The sudden and unexpected mystery of who made the first move to kick start settlement talks in the Deshaun Watson cases has been solved.
Via Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com, text messages and a recording reveal that a member of attorney Tony Buzbee’s legal team approached Watson’s legal team to discuss “working things out” in connection with the 22 lawsuits pending against Watson.
Buzbee has denied approaching Watson’s legal team, led by attorney Rusty Hardin, to discuss settlement. Buzbee did not respond to emails from ESPN.com requesting comment on the existence of objective evidence contradicting his claim.
Irrelevant to the merits, the question is extremely relevant to perceptions. It’s typically believed in matters of this nature that whoever makes the first move is more motivated to settle. That can be interpreted as an indication that the lawyer has concerns about the case, especially when the request is made so early in the litigation.
That said, there was good reason to initiate settlement talks early in Watson’s case. Buzbee and his clients have more leverage if the cases are settled under circumstances that allow Watson to be traded before the start of training camp. If the cases are resolved by then, there’s a very good chance that would happen.
As PFT reported on Friday, the Texans have had no involvement in attempting to broker settlement talks, despite Buzbee’s claim to the contrary. A lawyer who has worked for Texans owner Cal McNair at one point served as a liaison in efforts to resolve the cases.
Barshop’s report also points out that Watson has not yet been interviewed by the NFL in conjunction with its investigation under the Personal Conduct Policy. That’s normal in situations like this; the accused will be questioned after all relevant information has been obtained from the accusers.
So far, the NFL has interviewed four of the 22 women, according to Buzbee. Buzbee also has said that “probably four more” want to speak to the league. The NFL, in responding to Buzbee’s concerns regarding the manner in which the initial interviews were handled, did not dispute his claim that four of the plaintiffs have been interviewed.