary.

While there is no deadline for the Texans to make this trade, there are a few dates on the NFL calendar to keep in mind. While contract negotiations for free agents start at noon ET on Monday, NFL trades cannot become official until 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the start of the 2022 league year. The NFL draft is April 28-30, which is also a key date for any trade that would include draft picks.

Watson will also face questions under oath for the first time in at least some of the civil cases on Friday. Hardin told ESPN he’ll instruct Watson to assert his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself during his testimony on Friday in the civil cases because the criminal investigation has not concluded.

In his most recent public comments about Watson, Texans general manager Nick Caserio said the Texans are "day to day in terms of handling" Watson's situation. Last week, coach Lovie Smith said the Texans are hoping for "a prompt resolution" to Watson's future with the team.