Forgive the players on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rosters if they’re a little antsy entering the 2022 season. For the first time in nearly two decades, they don’t know who their starting quarterback is going to be. But at least they know who will be available to them as options.
The Cleveland Browns, who have not had a stable quarterback presence since, what, Bernie Kosar?, don’t even know if their new franchise quarterback will be on the field at all this year, as Deshaun Watson awaits word on whether or not he will be suspended, or for how long. It’s got his teammates on edge.
“It’s definitely stressful for them”, he recently said at his youth football camp, referring to the team and the organization about not knowing Watson’s fate for the season, according to Ashley Bastock of Cleveland.com. “It’s tough because they’re trying to figure out what pieces they’ve got for the season and what plays they want to put it”.
Watson has four civil lawsuits bending against him, having already settled 20, alleging sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions over the course of a 17-month span, some accusations arising to the level of assault.
While thus far all 10 or so criminal lawsuits that were filed against him did not proceed, the NFL makes its own determinations on discipline. The league is seeking an indefinite suspension of Watson for at least a year, while the NFLPA is arguing for no suspension at all. An independent arbitrator must make an initial ruling, though there are appeal options which favor the NFL depending upon how the ruling goes.
The Browns traded three first-round draft picks, as well as other draft resources, after having already agreed to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract extension, to trade for Watson earlier this year shortly after his criminal cases were not pursued.
It should be noted that the Browns were only one of a healthy handful of teams who pursued the former Houston Texans quarterback and were willing to give up multiple first-round picks for him. It was the Browns’ willingness to fully guarantee an extension that ultimately won them the deal.
And now they are the ones who have to play the wait and see game, especially after allegations against him continued to worsen as time went on. There are at least six more lawsuits expected to be filed over time, if not more, and others could still choose to pursue further criminal charges.
Cleveland signed Jacoby Brissett earlier this offseason to be the backup, and he would be their starter for whatever length of time this season—zero games or 17—Watson misses. Hunt said that they are installing different plays for both Watson and Brissett.
It is expected that a decision will be handed down in time for training camp, so the Browns should know who will be starting week one by the time that comes. For now, though, they may have at least another week of waiting.