Texans penalized with loss of fifth-round pick, fined $175,000 for salary-cap violation involving Deshaun Watson

Texans paid for former Pro Bowl quarterback to work out at off-site facility

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) calls a play at the line during the first half of an NFL football game between the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans in Houston, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022,. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith) (Eric Christian Smith, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

HOUSTON – The NFL has punished the Texans for a salary-cap reporting violation involving former Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson, penalizing him with a fifth-round draft pick and fining them $175,000.

The league announced that the team provided Watson with undisclosed compensation with a membership at an off-site athletic facility in 2020 during the COVID year when their facility was closed and he couldn’t work out at NRG Stadium. The amount was $26,777. The Texans argued that there was no benefit gained by the arrangement, and cooperated with the investigation from the league.

When the league investigated sexual misconduct allegations and civil litigation involving Watson during a personal conduct policy review, the membership to the Houstonian hotel and spa was discovered. This happened prior to Watson finalizing a four-year, $156 million contract.

“It’s an accounting issue,” said a league source, emphasizing that the violation stemmed from the gym membership and how it was related to the financial reporting with the organization.

“During the 2020 league year and while its facilities were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Club absorbed $26,777 in costs for player benefits for the use of alternate athletic facilities, which it understands should have been charged instead to player salaries,” the Texans said in a statement to KPRC 2. “The Club has fully cooperated with the League in its investigation of these matters and maintains that it had no intention to circumvent any salary cap rules or gain any sort of competitive advantage. While we disagree with the League’s ruling, we will accept the imposed discipline and move forward.”

According to the NFL collective bargaining agreement, NFL teams have to report any player compensation or benefit.

Watson was traded to the Cleveland Browns last year and signed to an unprecedented $230 million fully guaranteed contract.

Aaron Wilson is a Texans and NFL reporter for KPRC 2 and click2houston.com

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