As the Cleveland Browns await a ruling from the National Football League on a Deshaun Watson suspension, the latest allegations against the star quarterback could result in a historic ban.
As Watson practices with his new team in preparation for the 2022 season, discipline is coming. The three-time Pro Bowl selection is facing 26 civil suits accusing him of sexual misconduct and assault. While he is claiming innocent and consensual relations with masseuses, he is bracing for discipline from the NFL.
Cleveland will hold its training camp in late July and the expectation remains that a suspension will be announced next month. While there is plenty of debate regarding the length of his ban from the NFL, one top insider believes the Browns’ franchise quarterback might not play at all in 2022.
Yahoo Sports’ NFL reporter Charles Robinson said on the You Pod to Win the Game podcast that he believes Watson will be suspended for an entire calendar year.
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Robinson previously reported that NFL teams interested in acquiring Watson earlier this offseason initially expected a six-game suspension. However, the feeling around the league changed dramatically in recent weeks.
With the NFL seemingly viewing this as a watershed moment and concerned about optics, commissioner Roger Goodell and league officials want to avoid the public outcry that would come from a short suspension. That’s part of the reason a year-long suspension could be on the table.
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Why Deshaun Watson could be suspended for entire season
There are a few reasons why the NFL might sideline Watson for the entire 2022 season. Precedent plays a factor, along with the Browns’ actions this offseason and the desire for the league to improve its reputation.
- Deshaun Watson contract: $1.035 base salary (2022), $46 million base salary (2023-’26)
Cleveland bothered a lot of people in the NFL with the extension it gave Watson. Despite him not playing in 2021, the Browns’ ownership signed him to a historic guaranteed contract worth $230 million. Owners took issue with it, viewing it as the opening to fully-guaranteed deals for quarterbacks all for a player with a reputation that seemingly didn’t warrant the deal. Furthermore, the NFL likely took issue with the Browns structuring the contact so Watson would lose the least amount of money for a 2022 suspension.
Related: NFL executives rip Cleveland Browns for Deshaun Watson contract
The public image also plays an important role in a suspension. Major League Baseball suspended Trevor Bauer two years for two sexual assault allegations, despite the All-Star pitcher avoiding conviction. It’s part of the evaluation for the NFL.
Another important element to consider is the Calvin Ridley suspension. Executives banned the wideout a full year for betting on games, all at a time when the NFL is partnered with sportsbooks. Handing down a shorter suspension for Watson, when he is accused of far more heinous things, would delve a lasting blow to the NFL and Goodell’s reputation.
With the New York Times detailing a seemingly disturbing pattern of predatory behavior by Watson, it would go beyond any accusations ever levied against Ben Roethlisberger, Ezekiel Elliott, Robert Kraft or Jerry Jones. For that reason, he likely faces greater discipline.
As a league official told Robinson, this likely comes down to Watson or the NFL taking a hit. For a power that is always looking for ways to increase revenue and protect its brand, it’s obvious who will likely experience the consequences and catastrophic blow to their image.