August 13, 2022

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9:36 AM ET Greater than two years after the primary civil lawsuit was filed in...

9:36 AM ET

Greater than two years after the primary civil lawsuit was filed in opposition to Deshaun Watson, disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson has suspended the Cleveland Browns quarterback for the first six games of the 2022 season, a supply advised ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Robinson, collectively appointed by the NFL and NFL Gamers Affiliation to rule on the case and administer any punishment, listened to arguments from the league, the union and Watson’s lawyer throughout a three-day listening to held in her residence state of Delaware in late June. The NFL had been pushing for a suspension of no less than a yr, whereas the union and Watson’s lawyer argued that the quarterback shouldn’t be suspended in any respect. The edges mentioned a possible settlement all the best way up by way of the listening to, however they might not comply with a deal.

Within the days main as much as Robinson’s choice, the league and Watson’s facet engaged in additional settlement talks, sources advised ESPN’s Dan Graziano, however neither facet ever felt they had been near an settlement. Probably the most Watson’s facet indicated it was keen to supply was a suspension within the vary of six to eight video games, in keeping with sources. One of the best the league indicated it was keen to supply was a 12-game suspension and a big high quality — within the vary of $eight million, sources stated. Whereas the NFLPA stated it won’t enchantment the choice, the league nonetheless has the proper to enchantment.

Since March 2021, 25 civil lawsuits have been filed in opposition to Watson, accusing him of actions starting from inappropriate habits to sexual assault throughout therapeutic massage periods. One of many 25 lawsuits was dropped after the decide dominated the petition needed to be amended with the plaintiff’s title. Watson and 20 of the opposite plaintiffs agreed to settle their lawsuits in late June. Early Monday morning, Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee advised ESPN’s John Barr that Watson agreed to settle three of the remaining four active lawsuits in opposition to him.

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In mid-July, the Houston Texans reached settlements with 30 women who had been ready to make claims in opposition to the group for its alleged function in “enabling Watson’s habits” whereas he was nonetheless with the workforce, in keeping with Buzbee. A type of 30 girls had filed a go well with in opposition to the Texans in June, however that case, Buzbee stated, was additionally settled.

Watson has maintained he is harmless of the allegations. Two grand juries in Texas declined to pursue legal costs in opposition to Watson earlier this yr. The Texans traded Watson to the Browns in March after the primary grand jury introduced it could not indict Watson.

Now that Robinson has dominated on Watson’s suspension, what’s subsequent for the quarterback and the Browns?

The place does Watson go from right here?

He has the proper to enchantment, however the NFLPA issued a press release Sunday evening saying it could not enchantment Robinson’s choice, and referred to as on the NFL to do the identical: “Each participant, proprietor, enterprise companion and stakeholder deserves to know that our course of is authentic and won’t be tarnished based mostly on the whims of the League workplace. That is why, no matter her choice, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by her ruling.” In line with the CBA, any enchantment, both from the NFLPA or the league, “shall be in writing inside three enterprise days of the Disciplinary Officer’s choice, and any response to the enchantment shall be filed in writing inside two enterprise days thereafter. The enchantment shall be restricted to arguments why, based mostly on the evidentiary document under, the quantity of self-discipline, if any, ought to be modified.” After that ruling has been made, the CBA says, “The Commissioner or his designee will problem a written choice that can represent full, closing and full disposition of the dispute and will probably be binding.”

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What suspension size did the Browns anticipate after they acquired Watson?

The consensus inside the group within the quick aftermath of the commerce was Watson would most likely be suspended within the vary of 4 to 6 video games, in keeping with sources. When the Browns first made the commerce, they knew a suspension — even a season-long one — was potential. They made a dedication to Watson, signing him to a five-year contract value $230 million totally assured, the richest deal in NFL historical past for any participant. And sources say they continue to be dedicated to him.

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Will the $230 million in assured cash stay?

Most of it’ll. Watson will lose $345,000 complete in recreation checks from the six-game suspension. It seems he will preserve the remaining. Along with Watson’s contract was a disclosure kind to deal with “paragraph 42,” which, within the contract — pertaining particularly to allegations already made — protects Watson from shedding any assured cash within the occasion he’s suspended for the 2022 or 2023 seasons whereas additionally stopping the Browns from voiding the contract if he had been suspended. However the query most likely is moot, anyway. The Browns have given each indication they plan to maneuver ahead with Watson as their franchise quarterback, in keeping with sources. There’s nothing to recommend that can change now that the Browns have readability on self-discipline from the league.

What does the Browns quarterback room seem like to start out the 2022 season?

It will not embrace Baker Mayfield, who was traded to the Carolina Panthers on July 6. The Browns have been planning to have Jacoby Brissett — who has 37 profession begins in New England, Indianapolis and Miami — take over as their beginning quarterback throughout Watson’s suspension. With Josh Dobbs as the one different quarterback on the roster, Cleveland brought in former first-round pick Josh Rosen on a one-year deal. Rosen was the No. 10 choose within the 2018 draft and has hung out with 5 NFL groups. He’ll compete with Dobbs for the backup job behind Brissett. The Browns might additionally think about making a commerce for Jimmy Garoppolo, who remains on the block in San Francisco, as a bridge whereas Watson is out.

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When can Watson rejoin the Browns?

Watson will proceed to have the ability to take part in practices and video games in the course of the preseason. However he must be away from the workforce in the course of the first half of the suspension after the common season begins. In line with the CBA, Watson will probably be allowed to rejoin the Browns and observe with them in the course of the second half of the suspension, which might start in Week 4.

What if extra accusations floor, or what if he’s discovered liable within the remaining lawsuit?

On condition that Robinson already opted in opposition to an indefinite suspension, the CBA does not present clear steering for such a state of affairs. That stated, the NFL had the chance to current the case of the remaining energetic lawsuit to Robinson. And if new allegations floor, the league might all the time examine to find out in the event that they too violated the private conduct coverage.

ESPN NFL reporter Sarah Barshop contributed to this story.