NFL fines Texans $175K, takes away 5th-round draft pick for violation involving Deshaun Watson's pay

The Houston Texans have been disciplined for a salary cap reporting violation, the league announced Thursday. In addition to a $175,00 fine, the team will forfeit their original fifth-round pick (No. 138) of the 2023 NFL Draft.

According to the NFL's statement, the league conducted a review and determined that the Texans "provided then Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson with undisclosed compensation in the form of a membership at an alternative athletic facility in 2020."

According to a statement from the Texans, that amount was $26,777 — which the team believes was an accounting error, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

"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 competitive advantage," the statement said. "While we disagree with the league's ruling, we will accept the imposed discipline and move forward."

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 03: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans in action against the Tennessee Titans during a game at NRG Stadium on January 03, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
The Texans did not correctly report pay they gave Deshaun Watson. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

According to the Houston Chronicle, the "alternate athletic facility," mentioned in the Texans' statement was the The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa. Attorney Tony Buzbee alleged the hotel was the location of at least seven massage encounters from the 24 sexual misconduct or sexual assault civil lawsuits filed against Watson. In June of 2022, the Texans were added as defendants in the litigation, as Buzbee alleged the Texans' head of security furnished a nondisclosure agreement for Watson, which the quarterback eventually employed during massage sessions.

Watson served an 11-game suspension and payed a $5 million fine ahead of his debut for the Cleveland Browns. The Texans went on to a have an AFC worst 3-13-1 season and still own the second and 12th overall 2023 draft picks.

The disciplinary action comes as the Texans work to rebound from a three-season span where they haven't won more than four games per season and have switched head coaches four times. The team appears to be entering a new era with the recent hire of former star Houston linebacker and San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.