The attorney representing 22 women suing Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson says settlement talks between the two sides broke down before the NFL’s trade deadline because of language Watson’s legal team insisted they include in nondisclosure agreements.
“In what was submitted to us, there were nondisclosure agreements and many of the women pushed back on those,” attorney Tony Buzbee told Houston television station Fox 26 in an interview Tuesday evening.
Buzbee said he and his colleagues modified the language in the proposed nondisclosure agreements “substantially” but added “there were still some women who said, ‘I’m never going to sign that.'”
Buzbee told Fox 26 that the NDAs were ultimately a “deal breaker” in efforts to settle the cases.
Buzbee’s interview is the first confirmation from either of the legal teams involved in Watson’s civil cases that the two sides had entered a period of mediation.
“Now that the heat is off I probably won’t be getting calls from the other side wanting to settle the case,” Buzbee said, a reference to the pressure involved in settling the lawsuits prior to the NFL’s Tuesday trade deadline.
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, did not respond to ESPN’s request for comment about the settlement talks. In July, Hardin told ESPN that Watson would not sign any settlement that included a confidentiality agreement. “I do not want anybody to be saying that this guy paid off women to stay quiet,” he said at the time.
Buzbee also said in his interview with Fox 26 that Watson’s team appeared willing to settle a portion of the 22 civil cases.
“First it was, ‘We need to get 22 cases settled’ and then it was, ‘Well, maybe we can get 20 cases settled,’ and, finally, there was some discussion of maybe even less than that,” Buzbee said, adding: “But based on the terms that were submitted to us, we weren’t going to get 22 settlements. Period.”
Watson is the defendant in 22 civil cases filed by women in four different states. The lawsuits allege Watson sexually assaulted or behaved inappropriately during massage sessions. At least ten women have filed complaints about Watson to the Houston Police Department and a criminal investigation is also ongoing.
“From my point of view, I’m looking forward to taking Mr. Watson’s testimony in February,” Buzbee said Tuesday.
“We’re going to prepare the cases for trial because, ultimately, people can commentate and give their opinion but the ultimate opinion that matters is twelve people that sit on a jury in Harris County,” Buzbee said. “You know, all these so-called experts, keyboard warriors, who think they know what happened in those massage rooms, they don’t know. I know and these women know and time is on our side. We’re going to prepare the case and we’re going to try the case.”
Arizona Cardinals expect Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins to play vs. Chicago Bears, sources say
Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, also listed as questionable due to a hamstring issue, is likely to play vs. the Bears, as well. But the veteran could be used more sparingly than usual due to his injury and potential weather conditions, a source told Schefter.
In the week leading up to the Bears game, coach Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals took their familiar cautious approach to Murray’s status, considering his high left ankle sprain. On Friday, the coach said his quarterback’s status would be a game-time decision, in part because of strategy and in part because the memory of last year’s tailspin in the final nine games is still fresh in Kingsbury’s memory.
Murray was “better this week,” Kingsbury said, adding he’s hopeful that Murray will feel good and “be ready to roll.” Murray hasn’t played since spraining his ankle in the final moments of a Week 8 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Arizona heads into Week 13 with a 9-2 record, the best in the NFL, and owns the No. 1 seed in the NFC and first place in the NFC West.
Last year’s late-season tailspin, when Arizona went 3-6 after starting 5-2, in part because of multiple injuries to Murray, has also played a factor in Kingsbury being ultra-cautious with Murray.
“I just think we want to finish the right way this season and we didn’t last year,” Kingsbury said. “So, we’re just trying to be smart about it.”
Kingsbury hasn’t been surprised by how long Murray’s ankle has taken to heal because high ankle sprains are “tricky. Everybody knows that.”
Hopkins wasn’t on the field for the open portion of practice Friday after being limited Wednesday and Thursday.
“We’re just being smart,” Kingsbury said. “We want to make sure he feels really good for the stretch run, and so we’ll see how he progresses, run him on Sunday and see if he can go.”
Hopkins said having the last two weeks off because of the bye helped him “a lot.”
“Rest is key,” he said.
Hopkins, who had missed two games in his entire career before missing the last three, doesn’t think he’ll be rusty whenever he returns, and he isn’t concerned about his hamstring responding to him playing at full speed.
“I know what I can do out there when I’m healthy,” he said. “So, go out there and do my best to help this team win.”
ESPN Staff Writer Josh Weinfuss contributed to this report.
If Ben Roethlisberger retires, who’s the next Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback? – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog
With the Steelers’ season-ending skid and playoff debacle against the Cleveland Browns fresh in his mind, Roethlisberger made it known he was ready to attempt another Super Bowl run. After discussions, the Steelers determined they wanted that too, but not at Roethlisberger’s $41.25 million cap hit.
The two sides negotiated and came to a deal in March: Roethlisberger reduced his pay by $5 million for a $14 million salary in 2021 and added four voidable years to his deal, freeing up $15 million in cap space for the 2021 season.
And speaking in August, team CEO and President Art Rooney II didn’t rule out a scenario where Roethlisberger played beyond the 2021 season.
“It’s not written in stone that this is his last year,” Rooney told a small group of reporters at Steelers camp. “We’re aware this could be Ben’s last year. We hope it’s a great one. That’s as far as we can go with it right now. Obviously, if this is his last year, then next year we’ll be making decisions on a quarterback, and we’ll address it as the time comes up.”
But with six games left in the regular season, the 39-year-old quarterback is telling former teammates and some within the organization that he expects this to be his final season, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Steelers are 6-8-1 in their last 15 games including playoffs since starting 11-0 in 2020.
That leaves the Steelers without a clear path forward at quarterback — something they delayed while the organization attempted to build a supporting cast for Roethlisberger’s final run.
Who might the Steelers turn to under center? There isn’t an obvious choice, but there are plenty of options.
On the Steelers roster
Rudolph is the only quarterback currently on the roster with a contract through 2022. The Steelers believed he had first-round talent when they drafted him in 2018, but that hasn’t come to fruition in the four years since. Rudolph split the starting job with former UDFA Devlin “Duck” Hodges in 2019 after Roethlisberger went down with a season-ending elbow injury. The Steelers brought in Matt Canada in 2020, initially as a quarterbacks coach to further help develop Rudolph. When Canada was elevated to offensive coordinator in 2021, the Steelers hired veteran quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan to lead the position.
Rudolph started one game for the Steelers this season, filling in against the Detroit Lions after Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID-19. Afterward, Mike Tomlin said Rudolph “gave us a chance to win,” but he was inconsistent and often threw off-target and high. Rudolph is expected to remain with the organization in 2022 and have an opportunity to compete for the job. The Steelers also have former first-round pick Haskins on the current roster, though he couldn’t beat out Rudolph for the No. 2 spot through the preseason and training camp. He’s been inactive for all but one game this season. Sullivan praised Haskins for his development and attention to detail during practices, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to show growth in a game situation. During the preseason, Haskins had bright moments, but in his lone start, the preseason finale against the Panthers, he completed 9 of 16 attempts for 108 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
The Steelers are currently projected to have the No. 13 overall pick, and according to ESPN’s FPI, they have a 28.6% chance to have a top-10 pick. This year’s quarterback class is underwhelming. Patriots quarterback Mac Jones stands out from the current rookie class, but while the rest of the group has experienced growing pains, it’s still much stronger than the next group up. If the Steelers added a first-round quarterback to the room, they would be setting up for a longer-term rebuild — something coach Mike Tomlin might not want to do after more than a decade of working with Roethlisberger. But, the Steelers take pride in homegrown talent, and there’s at least one option that checks all the boxes.
The Steelers let Pittsburgh native and Pitt quarterback Dan Marino get away in the 1983 draft, and it kept them from having a solid succession plan after Terry Bradshaw. Now, they could make a move to keep Pickett in town. A Heisman contender and ACC Player of the Year, Pickett helped lead the Panthers to the ACC Championship game in his fifth season, and he threw for over 4,000 yards, 40 touchdowns and seven interceptions. And, his 79 career touchdowns passes tie him for first in school history Marino. Pickett is emerging as the Steelers’ best option in this class, but it’s not a sure thing they can move up high enough to get him.
Howell, with a career 10,078 passing yards and 91 touchdown passes to go with 1,006 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns, is a better version of Baker Mayfield, and Willis has a strong arm along with his mobility. Corral also may go too high for the Steelers to make a play, but he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the class with a 68 completion percentage for 3,339 yards and 20 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also rushed for 597 yards and 11 TDs.
The Steelers prefer to draft and develop, but it’s not out of the question to think they could make a push for a veteran quarterback. The Steelers already have some key pieces entering the 2022 season that keep the team from undergoing a complete rebuild: T.J. Watt, Najee Harris, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Diontae Johnson, Cameron Heyward and Pat Freiermuth. The offensive line needs help in the offseason, and the Steelers will have to discuss big-ticket extensions for Fitzpatrick and Johnson, but the team could avoid a large-scale rebuild if they land a veteran quarterback. And, they have the money to do it. Roethlisberger’s voided contract carries a $10.3 million cap hit in 2022, but they’re projected to have about $45 million in 2022 cap space, according to OverTheCap and Spotrac. That number could rise even more with the new TV deals expected to push the salary cap even higher. The Steelers could put together a blockbuster trade to acquire a big name or settle for a middle-of-the-road free agent option and use their 2022 draft capital and cap space to bolster the offensive and defensive lines and secondary.
Amounts listed are the cap hits the Steelers would incur if they acquired the player in either a pre-June 1 trade or a post-June 1 trade. Figures are courtesy of OverTheCap.com:
Aaron Rodgers, Packers, pre-June 1 trade: $19.3 million cap hit; post-June 1 trade: $26.9 million cap hit
Russell Wilson, Seahawks, pre-June 1: $11 million cap hit; post-June 1: $24 million cap hit
Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers, pre-June 1: $25.6 million cap hit; post-June 1: $25.6 million cap hit
Derek Carr, Raiders, pre-June 1: $19.9 million cap hit; post-June 1: $19.9 million cap hit
Kirk Cousins, Vikings, pre-June 1: $35 million cap hit; post-June 1: $35 million cap hit
Deshaun Watson, Texans, pre-June 1: $24.2 million cap hit; post-June 1: $35 million cap hit, plus three years left on his contract
Outside of Watson, these options essentially have one year left on their current deals. Given his upside, cost and team’s current trajectory, Wilson, who is under contract through 2023, makes the most sense. He was unhappy prior to the season and Schefter reported Wilson would consider a trade to the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders or Bears. The Seahawks eventually smoothed things over but at 3-8 and a stint on injured reserve, Wilson’s season hasn’t gone according to plan and he could ask for a trade.
Like Wilson, Rodgers was also unhappy with his situation, but the Packers reworked his deal and voided the 2023 year, making 2022 the final year of his contract. However, Rodgers carries a $46.1 million charge against the Packers’ salary cap in 2022, guaranteeing the team would either have to move on from him or sign him to another extension. If another team trades for him, they would almost certainly rework his contract and give him new money and an extension. This season, his team is an NFC Super Bowl favorite, and he’s in the midst of another MVP-caliber season. But, never say never. Rodgers and Tomlin did a little flirting in the weeks around the Steelers Week 4 game against the Packers, with each complimenting the other in news conferences and smiling at each other when Tomlin called a timeout to keep Rodgers from quick-snapping on the Steelers’ defense. Rodgers also talked about his appreciation for Pittsburgh on Pat McAfee Show, further raising eyebrows. Still, Rodgers seems more content than he did a few months ago, making it less likely he winds up in black and gold.
Garappolo, who began his career as a backup in New England, became a lame duck quarterback the minute the San Francisco 49ers drafted Trey Lance No.3 overall in May. He’s not as flashy as Rodgers or Wilson, but he’ll likely have a lower asking price than the top-tier options. Since helping the 49ers to Super Bowl in 2019 with 27 touchdowns to 13 interceptions, Garoppolo has been average at best. In an injury-shortened 2020 season, he had seven touchdowns to five interceptions, and this season, he has 13 touchdowns to six interceptions. Lance is the obvious future in San Francisco, making Garoppolo a prime trade target.
Two other tradeable veteran quarterbacks to keep an eye on are Carr and Cousins, who both have one year left on their deals. Both the Raiders and the Vikings appear at a crossroads with their respective quarterbacks and coaching staffs. The Raiders (6-5) already fired Jon Guden, while Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman are approaching the hot seat with the Vikings sitting at 5-6. If ownership decides to start fresh in either situation, the Steelers could make a play for Cousins or Carr, although Cousins is the most expensive of the bunch.
And, there’s Watson. He hasn’t played a game this season and has told the Houston Texans he intends never to play for them again, and he would like to be traded. He also faces 22 civil lawsuits by women who accuse him of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior. A no-trade clause allows him control over a destination, if the Texans are willing to trade him. Despite a flurry of activity before the trade deadline, Watson stayed put. But, until the civil cases are resolved, Watson comes with numerous unknowns, including the possibility of NFL discipline pending the outcome of the league’s investigation.
Winston is the most viable longer-term solution for the Steelers among their free-agent options. Prior to his injury in New Orleans, Winston appeared poised to get his career back on track. In seven appearances, Winston threw 14 touchdowns to three interceptions, completing 59% of his passes. The Steelers had an opportunity to sign Winston when he became a free agent in 2020, but general manager Kevin Colbert said in April 2020 the team didn’t make any offers to any veteran quarterbacks, and Winston ultimately went to the Saints.
Dalton and Bridgewater are just OK options, and at best, would compete with Rudolph for the starting job as a band-aid until a stronger quarterback draft class materializes.
Like the free-agent class, these options are most likely temporary fixes — but intriguing options. Trubisky, a former first-round pick by the Chicago Bears, is backing up Josh Allen in Buffalo on a one-year deal. His best season came in 2018 when he threw 24 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, and while his tenure as the second-overall pick was disappointing, he has potential to rejuvenate his career in the right circumstance.
Once Washington’s fourth-string quarterback, Heinicke has been pretty solid as the Washington Football Team’s starter after Ryan Fitzpatrick went down. He even helped his team overtake a Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers team in Week 10. He’s under contract in 2022. Washington isn’t likely to part with him, but he’s worth keeping an eye on.
Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts (ankle) a game-time decision vs. New York Jets, sources say
PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles want to see how quarterback Jalen Hurts‘ injured ankle is feeling before making a final decision about his status for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Saturday.
Minshew got the lions’ share of snaps during practice on Thursday and Friday.
Hurts sprained his ankle in the second half against the New York Giants when he was stepped on. He finished the game but was limping noticeably at times.
Earlier this week, Hurts declared that he would be “ready to go” for the Jets game.
“You guys obviously know I’m dealing with a little something, but it’s business as usual,” he said.
Hurts is expected to remain the Eagles starter regardless of how Minshew plays. He has completed 60.1% of his passes through 12 games for 2,435 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions while racking up 695 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Hurts is coming off arguably his worst start as a pro, throwing a career-high three interceptions in a 13-7 loss to the Giants.
The Eagles acquired Minshew for a conditional 2022 sixth-round pick in late August. He has appeared in one game this season, going 2-for-2 for 11 yards in the closing minutes of a blowout win over the Detroit Lions. Minshew, 25, started 24 games over two seasons in Jacksonville, completing 62.9% of his throws for 5,530 yards with 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
“I feel confident with either guy — either of the guys if they have to go play the way they prepared all week and went about their business,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said earlier this week.
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