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Texans standing firm on Deshaun Watson: 'The goal is to get him back, period'

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Houston Texans are sending the same message to interested teams about Deshaun Watson that they've delivered publicly:

They have no interest in trading their disgruntled star quarterback.

Other teams remain skeptical the Texans can stay the course and eventually change the mind of Watson, who requested a trade last month and still hasn't communicated with new general manager Nick Caserio or coach David Culley, even after Culley reached out upon his hiring.

But some executives with other teams haven't even had their calls and text messages about Watson returned by the Texans. Other executives who have spoken with Houston say Caserio has been very firm Watson is not available, leading them to believe the Texans are focused on trying to repair the relationship first.

As one person with knowledge of the Texans' thinking put it: "The goal is to get him back, period."

The Texans have been overhauling the organization since firing head coach and GM Bill O'Brien on Oct. 5 after an 0-4 start last season -- a process that has ramped up since the well-regarded Caserio was hired a month ago. They ran a diverse search for their new head coach before the surprise hire of the 65-year-old Culley, the only Black man to get a head coaching job in this cycle, and have worked to put proven assistants around him, including defensive coordinator Lovie Smith and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton. Sources say it's all been done with an eye toward building around Watson and what it will take to make both him and the team successful.

But Watson, 25, remains miffed by what he regarded as a lack of input in the GM search, among other issues, and has made his feelings known without saying much publicly himself.

Watson signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension in September that puts him under contract through 2025 and includes a no-trade clause, allowing him to decide where he'd be willing to be traded to. His greatest leverage is not showing up and allowing the public uproar over his unhappiness to hang like a cloud over the Texans' new regime.

But the Texans can wait him out if they choose. Watson would be subject to daily fines if he doesn't show up for minicamp or training camp. The Texans could also void Watson's remaining $82.54 million in guarantees and, if he retires instead of playing for them again, could pursue $21.6 million of his $27 million signing bonus.

There are some potential pressure points ahead, including the start of free agency on March 17 and the NFL Draft from April 29-May 1, at which points other teams will need answers on Watson before filling their QB holes other ways. Given the haul the Lions got for 33-year-old Matthew Stafford, executives with other teams believe the Texans could get at least three first-round picks for Watson, and the price could be even higher than that.

For now, there are no trade talks. Watson isn't budging and neither are the Texans.

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