The Cleveland Browns knew they would be receiving three things in the trade for Deshaun Watson earlier this offseason: 1) an excellent young quarterback; 2) a sixth-round draft pick; and 3) an absolute public relations shitstorm, that could have easily been predicted to grow worse than as was foreseen at the time of the deal.
Watson was being sued by 22 different massage therapists at the time that they sent three first-round picks, along with three other draft picks, to the Houston Texans in exchange for the Pro Bowl quarterback, whom they gave a fully-guaranteed $230 million contract, which was unprecedented.
Since the trade was consummated, two more women have filed suits against him, including the most recent which was a new claim that Watson’s lawyers were not previously aware of—and which arguably hint toward the distinct possibility of more novel lawsuits being filed in the near future.
In spite of the escalating fiasco that the entire situation has become, according to Cleveland.com, the Browns have not waivered at all, either in their commitment to Watson nor to the $230 million that they gave him, Mary Kay Cabot writes.
“The Browns are still all in on Deshaun Watson despite new civil suits and allegations, and aren’t looking to void his NFL-record, fully guaranteed $230 million contract or the trade with the Texans”, she reported for the outlet on Friday.
She notes that, perhaps in contrast to what some might believe, the organization does have “typical club protection” in its deal with Watson, as well as certain additions that go beyond the standard. Mike Florio first reported details of the contract in April.
He wrote then that every paragraph of the contract that discussed guaranteed salary “include[s] language exempting from any potential default a suspension imposed by the league ‘solely in connection with matters disclosed to Club in writing pursuant to paragraph 42 and such suspension results in Player’s unavailability to Club solely for games during the 2022 or 2023 NFL League Years’”.
The 24th lawsuit already consists of new information that the team was not aware of prior to the signing of the deal—as, indeed, Watson’s own lawyer, Rusty Hardin, acknowledged that it was new to them, as well. It took him days to actually respond to the most recent allegations, which he inevitably insists are false.
Even if they didn’t know about the allegations contained within the 24th lawsuit, or perhaps the full details reported by Jenny Vrentas recently in the New York Times, they surely must have been prepared for the very distinct possibility that there was more out there than they knew—just banking on it being within the same ballpark as what was already out there.
“So far, nothing has transpired since he signed the deal in March that has caused the Browns to change their view of Watson or contemplate trying to get out of the contract”, Cabot wrote; “– not even the 24th suit filed Wednesday”.
Cleveland has already structured Watson’s contract in such as way as to minimize the financial impact he would incur in the event of a suspension in 2022, and they very well may modify his contract if, for example, he were to be suspended next year instead. They knew who they were getting in bed with when they made the deal, so it’s of course no surprise that they remain fully committed—at this time—to the guy they think can help them win more games.