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Deshaun Watson, the Browns and an NFL suspension: When should the QB expect a choice?

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Deshaun Watson, the Cleveland Browns and the remaining of the NFL are awaiting news on a possible punishment — and sure suspension — for the quarterback.

Watson has settled 20 of 24 civil suits accusing him of sexual assault and sexual misconduct, and two Texas grand juries declined to indict him this spring. An NFL investigation into the matter is nearing its conclusion, and a ruling from independent arbitrator Sue L. Robinson is anticipated before the Browns begin training camp July 27.

Watson, 26, who spent the primary five years of his profession with the Houston Texans (though he sat out the 2021 season amid the aforementioned allegations), was traded to the Browns this spring for 3 first-round draft picks, a third-round pick and two fourth-rounders. He subsequently signed a totally guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract with the Browns.

So what’s the newest with Watson and his situation? When should we expect a choice from Robinson and the NFL? Where would a possible suspension leave the Browns? We answer those questions and more below.

When will the league make a choice on Watson’s future?

Watson’s three-day hearing with Robinson, the NFL’s and NFL Players Association’s appointed disciplinary officer, concluded June 30. Post-hearing briefs were reportedly due last week, which suggests a resolution could theoretically come anytime after those briefs are received and reviewed. At the newest, a choice seems likely before the Browns begin training camp in full on July 27.

If Robinson finds — improbably at this point — that Watson didn’t violate the league’s personal-conduct policy, the quarterback will receive no suspension. If Robinson rules that Watson did violate the league’s personal-conduct policy, she will be able to issue a suspension of whatever length she sees fit.

Within the latter case, it’s possible that the matter won’t end there. If Watson and the Browns or the NFL don’t agree with the duration of the suspension Robinson hands down, they can be free to appeal. In that instance, the case could be heard by commissioner Roger Goodell or someone Goodell appoints.

How will the Browns manage without him?

The Browns have planned for a Watson absence by adding Jacoby Brissett because the backup quarterback. They did so despite the fact that they acquired Watson while having Baker Mayfield, who the team recently traded to the Panthers.

Brissett is one in all the more viable backups within the league. He filled in for Tua Tagovailoa last season in Miami for five games and did a solid job. He accomplished 62.7 percent of his passes for 1,283 yards with five touchdowns and 4 interceptions, leading to a 78.1 passer rating. Which may not sound great, but he also was pressured on a league-high 45.3 percent of his dropbacks, via TruMedia.

If the Browns find that they need additional experienced help beyond Brissett, they might explore a trade for 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who has resumed throwing after surgery on this throwing shoulder.

What happens to Watson’s contract if he’s suspended?

Watson’s five-year contract is fully guaranteed at $230 million, including bonuses. It can’t be voided. But a suspension from playing in games will cut into his pay. Knowing that, Watson’s representatives negotiated the cope with the Browns to have a $1.035 million base salary in yr one. The remaining 4 years of the deal have a base salary of $184 million, or 99.4 percent of his base money.

A possible suspension is most definitely going to be meted out for the 2022 season. It’s far more advantageous for Watson to forfeit his 2022 salary than any of his 2023-26 wages.

As The Athletic’s Zac Jackson wrote, “the Browns didn’t make this trade only for 2022.” As such, they likely have no real interest in voiding Watson’s deal. Yes, it will be difficult to swallow a suspension of six or more games, but they signed up for this. They willingly took the chance of trading three first-round picks (and more) for a player who, on the time, was facing 22 lively civil suits accusing him of sexual misconduct.

(Photo: Ken Blaze / USA Today)

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