Before Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson makes a trip with his teammates to the Bahamas this weekend, the 26-year-old must first meet with NFL officials in Texas as part of the league’s investigation into his off-field behavior.
Watson is facing 22 civil suits alleging sexual misconduct and harassment, with the accusations all dating to his NFL career with the Houston Texans. The NFL launched its investigation in 2021, but took a slower approach as the FBI and local law enforcement looked into the matter.
With the 10 criminal complaints against Watson now out of the picture after a grand jury declined to indict, the NFL can move forward with a crucial step in its investigation.
As first reported by NFL insider Josina Anderson, the NFL has scheduled a meeting with Watson to be held in Texas later this week. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network confirmed the news with the league saying it would not comment on the matter.
The timing of the interview is noteworthy in terms of the impact on Watson’s availability for the 2022 season. Early in the investigation, the NFL met with several of Watson’s accusers to hear their side of the allegations. Several of the women expressed frustration toward the NFL, feeling league officials were “patronizing” and “victim-blaming” during the interview, with one person asking the woman what she wore when she met Watson.
While the NFL has offered very little information publicly about its ongoing investigation, an in-person meeting with Watson is a crucial part of the process. League investigators likely have extensive notes and accounts from Watson’s alleged victims about what happened. The young quarterback will now provide his side of the story and potentially be questioned about specific details by the NFL.
- Deshaun Watson contract: $1.035 base salary (2022), $46 million base salary (2023-’26)
Will Deshaun Watson be suspended in 2022
There is still no timeline for when a potential suspension for Watson would be announced. When the Browns signed him to an extension, the deal was structured to establish a base minimum salary for the 2022 season. The purpose of that is because any NFL player suspended foregoes their salary. Because a majority of Watson’s pay this season is through his signing bonus, it is protected from the NFL.
Meeting with Watson now also shows the NFL isn’t waiting for his civil cases to play out. Because of an agreement reached by Watson’s lawyers and his accusers, there will be no civil cases heard after July. It increased the possibility that without a settlement, Watson could avoid a suspension
The NFL’s decision to meet with Watson now could change that. However, this could be just a small part of the investigation. Even if the NFL determines Watson should receive a suspension, new rules in the collective bargaining agreement will impact whether or not it holds.
Until a decision is made and approved, Watson is cleared to play every game for the Browns in 2022.