The Cleveland Browns may soon have clarity regarding Deshaun Watson’s status for the 2022 season. The Watson NFL’s disciplinary hearing is set to begin Tuesday, according to ESPN and confirmed by CBS Sports NFL insider Jonathan Jones. The hearing will be held by the jointly appointed disciplinary officer of the NFL and the League, Sue L. Robinson. Following Robinson’s ruling, both the NFL and NFLPA have the option of appeals. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can either rule on the appeal, or he can hire an independent judge.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, the NFL is pressing for an indefinite suspension that would last no less than one year for Watson, who previously faced 24 civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions during his time with the Houston Texans. Watson settled on 20 of those lawsuits. Watson, who has denied wrongdoing, was not charged with criminal charges by a Texas grand jury earlier this season.
During Watson’s introductory press conference in Cleveland, Browns general manager Andrew Perry answered questions about a possible suspension involving the new quarterback. Perry said the team has been and will continue to have open communication with the NFL. Perry added that Watson’s salary – which includes a base salary of $1 million for the 2022 season – is not to protect the team from a possible suspension but to give them flexibility moving forward. Brown signed Watson in a five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million post-acquisition deal.
Browns have several options in the case of the Watson suspension. Team veterans Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs signed off this season. Cleveland also still has Baker Mayfield, who is still under contract despite publicly requesting the trade.
If suspended, the league will likely determine that Watson has violated the league’s Code of Conduct policy. The NFL introduced the policy in 2007 in an effort to improve player behavior off the field. One of the most notable suspensions involved the current Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott served a six-game suspension in 2017 even though the NFL lead investigator in the case recommended that there be no suspension. With Elliott eliminated, the Cowboys missed the playoffs a year after leading 13-3.
If Watson is suspended for the first six games, he will miss road matches in Carolina and Atlanta and home matches against the Jets, Steelers, Chargers and Patriots. His first game will be against the Ravens in Baltimore in Week 7. His first home game as the Browns quarterback will take place the following weekend against the defending champions Cincinnati Bengals.