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Cleveland Browns didn’t foresee long Deshaun Watson suspension at time of trade

Vincent Frank

When the Cleveland Browns pulled off a blockbuster trade for Deshaun Watson during the spring, they believed internally that he would be their starter for a majority of the 2022 season.

Fast forward several months, and that’s highly unlikely to be the case. Watson just wrapped up a disciplinary hearing with the NFL and an arbitrator stemming from the north of 20 women who have accused him of sexual misconduct and/or assault. In said hearing , the league is said to be demanding an indefinite suspension that would last at least a calendar year.

With a decision expected some time later in July, we’re hearing more about Watson and his Browns. Apparently, Cleveland didn’t foresee a long-term suspension. According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, the Browns were preparing for a four-game ban.

“The Browns signed Jacoby Brissett a day after they traded for Deshaun Watson in March, with the clear intention for him to serve as Watson’s backup and possibly start the first quarter of the season or so in the event Watson was suspended.

What they didn’t envision was that Brissett, 29, might have to start the entire season depending on what disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson imposes, and what ultimately transpires on appeal.”

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It must be noted that Cleveland acquired Watson only after a grand jury in Texas opted against recommending criminal charges against the Pro Bowl quarterback.

Even then, we all know that the NFL operates under its own justice system. Players have been suspended in the past void of criminal charges being filed against them.

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PHIL MASTURZO / USA TODAY NETWORK

Cleveland signed veteran journeyman Jacoby Brissett during the offseason. It also still has enigmatic former No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield on the roster. Though, Mayfield has made it clear that his days with the Browns are over.

“No. I think for that to happen there would have to be some reaching out. But we’re ready to move on, I think, on both sides … It’s been pretty obvious the mutual decision on both sides is to move on.”

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A mystery team is reportedly in on Mayfield, join known trade candidates such as the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers. Simply put, Mayfield will be calling another NFL city home here soon.

That leaves Brissett as the Browns’ starter depending on the length of Watson’s suspension. It’s not an ideal scenario.

  • Jacoby Brissett stats (2019-21): 61% completion, 4,242 yards, 23 TD, 10 INT

If Deshaun Watson’s suspension is short-term, the Browns could be fine. If he’s banned for the entire 2022 season, that narrative changes.

It’s led to speculation that Cleveland could look to turn around and make a trade for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who has a much larger track record of success than Brissett.

Either way, this story is close to being told. Depending on what happens with the ruling later in July, the Browns will have some sense of closure while understanding what the next move might need to be.