Browns’ ‘Comprehensive Evaluation’ Into Deshaun Watson’s Legal Matters Involved Zero Contact With His 22 Accusers

The Cleveland Browns and the Houston Texans made the trade for quarterback Deshaun Watson official yesterday, with the trade figures detailed as follows: Cleveland is sending the Texans first-round picks in 2022, 2023, and 2024, plus a 2023 third-round pick and a 2024 fourth-round pick, in exchange for Watson and a 2024 fifth-round pick.

On top of that, Watson got himself a new contract, part of a final push evidently spurred on by the Browns’ sense of inevitable divorce with Baker Mayfield, speculation emerging that they revised their offer after originally being informed they were out of the running for Watson after Mayfield requested a trade and, according to reports, made it clear he was willing to boycott playing altogether.

That pressure may have prompted them to set a new precedent, giving Watson a five-year, $230 million contract that is fully guaranteed, and which is even structured in such a way that will allow him to incur minimal financial harm as a result of an inevitable suspension, with a required minimum base salary of just $1,035,000 million—and a $44.965 million signing bonus, giving him a year-one payout of $46 million, minus four-to eight-18ths of his base salary, depending on how long his suspension is.

It’s all configured nice and neatly, and clearly the Browns had to do their homework in order to land their quarterback. Their statements issued yesterday even allude to a “comprehensive evaluation process”, according to owner Jimmy Haslam, which was “of the utmost importance”. General manager Andrew Berry referenced “extensive investigative, legal and reference work”.

Remarkably, none of this work in any way involved their contacting, let alone speaking to, any of the 22 women who have filed civil lawsuits against their new quarterback, nor with their representatives, regarding the allegations that so concern them, that he engaged in sexual misconduct with them during massage therapy appointments.

Look, we’re all adults here. We all understand that this is a business, and that people with superior talent and skills that are in extreme demand are going to be given very extensive leeway beyond what probably ought to be reasonable.

But it does feel like a slap in the face to have the leaders of your organization, including head coach Kevin Stefanski, issue statements on the day the trade is made in an effort to address the elephant in the room while failing to acknowledge the complete disregard shown for the 22 actual human beings he is accused of harming by not even seeking their input when it is their claims that concern them in the first place.

Lawyer Tony Buzbee, who is representing Watson’s accusers, told John Barr of ESPN in no uncertain terms that not only had the Browns made no effort to contact him nor his clients during the course of evaluations, but that no teams who showed interest in acquiring the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback ever made contact with his camp.

While the NFL as part of its ongoing investigation into Watson’s behavior did previously speak to a small number of his accusers, I think it’s worth acknowledging when we’re being fed blatant bullshit. Everybody should know that their examination into Watson’s background fell far short of comprehensive or extensive, given the monumental nature of the omissions.

Scheduling therapeutic massages with at least 22 different therapists in a relatively short period of time is unusual behavior. Regardless of what team a man plays quarterback for, even if it were the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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