For the Cleveland Browns, it’s not a matter of if QB Deshaun Watson will be suspended. It’s a question of if he’ll play at all this year. And new reporting indicates Watson may miss the entire 2022 season.
According to a Friday article by The Washington’s Post Mark Maske, the league is set to argue a heavy punishment for Watson, including a probable suspension of one full year.
From Maske’s report:
“The league “probably” will seek a suspension of one full season for Watson, a person on Watson’s side of the case said Friday. A person familiar with the league’s view of the case cautioned to be “careful” about specifying a precise length at this point for the suspension the NFL will seek. But that person also said: “Significant would be the proper term.”
As the article notes, it’s hard to peg an exact length of time Watson would miss. But it seems we’re well past the possible 4-6 game span theorized months ago, prior to the Browns trading for him. A full-year suspension is the most likely initial outcome.
Watson faces 26 civil suits against him from former massage therapists who claim Watson sexually harassed or assaulted them, four more than existed after the Browns dealt for him and gave him the richest fully guaranteed contract in NFL history, $230 million. Watson has denied all of the allegations. Though he doesn’t seem likely to face any more criminal investigations, Watson is in the court of public opinion, a battle he’s losing daily.
According to Maske, the NFL will make a recommendation to Sue L. Robinson, a former judge who serves as the league’s disciplinary officer, a new position for the NFL in an attempt to take some control away from Roger Goodell. The expectation is a punishment will be made known prior to training camp late next month, though the NFLPA is likely to appeal any suspension, especially a significant one. Watson would be allowed to play throughout the appeals process, though the report indicates the league would like to have the appeal process wrapped up prior to the season. If so, an initial punishment should come sooner than later in order to map out time for the rest of the process.
Cleveland traded for Watson in the hopes of him being the final and most important piece of building a Super Bowl-contending club. Now, they may be without him for the entire season and both their reputations are in tatters. Should Watson be unavailable, the team will turn to veteran Jacoby Brissett, also signed this offseason. The Browns are still figuring out a future for Baker Mayfield, a potential trade candidate but his contract is making him hard to move.