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Will the Texans still face litigation over Deshaun Watson?

Now that 20 of the 24 cases against Deshaun Watson have been tentatively settled, the chances the quarterback receives paid leave from the NFL are at an all-time low.

It was either a hollow threat or a solemn promise. For now, it’s looking as if it were the former.

On June 8, attorney Tony Buzbee said he “will be joining” the Texans as defendants to the pending lawsuits against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. Not “might be” or “could be” or “should be,” but “will be.”

Earlier this week, Buzbee told Jenny Vrentas of the New York Times that the Texans are not a party to the settlements in 20 of the 24 cases pending against Watson.

This means that they could still be sued by the 20 plaintiffs who have settled, by the four who haven’t, by the two who supposedly were suing Watson but haven’t yet, and whoever else may come forward eventually.

There’s also a chance, theoretically, that the Texans kicked in some cash to settle the cases with the express understanding that their involvement would be kept completely and totally confidential, with that confidentiality including (for example) Buzbee saying that the Texans were not parties to the settlements.

For the 20 plaintiffs who have settled with Watson, suing the Texans becomes tricky. The Texans would defend themselves by blaming Watson for the misbehavior, arguing that all responsibility belongs to him and him alone. With Watson not a party to the cases, it becomes easier for the Texans to dump on the so-called “empty chair” at trial.

That doesn’t stop Buzbee from trying. And in the four cases that haven’t settled yet, all bets are off. The cases continue. The Texans could be joined.

Again, Buzbee said “will be.” It was either bluster aimed at pressuring Watson to settle (if so, mission accomplished) or it was a genuine guarantee that, 16 days later, Buzbee still intends to honor.