Deshaun Watson has been suspended for the first six games of the 2022 season by Cleveland Browns disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter more than two years after the initial civil case was filed against him.
Heard arguments from the NFL, the NFL Players Association, and Watson’s counsel at a three-day hearing in late June in her home state of Delaware where she was assigned to rule on the issue. The NFL was pressing for a one-year sentence, but Watson’s union and his attorney argued that he should not be punished at all. The parties discussed a possible settlement throughout the hearing, but they were unable to reach an agreement.
Sources informed ESPN’s Dan Graziano that the league and Watson’s side held additional settlement talks in the days immediately up to Robinson’s decision, but neither party felt they were near to an agreement at the time. According to insiders, Watson’s team was only willing to accept a six- to eight-game suspension. In terms of punishment, sources tell Sports Illustrated that the league was willing to issue a 12-game suspension and a large fine in the amount of $8 million. However, despite the NFLPA’s announcement that it would not be appealing, the league retains the ability to do so.
Lawsuits against Watson allege that he engaged in inappropriate behavior and sexual assault during massage sessions, which have been filed since March of this year. The judge determined that one of the 25 lawsuits had to be amended to include the plaintiff’s identity. By the end of June, Watson and the other 20 plaintiffs had agreed to a settlement. It was reported early Monday morning that Watson had reached a settlement with three of the four remaining cases against him.
According to Buzbee, the Houston Texans settled with 30 women in mid-July over allegations that the team had “enabled Watson’s behavior” while he was still on the team. In June, one of the 30 women had sued the Texans, but Buzbee said that case had already been settled.
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Despite the claims against him, Watson has insisted he is innocent. Watson was cleared of criminal charges earlier this year by two Texas grand juries. After the initial grand jury decided not to indict Watson, the Texans traded him to the Browns in March.
In the wake of Robinson’s decision on Watson’s punishment, what do the quarterback and the Cleveland Browns have in store?
Where Does Watson Go From Here?
Although Robinson has the option to appeal, the NFL Players Association said Sunday night that it would not do so and urged the NFL to do the same: “All parties involved in our process need to be assured that it is fair and will not be tainted by the whims of League officials.
As a result, Deshaun and the NFL Players Association will stand behind her decision, no matter what the court rules.” According to the CBA, the NFLPA or the league can file an appeal at any time “to the Disciplinary Officer in writing within three business days of the judgment, and any response to the appeal must be made in writing within two business days afterward.
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Only arguments based on the evidence in the record will be considered in an appeal of a disciplinary decision.” There will be a written decision issued by the CBA’s “Commissioner or his designee” that will be binding after that ruling is made, according to the agreement.
How long did the Browns expect Watson’s ban to be?
According to insiders, the first reaction of the organization was that Watson would be punished anywhere between four and six games. As soon as the Browns agreed to the deal, they were aware of the possibility of a long-term suspension. He signed the largest contract in NFL history for any player, a five-year, $230 million deal that is completely guaranteed. And, according to reliable sources, they’re still devoted to him.
Can we count on the $230 million in guaranteed funds to be there when we need it?
Most of it will. The six-game suspension will result in a loss of $345,000 in-game checks for Watson. What’s left seems to be his to keep. To address “paragraph 42,” which is a clause in the contract that protects Watson from losing any guaranteed money if he’s suspended for the 2022 and/or 2023 seasons and prevents both the team and Watson from canceling his contract in the case of such an incident.
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However, it’s doubtful that the point will be made anyhow. According to reports, the Cleveland Browns have made it clear that they intend to stick with Watson as their starting quarterback. No indication exists that this will alter now that the NFL has provided the Browns with clarity about discipline.