ATLANTA ( Associated Press) – Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Tuesday the team has only a preliminary interest in the deal with Deshaun Watson before the quarterback accepted a trade to Cleveland.
Blank said more investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct made by nearly two dozen women against Watson while he was with the Houston Texans would have been necessary before Atlanta’s interest could become more serious.
The Hawks were seen as a final contender for Watson before his deal with the Browns on March 18.
“I think we had an obligation, a sense of obligation, we should at least have a conversation with him,” Blank said in a video news conference with Atlanta reporters from the NFL owners’ meetings in Palm Beach. , Florida, said. “I really do not know where it would have come from.”
Watson, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, did not play last season and faces a possible NFL suspension for violating the league’s personal behavior policy after massage therapists accused him of sexual assault and harassment.
Blank noted that a grand jury has twice decided not to pursue criminal charges against Watson.
“The civil allegations were very serious and I think they were taken very seriously and I’m not sure what will come out of it,” Blank said. “We would definitely have done even more work if we had come to the point that we were seriously considering a trade.”
Blank said the team’s conversation with Watson’s representatives was relatively short.
“We had an hour and 15 minutes of phone call and that was the extent of it,” he said.
Atlanta’s interest in Watson led to the trade of longtime starting quarterback Matt Ryan to Indianapolis for a third-round draft pick. They then reached an agreement with Marcus Mariota, who previously played for Falcons coach Arthur Smith with the Tennessee Titans.
Blank said Ryan’s difficult trade was necessary to steer the franchise on a more solid financial footing. Blank said he regretted the team’s inability to re-sign two key defenders, linebackers De’Vondre Campbell and Foye Oluokun, over the past two years because too much of their salary cap was devoted to the full-back position.
The Falcons’ financial burden has grown through a series of restructurings of Ryan’s deal over the past few years designed to provide temporary relief while the payments are being pushed back.
“At some point, you have to pay the bank,” Blank said. “You can restructure the debt, personal debut or business debt, as often as you like, but at some point there is a day of reckoning.”
Blank said by 2023 “we will probably be in the top two or three teams in the league in terms of a covered position, which gives us the opportunity to keep our own, which is really important.”
More Associated Press NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://apnews.com/hub/pro-32 and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL