Deshaun Watson settles case with NFL: QB suspended 11 games and hit with hefty fine after working out deal

Deshaun Watson settles case with NFL: QB suspended 11 games and hit with hefty fine after working out deal

The Cleveland Browns finally know how many games Deshaun Watson will miss this season after the quarterback reached a settlement with the NFL on Thursday. 

CBS Sports NFL Insiders Josina Anderson and Jonathan Jones have reported that Watson will be suspended for 11 games, which is a substantial increase over the six-game suspension that he was originally handed. Besides the suspension, Watson has also been hit with a fine of $5 million, which is the largest fine ever given to a player in NFL history.   

The settlement also calls for Watson to comply with a professional treatment plan, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced. 

“Deshaun has committed to doing the hard work on himself that is necessary for his return to the NFL,” Goodell said. “This settlement requires compliance with a professional evaluation and treatment plan, a significant fine, and a more substantial suspension.”

According to ESPN.com, Watson’s reinstatement is “contingent upon his compliance with the treatment plan” and if he doesn’t comply, the NFL could delay his reinstatement, which could lead to a longer suspension. 

On Watson’s end, he was just glad to put the entire case behind him. 

“I’m grateful that the disciplinary process has ended and extremely appreciative of the tremendous support I have received throughout my short time with the Browns organization,” Watson said in a statement. “I apologize once again for any pain this situation has caused. I take accountability for the decisions I made.”

Although Watson mentioned accountability in his statement, he didn’t seem to take any when asked about the settlement during a press conference after the new punishment was announced. 

“I’m going to continue to stand on my innocence,” Watson told the media Thursday. “Just because settlements and things like that happen doesn’t mean that a person is guilty for anything.”

Watson’s decision to accept the NFL’s settlement offer means that the case is officially over from a football perspective. Watson will sit out Cleveland’s first 11 games of the season before being eligible return to the team on Nov. 28. In a twist, Watson’s first game back will come against his former team, the Houston Texans. The Browns are scheduled to play in Houston on Dec. 4 on CBS. 

The added five games on the suspension means that Watson will miss several key matchups that he wouldn’t have missed under his original six-game suspension. Here are the five new games he’ll be missing now that five extra weeks have been added to his punishment: at Ravens (Week 7), Bengals (Week 8) at Dolphins (Week 10), at Bills (Week 11) and Buccaneers (Week 12). The Browns also have a Week 9 bye in there. 

Although Watson shot down a settlement offer last month, he wasn’t really in a position to turn down an offer this time around. The NFL’s decision to appeal the original punishment put the ball squarely in the league’s court because the appeal was being overseen by former New Jersey attorney general, Peter C. Harvey, who was appointed by Roger Goodell. 

When it comes to settling, the upside for Watson is that he now knows how much time he’ll be missing. On the other hand, the upside for the NFL is that the league won’t have to worry about the quarterback taking the case to federal court, which might have happened if Watson had been given an indefinite suspension of at least one year. 

The settlement ends a long road for this case, which started all the way back in March 2021 when Watson was hit with a single civil lawsuit by a massage therapist who accused him of sexual misconduct. The total number of lawsuits eventually ballooned up to 24, although Watson did settle 23 of those cases over the past two months. 

The Browns made a trade for Watson in March 2022 despite knowing that there were two dozen lawsuits filed against him and that a punishment would almost certainly be coming.

Watson was originally given a six-game suspension by former federal judge Sue Robinson, the disciplinary officer who was jointly appointed by both the NFL and NFLPA to handle the case. After a three-day hearing in June, Robinson waited more than a month before releasing her decision on Aug. 1. In a 16-page ruling, Robinson agreed that Watson had violated the league’s personal conduct policy, but she didn’t feel there was enough precedent to suspend him for any more than six games. 

Although the NFL didn’t get the punishment it wanted from Robinson — the league was hoping to see a suspension of at least one year — the judge did provide enough legal ammo for the NFL to file an appeal. In her decision, Robinson essentially agreed with everything the NFL argued during the June hearing. In the ruling, Robinson wrote that Watson’s conduct violated three provisions of the NFL’s personal conduct policy “by engaging in: (1) sexual assault; (2) conduct that poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person; and (3) conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL.”

Although the longer ban means Watson will now be out until Week 13, he will be allowed to participate in preseason games if the Browns want to play him, but it doesn’t sound like that’s going to happen. 

Watson won’t have to start serving his suspension Aug. 30. According to ESPN.com, he’ll be eligible to return to the team facility on Oct. 10 to participate in limited activities. Watson will then be allowed to resume practicing on Nov. 14, a full two weeks before his suspension ends. 

As for their quarterback situation once the regular season hits, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski has said that the team is planning to start Jacoby Brissett in Week 1, but it will now be interesting to see if that’s still his plan. The Browns don’t have many options right now, but they could try to make a trade for Jimmy Garoppolo, which is something the team has apparently been thinking about over the past few weeks. 


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