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Deshaun Watson grand jury probe is expected to conclude by late January

Mike Florio and Myles Simmons discuss reports that a judge signed search warrants for Deshaun Watson’s social media accounts in October and explain how that played into a previous near-deal with the Dolphins.

Last night’s sudden flurry of reporting regarding the lingering Deshaun Watson criminal investigation dusted off a case that largely became forgotten once the window closed on trades for 2021.

The news comes from search warrants signed on October 19, targeting Watson’s social-media apps. Per multiple sources, Watson’s representatives had previously indicated that the information would be provided voluntarily.

The warrants went unnoticed, we’re told, because they were filed under the name of the officer who sought them. It’s unclear how they ultimately were discovered.

The reporting sparked a broader conversation regarding the status of the case. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, it’s currently believed that the grand jury’s work will be concluded by the end of January. Although the possibility of felony charges looms, Nicole Hensley of the Houston Chronicle points out that the warrants suggest that authorities are considering charges of indecent assault, which is a misdemeanor.

If Watson were charged with one or more felonies, he undoubtedly would be placed on paid leave. It’s unclear how the NFL would handle pending charges rooted in the less severe concept of misdemeanor. Also, if Watson ultimately is charged with one or more misdemeanors, a quick plea deal likely would be pursued, setting the state for a likely inevitable unpaid suspension of, say, six or eight games, based on the Ben Roethlisberger precedent.

On the surface, the notion that an answer will arrive by the end of January meshes with the NFL’s offseason schedule. The league year doesn’t begin until March 16. Trades can’t happen until then. However, they can be negotiated and informally struck weeks in advance. With this year’s game of quarterback carousel likely to be as robust as last year’s (if not more), multiple deals could be done in January, before true clarity emerges as to Watson’s potential criminal case.