What if Deshaun Watson tells the Texans, “I’m ready to play”?

Texans owner Cal McNair reportedly wanted the team to trade quarterback Deshaun Watson. Texans G.M. Nick Caserio wanted to get a motherlode of picks and/or players before striking a deal. The Texans ultimately were unable to reach an agreement, possibly due to the combined dysfunction of the two franchises that were trying to make it happen.

(To those of you who would say, “What dysfunction?” The Texans and Dolphins currently are a combined 2-14. More relevant to this transaction, the Dolphins didn’t receive permission to directly speak to Watson until Monday night, less than 24 hours before the deadline. How was the plane going to be landed under those circumstances, given his legal issues?)

So here we are. More accurately, here the Texans are. Still paying Watson to not play. Still wanting him to not play, because Watson’s health remains one of the keys to getting maximum value for him in March, if/when he’s traded then.

By keeping Watson, the Texans assumed one very specific risk. He could show up at any time (as soon as today) and say, “I want to play football.”

The 2006 CBA prevented teams from paying players to not play, a specific reaction to the decision of the Eagles to send Terrell Owens home for the balance of the season after a four-game unpaid suspension ended. For the last 15 years, teams who have a player they want to keep out of the building have three choices: (1) suspend him for up to four games for conduct detrimental to the team; (2) trade him; or (3) cut him. He can’t be told to stay away, at full pay.

That doesn’t mean Watson can force his way onto the field. The Texans have the right to deactivate him every week, given that multiple players on the active roster find themselves standing on the sidelines in clothing other than their uniforms, every game.

But they can’t keep him away from the facility, from meetings, from practices. From the risk that he’ll suffer while working out or practicing some sort of injury that will linger into the offseason and hamper his value in trade.

Meanwhile, if he shows up and the Texans consistently refuse to use him, the Texans could end up hearing about it from their paying customers, who are helping pay for the salary of a franchise quarterback whom the franchise won’t put on the field.

There’s no current reason to think Watson will show up. But he can, if he wants. It’s one of the risks the Texans assumed by not trading him in 2021.