DeShaun Watson Settlement: 11 Games, $5 Million Fine

Browns QB Deshaun Watson
Browns QB Deshaun Watson
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Preseason Week 2 - The NFL and NFLPA have negotiated a settlement to the Deshaun Watson case before it gets to the league's appeal with former New Jersey attorney general Peter C. Harvey. Watson will be suspended for 11 games instead of six and has been fined $5 million which will go to fund non-profit organizations that support the prevention of sexual misconduct and assault. The timing of the suspension means that Watson will make his debut in Week 13... in Houston against his former team, the Texans. How loud will the boos be that afternoon? The suspension also affects the AFC North race by giving each of the Browns' three division rivals one game against Jacoby Brissett at quarterback and one game against Watson (barring injury).

Frankly, anything short of a full year feels a little dirty here, but I understand the NFL's desire to get this settled before using the appeals process and being open to some sort of challenge from the NFLPA in federal court.

Apparently, the suspension is 11 games because it takes six games to toll Watson's contract. With fewer than six games in 2022, Cleveland would only have to pay Watson $1 million in salary for 2023. This way, he gets his whole $46 million salary in 2023. Which feels bad, because it's uncomfortable to know Watson is being paid that much, and feels good, because you don't want Cleveland to get away with a full year of Watson for only $1 million. More bad than good, I think.

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53 comments, Last at 21 Aug 2022, 9:04am

1 Which means Watson comes…

edit: blah, wrong damn year. So he comes back for @ Texans, @ Bengals, Ravens, Saints, @ Washington, @ Steelers.

OK, that's actually set up for Watson to come back and end the season on a high note. I mean, the Browns will probably be utter toast by then if they actually go with who they have now: they could easily go 2-9 in that first 11-game stretch and there's no way 8-9 is getting them into the playoffs.

3 Yeah, stupid thing…

Yeah, stupid thing autofilled the wrong year and I didn't glance at it. I remembered the softest part of their schedule was in the beginning, only glanced at the end.

The meat of the Browns schedule's in the middle (they could struggle weeks 5-12 even with Watson - without, they could lose them all: Chargers, Patriots, Ravens, Bengals, Dolphins, Bills, Bucs) which is why I said before that even a short suspension that starts in the beginning is really bad. They need those first 4 wins.

11 The funny thing is that in…

The funny thing is that in some sense this is a best case scenario for Watson and worst-case for the Browns. They start off 4-7, Watson comes back and leads them to 9-8 and are in postseason conversations (but probably left out, I can't see how 9-8 gets them an AFC Wild Card berth) and Watson friggin' looks like a franchise savior.

And now the Browns miss their best window (this year) and likely will struggle to add talent in '23 and '24, making the front office look terrible because oh, with how Watson dominated the end of '22, they should be Super Bowl contenders.

You could say "yeah, but the Browns owner is level-headed enough to realize what's truly going on,"... but then you'd be forgetting who owns the Browns.

13 The worst (well, funniest)…

The worst (well, funniest) case would be: (No chance this happens, but it's funny)

1) Brisset absolutely kills it as the next TB and they have 7 wins when Watson comes back.

2) Turns out Watson's 2020 was a career year and he's really a 900 DYAR guy. They go 3-3 down the stretch and miss the playoffs on a tiebreaker or lose the WC amid the dreaded "controversy". 

3)Brisset is traded for a third round pick, goes on to have a better career than Watson, while the browns struggle the next couple years with cap issues while the fans wonder what could have been.  

 Again, no chance, but funny to think about. 


15 There’s a much more probable…

There’s a much more probable outcome, which is that Mayfield ends up as a better QB than Watson. Oh sure, it’s not likely at this point, but the guy had serious injury issues that he played through, so for all we know he just needed a change of scenery. 

It would be hilarious if Mayfield became a HOF quarterback and lead the Panthers to a couple of super bowls. And then the Texans use the picks the Browns gave them to trade up and get their own HOF QB in the draft.

28 I'd love to see Brissett…

I'd love to see Brissett take a huge leap forward this year. At 29 that seems unlikely, but hey, anything's possible. But - and maybe I'm totally nuts - but even if he just plays at his previous baseline level, I don't think 7 wins in the first 11 is out of the question.

They ought to win the first 4 (maybe go 3-1 if Pickett turns out to be really good from the jump) almost regardless of who they have at QB. Their roster is quite strong, generally, and those teams are garbage. Then in that middle 7 stretch, they're probably underdogs in all of those games but none of them look completely unwinnable to me (well, maybe @Buffalo is) - Cleveland should have a strong running game and strong pass defense to keep the games relatively low-scoring, such that a little luck could bounce 3-4 of them their way (would anyone really be shocked if the Brissett-Browns beat the Pats, Bengals, and Dolphins by 19-16ish scores?).

I think it's eminently possible they're 7-4 when Watson comes back. If so: 1) QB controversy! In the media, if not in reality, anyway; and 2) Watson wouldn't be riding in to save the day, he'd be under pressure not to derail the playoff train. And yeah, if he's rusty, or returns to his pre-2020 baseline, or the Browns just plain get a little unlucky down the stretch (conversely only 2 of the last 6 look completely un-lose-able to me), they could crash to 10-7 or worse, into the 7th playoff seed or out completely. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more this seems like the most likely way this season plays out.

The only thing that won't happen is them trading Brissett, because he's only under contract for 2022. So they'll struggle with cap issues and watch the best roster the Browns 2.0 have ever had fall apart over the next few years, without even that 3rd rounder to cushion the blow. So, that part's pretty funny. At least if you're not a Browns fan...

32 I think it's eminently…

I think it's eminently possible they're 7-4 when Watson comes back

Wow, you've got a much higher opinion of Brissett than I do. And the Browns, I guess, because part of the thing with Brissett is that in some sense he's a mirror of the playcaller/coaching staff: yeah, solid for the most part in Indy/New England, but geh in Miami (big fan of Flores defensively, not so much offensively).

7-4 in the first 11 likely means going 3-4 vs Chargers, Patriots, Ravens, Bengals, Dolphins, Bills, Bucs, and man that's a tough ask. Dolphins maybe, Bengals maybe (due to defense) but that's a big, big stretch. I mean, sure "eminently possible" means different things to different people and obviously it's possible for the Browns to completely sweep that stretch. But "eminently possible" to me is just a step under "likely that" and I think it's likely they're 1-6 over that stretch, with 2-5 "eminently possible" if the Bengals postseason was a mirage.

Bucs, Bills, and Chargers are pretty darn likely losses, and I think if it's Brissett the Patriots squash them (the last thing you want vs a Belichick defense is something they're familiar with plus a quarterback who adapts poorly). And I think there's no way in the world the Ravens are as banged up as last year.

33 I feel the same. They were 8…

I feel the same. They were 8-9 last year,  for all dumping on Mayfield he's an upgrade of Brisset and they didn't have a big off seasons outside Watson (no surprise there). 
First 11 is:


It's hard to consider them a better team than they were last year without Watson. Much more than .500 at best over that seems difficult.

Edit: Might be funny if Houston has a better record by the time he comes back. Not even sure I would call that game a gimmie. First game back with hostile crowd and his old teammates. Might throw him off a bit. 

37 Not even a guarantee he'll…

Not even a guarantee he'll come back at that point, that's just the earliest point of reinstatement. Also means that they'll only have like, a week to deal with a totally changed offense. Wouldn't be totally crazy to hold off on starting Watson anyway.

39 It's not, totally crazy…

It's not, totally crazy although I can't imagine holding him out unless he somehow gets injured. 

1) It reflects really badly on him if he's not ready. WTF have you been doing? 

2)Holding him out would be a PR disaster bc it would like they didn't want to start him vs his old team. Terrible optics there.

3)They will probably be hurting for both fan interest and playoff position at that point.

4)Next game is @Bengals, so if his first game is gonna be bad, it's probably better vs HOU. 

I can't see a way doesn't do that start unless something truely crazy happens. 

41 It reflects really badly on…

It reflects really badly on him if he's not ready. WTF have you been doing? 

No, I meant more from the rest of the team's perspective, getting receivers/linemen/etc. ready for a new QB. Two weeks isn't exactly a heck of a lot of time.

Funny detail: Watson's only allowed back at the facility/practice as of November 14th, which is after their bye and just before the Bills/Bucs game. So in some sense, getting Watson up to speed hurts their chances in those games (which were already bad anyway, though).

I can't see a way doesn't do that start unless something truely crazy happens. 

Well, it's also possible that the NFL doesn't let him start practicing on the 14th because of not meeting some terms or something. That doesn't fall under "truly crazy" for me.

43 truly crazy

I would consider him not doing some paperwork he was supposed to pretty crazy, but YMMV.  Remember, the league is mostly trying to look tough here and you could say they did that by almost doubling his suspension. It's in their interest to get him back on the field ASAP bc it makes their produce better. One they have done enough so they arn't condoning what he did, I bet the league backs off.  Tons of people on the side of just sweeping this under the rug after he has been punished. 

It's sad, but if he comes back and starts putting up numbers the outrage will drop off to background levels. 

44  It's in their interest to…

In reply to by KnotMe

 It's in their interest to get him back on the field ASAP bc it makes their produce better.

Just depends on how the PR behaves. Heck, I could even imagine that if the backlash from Watson coming back to practice is huge the NFL might ticky-tack the details of the suspension and claim he still needs to do XYZ to be able to play in the game.

40 Very good point Pat

It’s frequently been glossed over that the 11 game ban is not a fixed number, that Watson must apply for reinstatement.  People who have criticized Watson’s reaction to the suspension should keep that in mind and take comfort in it.  If Watson maintains his position of innocence, what’s to say he’ll be reinstated?

42 Only player I could find it…

Only player I could find it being denied was Josh Gordon(couldn't find a reason).  I suspect the NFLPA would fight if it was denied.  Not sure if there is much point in denying him reinstatement in order to force out an obviously forced apology. I think they only even did the appeal bc pretty much EVERYONE though it was way to low.  

I don't think they would want to extend the sideshow more than they have to. 

49 Honestly, I think they did…

Honestly, I think they did that already by not presenting their best case to the arbiter. (4 of 22? really?).  They then got a light suspension that they could challenge and look good. 

Now they just want the whole thing to go away. 

17 And now the Browns miss…

And now the Browns miss their best window (this year)

Yes, making the suspension just low enough to let Watson accrue a season is probably the worst possible outcome for the Browns. They brought it on themselves, though. They bought a used sports car with expired warranties at full price and now it's left them stranded in the middle of the desert.

Edit: I just saw your post below. I guess 11 was not the worst thing for the Browns, then. 16 would've been worse.

26 It almost feels like a…

It almost feels like a punishment aimed more at the Browns/Jimmy Haslam than at Watson. Haslam might be too blinkered/nuts/strung out to realize it, but I have to think it was at least on Goodell's mind as he worked out this "settlement" - being a scumbag is bad enough, but blowing up the labor market to get said scumbag is also a terrible a crime in the eyes of the NFL. This seems peculiarly designed to make damn sure the Browns have to sleep in the bed they made for themselves.

5 I guess the big question is…

I guess the big question is how much they panic. I'm sure they can think to themselves "If we can just get to the playoffs we can be good with Watson", so the question is if they make any panic moves. Jimmy G?

The fine is like half his pay this year but I doubt he cares. 

6 Better, at least

Apparently, the suspension is 11 games because it takes six games to toll Watson's contract. 

Always forget this.

More bad than good, I think.

Yeah. Outside of banishment, this is a lot better than the og punishment. Maybe a 20 year ban couldve worked too..."oh are you too old to play now? Oh well!"

8 Accrues a year of service

I read someone on Twitter say this was the worst possible result for the Browns. Deshaun is eligible for the absolute minimum number of games that would lock in his $45M salary for next year.

10 Doesn't matter. Even if he…

Doesn't matter. Even if he got suspended a year it's not like they wouldn't play him in 2023, But yeah, it pretty much torpedo's this year but doesn't get them a high draft position either. That might be why the league was ok with 11 rather than 12. 

12 No, this person…

No, this person misunderstands how the most recent CBAs work (it's a common misunderstanding, obviously). Playing 6 games in a season gets you a qualifying year towards free agency (which doesn't really matter for Watson) - anything less than that doesn't count.

But for contract status he would've had to have been suspended a full year for his contract to be pushed forward. That's the only way it happens. More details here.

edit: also here, note "Watson's contract doesn't toll with a suspension where he can play football in 2022." (my emphasis)

14 I've written my feelings…

I've written my feelings about Watson in a previous post, so I'll instead consider the football implications. 

The popular thought would be to go after Jimmy G, but how much of an upgrade is he over Jacoby Brisette conditioned on the asking price? I think the Browns roster is good enough to maybe survive 11 games; although that's just long enough to where the season could be realistically over. 

I might roll the dice with Brisette and then if things get ugly, trade for Jimmy G at that point. 

16 I think everyone is waiting…

I think everyone is waiting for Jimmy to be released (Not sure the browns could even take his cap hit if they traded for him).  

Still, Jimmy G isn't gonna salvage things if it's ugly. If your going that route, you need to go all in from the start. He was 10th by DYAR last year, so he's their best chance to salvage this season. Of course, it's the browns, so that might be their plan. And they is only like a 50% chance he gets through 11 games wo getting hurt anyway. 

Of course them trading for him and him doing better than Watson would be funny. 

19 Well, JG has literally been…

Well, JG has literally been ahead of Brissett (filling in for a suspension of a top-tier QB no less) on the Pats depth chart before.

But he would need time to get up to speed, which is why you can't really "wait for things to go south." Even if you traded today, Brissett would start the Baker Bowl regardless. 

21 Another interesting angle…

Another interesting angle. If Deshawn were playing any other position, is he still on the team or in the league anymore? 

23 Peterson was indefinite,…

Peterson was indefinite, which ended up meaning "until the end of the season".  I believe that meant six games, when all was said and done.

I believe the last person who missed a full season for personal conduct issues, as opposed to PEDs or gambling, was Dante Stallworth for DUI manslaughter in 2009.  Might have been Plaxico Burress, as well, though that suspension was just kept on the books until he was out of prison.

35 it's also somewhat hard to classify what last season was

Watson had already gone into quasi-hold out PRE the revelations coming out -- also inspiring a really fun 'trade the man' he's RIGHT to demand out' NFL twitter month that has since been memory-holed -- and the texans are a hugely dysfunctional org

hypothetical but if the texans/league had wanted/allowed him to play in say, week 10 of last year, it's not obvious Watson would have

48 Yeah, but that'd cost you an…

Yeah, but that'd cost you an active roster spot (more valuable) and Watson literally would've had to have been on the sidelines. You'd also have to imagine that the NFLPA would challenge it saying that an effective deactivation is the same thing as a true deactivation.

25 I am reminded of the first…

I am reminded of the first scene in Unforgiven, when Gene Hackman decides to fine the boys a couple of ponies. 

47 The irony of the modern…

The irony of the modern parole system is that people who are wrongly convicted and maintain their innocence are never paroled -- with the same excuse of they never admitted their deeds and showed contrition.

(Because, you know, they didn't do it)

The same system happily paroles sociopaths adept at playing the act so they can go out and prey some more.

\We didn't really learn anything from the Duke case.

34 it's really good he got those reps in the pre-season game (lol)

The Browns deserve nothing less than complete years-long implosion for this and with the price paid in salary and picks it's not terribly unlikely that happens down the road. 

This is a team that's gone 19-14 the last two seasons but is weirdly assumed to have a tons of talent. Sorta like the Colts plus horrendous moral decision-making. Not sure..

If Watson is merely in the 5-10th best QB range - you're going to run into roster construction issues even in a best case scenario down the road.  

38 The Browns are garbage, and…

The Browns are garbage, and that won't change until the owners do.

Jimmy Haslam's character and ethics were already questionable before all of this, so no one should be surprised when he proves his reputation to be correct.

I feel most sorry for the women who were the actual victims of Watson's behaviour, followed by the long-suffering Browns fans who have decided they can no longer support the team due to this ridiculousness. Everyone else involved is just a disappointment.

52 First of all, I agree with…

First of all, I agree with the first few sentences of your last paragraph. 

However, half the league wanted Watson, and much of the other half would've if it weren't for established top-tier, bluechip young, etc. QBs (TB, KC, DEN, LAR, GB, LAC, CIN, MIN, JAX, BAL) or were in the division (JAX again, IND, TEN) or otherwise were not on Watson's trade list.

Do you think that more than half of the organizations in the NFL are garbage or at least disappointments? If not, why not?

It's still not clear if Haslam is any worse than most owners ethically, and he himself avoided criminal charges in PFJ's rebate stuff.

51 Many argue that your 19-14…

Many argue that your 19-14 is with last year having some of the worst QB play in the league.  Even if you argue that Baker to be merely somewhere below average, upgrading the QB merely to 5th-10th is enormous.  Running back Baker when he realistically would fall behind Lawrence, ZWilson and other teams (i.e. Den) on AFC QB tiers was not going to work, nor were there a lot of other good options. 

That 19-14 is no worse than the Ravens, who are generally considered to be stacked (injuries last year, I know, but still not sold on them rebounding as much as people are saying) and, for whatever reason, and I realize this is a hornets' nest, are given a pass by many on player off-field conduct.

I've said many times that I accept all the karma I should get for what I've said about Roethlisberger. Not sure what people are hoping to accomplish by piling on Browns fans.

53 Start of season not easy…

Start of season not easy. Baker Mayfield willl probably play well in week 1. Jets likely to win in week 2. Jets rooster much improved. Then pitt in week 3. Rival team. Browns could win that one. Then Falcs in week 4. Browns could win that. So okay maybe 2-2. Would bet money thwy start 0-2 thoufh

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