After months of endless speculation, there may be a decision on Cleveland Browns’ QB Deshaun Watson this week. An initial one, anyway.
While no one can say with certainty when former US District Judge Sue Robinson will hand down a ruling on Watson’s case, briefs from both sides – the NFLPA and NFL – are due this week. That news has been widely reported by multiple reporters covering the case.
With the understanding it’s in everyone’s best interest for the matter to be resolved prior to training camp, barely more than two weeks away, it’s unlikely it will take much time for Robinson to issue a brief.
Robinson has the ability to offer any form of punishment or no punishment at all. If there is some level of punishment, Roger Goodell has the ability to change the punishment into anything he sees fit. Hypothetically, if Robinson recommends a six-game suspension, Goodell has the authority to make it say, a full year. It’s unclear if Goodell would actually take such a step.
The “losing” side is almost certain to appeal, which also goes to Goodell, though he could appoint an arbitrator to handle the appeal. Recent reports and rumors suggest Watson may not suffer as harsh a penalty as the NFL wants, an indefinite suspension lasting at least a full year, but those suggestions have been circumstantial and aren’t ironclad.
Watson had been civilly sued by 24 women on sexual harassments and sexual assault allegations during massage therapy sessions. He recently settled all but four of those cases. Cleveland traded for Watson this offseason, sending the Houston Texans three first-round picks and multiple others all while handing Watson a fully-guaranteed $230 million contract. Because his 2022 base salary is only just more than $1 million, even a year-long suspension won’t hurt him much financially.
Odds remain high Watson faces some sort of punishment and will miss time this season. Replacing him will be veteran Jacoby Brissett now that Baker Mayfield has been sent to Carolina. The Steelers and Browns first face off in Week 3, a Thursday night contest. They won’t meet again until the regular season finale. It’s doubtful Watson plays in the first matchup, but it’s certainly possible he returns before the second meeting.