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NFL insider weighs in on potential length for Deshaun Watson suspension in 2022

Matt Johnson

When the Cleveland Browns acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson, the organization knew the NFL would likely suspend its new face of the franchise. With summer approaching, there could soon be more clarity on the situation.

Watson is facing 22 civil suits alleging sexual misconduct and assault, just a part of more than two dozen women coming forward to accuse him of inappropriate and unwanted behavior during massages. While a grand jury declined to indict Watson on any criminal charges, he is still subject to discipline from the NFL even before his civil suits are settled.

Related: Deshaun Watson accusers speak out, detail disturbing allegations

Precedent plays a part in this. The NFL has suspended multiple players for violations of the personal conduct policy even when they weren’t convicted of a potential crime. The league opened an investigation into Watson a year ago, speaking to the quarterback and his accusers.

Cleveland acquired the Pro Bowl signal-caller without clarity on a potential suspension. However, the front office signed Jacoby Brissett this spring to serve as Watson’s backup quarterback. Cleveland is also still rostering Baker Mayfield, who could be a starting option if the worst-case scenario happens and Watson is suspended for the entire 2022 NFL season.

Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated addressed the likely suspension for Watson. While projecting a length for the ban is difficult, especially under the circumstances, he believes an eight-game ban could be in play with multiple circumstances being considered.

“Offhand, I would say an eight-game suspension, but that’s a guess based on history. And I’m also aware of how sensitive the NFL is to public perception in cases like these, and so it’d be naive not to think what’s happened in other leagues, in cases like Trevor Bauer’s two-year suspension from MLB, wouldn’t weigh on the decision-makers here.”

Albert Breer on potential length of Deshaun Watson suspension

Major League Baseball suspended Trevor Bauer for two years following a pair of sexual assault allegations. While he was never charged, MLB’s investigation found enough merit to suspend him under its domestic abuse policy.

Related: NFL decision on Deshaun Watson suspension expected this summer

Even with two dozen women accusing Watson of sexual misconduct, he won’t be facing a two-year ban. While the exact length of a suspension isn’t known, we do have an idea for when the news will be announced.

When will Deshaun Watson be suspended?

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The NFL is expected to interview Watson again in June, gathering more information and receiving answers to questions before moving forward with its investigation. As league history shows, its investigators typically wait to interview the accused player until the inquiry is nearly finished.

Related: NFL executives rip Cleveland Browns for Deshaun Watson contract

As Albert Breer detailed, this suggests we could get a ruling from the NFL in July.

“As for timing, my best guess is we’ll get a decision in July. Roger Goodell confirmed Tuesday the league’s investigative process is nearing completion, but I don’t think that necessarily means a decision is imminent. There is a July 1 cutoff for pretrial discovery, and it makes sense that the NFL would want to see what comes out in discovery before making its call.”

Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer on timeline for NFL to discipline Deshaun Watson

Of course, this is only part of the process. The new NFL CBA means commissioner Roger Goodell no longer carries the outright authority to suspend a player for violating the personal conduct policy. It will go to an arbitrator, with the NFL and NFL Players’ Association already signing off on who will make a ruling on the matter.

If the judge decides Watson deserves a suspension, commissioner Roger Goodell can then appeal it and push for a lengthier suspension. However, he no longer has complete authority over punishment for violating the personal conduct policy. Watson will be the first NFL player to go through the appeals process.

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The NFL will likely pass along its findings to Watson’s attorneys in late June, starting the appeals process. Once a judge makes a ruling, following a review of the league’s findings and hearing Watson’s defense, then a possible suspension could be put in place.

Assuming Watson is suspended for part of the 2022 season, Brissett will likely be the Browns’ starting quarterback.