HOUSTON -- On Friday afternoon, a Harris County, Texas, prosecutor announced that Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson will not face criminal charges following a police investigation sparked by lawsuits filed by 22 women who have accused him of inappropriate behavior and sexual assault.
In a statement after the announcement was made, Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, said, "Now that the criminal investigations have been completed, we are happy to move forward with the civil case depositions. We will vigorously defend those cases with every ounce we have."
The civil cases Hardin referenced are the 22 lawsuits that were filed against Watson, with accusations including sexual assault and inappropriate behavior during massage sessions.
The first of those lawsuits was filed March 16, 2021.
The civil cases are unrelated to the ruling Watson received Friday. He did sit for two sessions of depositions for the civil cases Friday, where he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination because the criminal investigation had not concluded at the time.
Here is a look at what's next for Watson and the Texans:
What is the timeline for the lawsuits?
These lawsuits can be settled at any time both parties agree, but if any of the cases are not, a pretrial conference is scheduled for early May, according to court documents.
How does this affect his NFL future?
Last year, Hardin said he didn't expect Watson to speak to the NFL's investigative team until the criminal investigation was complete. Now that it has concluded, Watson is expected to be interviewed by the league.
A spokesman for the NFL, which is investigating Watson under its personal conduct policy, said in a statement Friday, "We have been closely monitoring all developments in the matter."
Could Watson still be suspended?
While the league investigation -- and Watson's interview -- will likely play a big part in whether the quarterback is disciplined by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, it remains to be seen whether Watson is suspended.
Last season, with the criminal investigation ongoing, Goodell opted to not restrict Watson from taking part in team activities, allowing him to report to training camp and take part in practice. While Watson did take part in some individual reps during camp, he did not participate in team drills.
Watson stayed on the Texans' active roster -- collecting his $10.54 million base salary -- all season, listed as a healthy scratch for all 17 games.
What have the Texans said about this?
Members of the organization have declined to comment specifically on Watson's legal situation. However, general manager Nick Caserio said this month at the NFL combine that the team is "day-to-day in terms of handling" Watson's situation.
The next day, coach Lovie Smith said the Texans are hoping for "a prompt resolution" to Watson's future with the team.
What does this mean for a trade?
The Texans could agree to a trade for Watson at any time, but it could not be made official until the new league year starts at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
Houston is open to trading Watson, who requested the move in January 2021 after he decided he was not happy with the direction of the franchise. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, multiple teams are expected to be interested.
However, Watson has a no-trade clause in the four-year, $156 million contract he signed in September 2020. Watson has previously agreed to waive that clause only for the Miami Dolphins, who tried to acquire the quarterback before the trade deadline in November. Last week, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said "the door is shut on Deshaun" as Miami continues to build around quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Even if a trade does not take place before Wednesday, the Texans will likely want to get a deal done prior to the NFL draft (April 28-30) so they can receive 2022 picks.
One of the reasons trading for Watson was so attractive when he first made the request was because of his cheap salary at the time. But under the extension he signed with the Texans, his base salary jumps to $35 million in 2022, with a $35 million cap hit.
The following year, Watson will be owed a $20 million base salary and a $17 million roster bonus ($37 million cap hit), and his contract will result in cap hits of $32 million in 2024 and 2025. There is no guaranteed money on the deal after the 2022 season.
The Texans will take on $16.2 million (his signing bonus spread over three years) of dead money if they trade Watson before June 1.