Over 16 months after the first of two dozen civil lawsuits was filed against former Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, the NFL has finally settled on Watson’s punishment for alleged sexual misconduct in various massage settings. On Monday, former federal judge Sue L. Robinson, the NFL’s personal conduct mediator, informed all parties involved that Watson would be suspended for the first six games of the 2022 NFL season.
To many of us covering this story, the arrival of this day feels a little surreal, as there were times it felt like this ordeal would never end. Actually, that’s probably a good place to start with the remaining questions surrounding Watson’s future and Robinson’s decision:
So is this really the end of all this Watson stuff?
Possibly, but if either side decides to appeal Robinson’s decision, then this will drag on for a few more days. Either side can appeal Robinson’s punishment within the next three business days. The appeal would go to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, or a Goodell-appointed proxy. The person reviewing the appeal would render a decision within two days. It is worth noting, on Sunday night, the NFLPA (essentially, Watson’s side) issued a statement saying that they would not appeal Robinson’s decision, and they implored the NFL (essentially, Watson’s opponent in all this) to refrain from appealing, as well :
Our joint statement with Deshaun Watson on the impending arbitration decision: pic.twitter.com/9ObLnHiX6J
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) July 31, 2022
The NFL has not commented on Robinson’s decision nor the above statement, but my guess is the NFLPA had an inkling that the suspension would be far less than the full season suspension that the league was reportedly seeking before they publicly said they wouldn’t appeal Robinson’s decision.
So, if the suspension remains six games, did Watson get off light?
The NFL would probably say “Yes,” as reportedly their investigative team was seeking an indefinite suspension with a minimum of one year. For anyone who wasn’t in the room to talk with the accusers and Watson himself, it’s hard to accurately assess what the suspension SHOULD HAVE been. However, I will say that, for someone who handled his business so poorly — scheduling several dozen massages with strangers on Instagram, refusing to settle the lawsuits for over a year and then eventually settling anyway, all of his clunky press conference answers since the trade — Watson sure came out smelling like a rose, with a $230 million guaranteed contract and a suspension that ultimately amounts to a slap on the wrist, really.
What does this suspension mean for Watson and the Browns?
Well, Watson is still allowed to be around the team for the remainder of training camp. He is allowed to practice and play in preseason games. He would miss the first six games of the season, and would miss the paychecks for those six weeks. Because the Browns paid nearly all of Watson’s $46 million income for 2022 in the form of a one-time signing bonus, the game checks missed are relatively paltry, as he will “only” lose $345,000. The Browns reportedly plan to roll with Jacoby Brissett as their starting quarterback for the first six games of the season. For what it’s worth, the first six games for the Browns include games against four of the predicted bottom feeders in 2022 — Carolina, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta. Brissett can definitely go 4-0 against those teams.
What does this suspension mean for the Texans?
The Texans turned the page on Watson a long time ago, starting with the day the trade was made with the Browns in March of this year. However, the Watson punishment is still relevant to the Texans, in that they hold the Browns’ two first round picks in 2023 and 2024, and in theory, if Watson is unable to play, this increases the chances of the Browns losing, and thus , makes those picks more valuable. When it looked like Watson would be suspended for a full season, I will admit, I allowed visions of a second top 10 pick in the 2023 draft (the Texans OWN pick being the other) to dance in my head. Instead, there is a very good chance the Browns go 4-2 in the six games Watson misses. The Browns have to be looking at Robinson’s decision as a huge victory for them.
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