Deshaun Watson is widely expected to be suspended for at least part of the 2022 NFL season while facing 24 civil lawsuits (and counting) alleging sexual assault or misconduct. That’s not stopping his new team, the Browns, from standing by him. In light of the 24th lawsuit and comments from the accusers’ attorney about adding the Texans, Watson’s former team, as a defendant in the case, Cleveland isn’t looking to void its blockbuster trade for the QB, or Watson’s record contract, per Cleveland.com.
The Browns aggressively recruited and then landed Watson in March, shortly after the QB was cleared of criminal charges pertaining to allegations. But the QB has yet to resolve any of the now-24 lawsuits accusing him of serial abuse during private massage therapy sessions. The Browns “knew they’d take a barrage of PR hits” at the start of Watson’s career in Cleveland, Mary Kay Cabot wrote Friday, and haven’t contemplated reversing their commitment to the QB in recent months.
Watson’s record five-year, $230 million deal with the Browns, signed as part of his trade from Houston, includes typical team protections that enable Cleveland to void the contract in the event of conduct detrimental to the club, per Cabot. But “nothing has transpired since he signed the deal … that has caused the Browns to change their view of Watson.” Coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry have publicly defended the QB’s character, pointing to their own investigation of his situation.
That doesn’t mean the NFL won’t discipline Watson for his alleged wrongdoing. While the QB has denied all accusations, declining to show any remorse for what he’s deemed professional (and occasionally consensually sexual) therapy sessions, the league could suspend him for a violation of its personal conduct policy without criminal charges. Cabot reports that it’s “almost a foregone conclusion that Watson will be suspended, either for a specific number of games, or indefinitely, in which case he’d have to miss the entire 2022 season and apply for reinstatement afterward.”
The only thing that might change the Browns’ perspective, prompting the team to potentially explore voiding Watson’s contract or acquisition from the Texans, is criminal charges against the QB, per Cabot. Two different Texas grand juries have declined to indict Watson on charges related to his alleged misconduct.