Today is a new day for Deshaun Watson. With it should come a new resolve.
To settle all 22 of the civil cases pending against him.
Last year, 18 of the plaintiffs were ready to agree to terms. Four holdouts kept a global resolution from being reached, which would have facilitated a trade to the Dolphins. Now, with $10 million earned last year for not playing and a five-year, $230 million contract freshly signed, Watson should pay whatever it takes to turn the page and move on.
It won’t be cheap. It won’t be easy. But his lawyers can come up with a strategy. Make an offer on a Friday afternoon (such as this one) and keep it open until Monday morning, with a threat/promise that there will be no further offers made. Make the offers sufficiently high to make it sufficiently clear that there will be no more offers. And give the plaintiffs until Monday to make a decision.
They have sued for justice in the form of a cash payment. Give it to them. Give them what they want, and end this once and for all.
If they still refuse, Watson’s lawyers have another potential tactic to employ. In most jurisdictions there’s a device known as an offer of judgment, which consists of the defendant making a settlement proposal with the express understanding that, if the plaintiff doesn’t do better than the amount of the offer at trial, the plaintiff must pay all litigation costs incurred from the day the offer was made. It’s a way to force a plaintiff who otherwise has nothing to lose to acquire a potential financial downside to saying no to an otherwise fair settlement offer.
Of course, this approach would result (if the settlement offers are accepted) in an actual judgment against Watson. He technically would be deemed responsible for the claims made against him, making him more susceptible to a league-imposed suspension.
But he’s susceptible to a suspension anyway, however and whenever the settlement is effected. Last year, the Dolphins believed he’d be suspended six games if he settled the cases.
That’s what he needs to do now. Settle the cases. Then take whatever punishment the league may impose. And then move on with his new team in his new city, without having those 22 civil actions distracting him from the task at hand. The task of taking the Browns to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.