Former Federal Judge Announces Outcome of Quarterback Deshaun Watson’s Disciplinary Hearing

by Patrick Norton

Based on the recommendation of NFL and NFLPA jointly appointed disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has been suspended for six games during the 2022 season. The ruling comes over a month after a hearing – where the league and Watson’s legal team presented evidence and arguments – concluded.

Watson – who hasn’t played in the NFL since January 2021 – originally opted to sit in order to force a trade from Houston. However, the surfacing of 26 sexual misconduct allegations and 24 subsequent civil lawsuits prevented the possibility of a return to action.

Following the trade that sent Watson to Cleveland, the quarterback maintained his innocence to the press. Without legally compromising the claim, his legal team settled 20 of the 24 cases, leaving just four active suits. In March, a grand jury declined to indict Watson on criminal charges.

As details emerged about the claims against Watson, the road toward clearing his name became trickier. Disciplinary settlement talks between the league and player reportedly broke down due to vast differences in determining appropriate penalties. Watson didn’t believe any suspension should take place. The league wanted at least a year penalty.

Cleveland’s Next Steps Amid Watson’s Looming Absence

The Browns sit in an extremely vulnerable position with the loss of the expected starter. Jacoby Brissett becomes the franchise’s de facto starter while Watson remains sidelined.

But it brings into question the motive behind trading Baker Mayfield. Following the conclusion of the hearing, but before the finalization of Watson’s punishment, Cleveland sent Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers for a conditional pick.

In addition to securing a backup quarterback for 2022, the Browns’ concern also shifts toward next steps for Watson. An appeal to the suspension is likely, but hasn’t been announced at this time.

One of Deshaun Watson’s accusers is suing the 27-year-old’s former franchise, citing a conspiracy to enable the misconduct with massage therapists. It’s unclear if more accusers will file similar lawsuits.