Possibility of Commissioner exempt list still looms for Deshaun Watson

Cleveland Browns v Houston Texan
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Many assume that Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson eventually will be suspended for the civil and criminal allegations that have been made against him. The number — 22 civil complaints and two additional criminal complaints who did not sue Watson — is large enough to be troubling on its face. Whatever the critical mass of complaints that will naturally cause concern, 24 is on the wrong side of it.

The league knows this. Some have concluded that the failure of the league to take action against Watson means that the league won’t, at least not until the 22 civil cases are resolved. That’s possibly a misreading of the situation.

The league hasn’t placed Watson on the Commissioner exempt list (a fancy label for paid leave) because it hasn’t had to. He didn’t try to play for the Texans in 2021. He wasn’t traded to a new team that would have tried to put him on the field. Now with the Browns, he won’t play until August at the earliest.

The league has made the Personal Conduct Policy more than broad enough to permit paid leave, even in the absence of criminal charges. “When an investigation leads the Commissioner to believe that a player may have violated this Policy by committing any of the conduct identified above,” the Policy explains, “he may act where the circumstances and evidence warrant doing so. This decision will not reflect a finding of guilt or innocence and will not be guided by the same legal standards and considerations that would apply in a criminal trial.”

The key words are “may have violated.” With 24 people accusing Watson of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions and Watson’s lawyer admitting that some massage therapy sessions did indeed become voluntary sexual encounters, there’s enough for the Commissioner to conclude that Watson “may have violated” the Personal Conduct Policy.

Remember, Ben Roethlisberger was suspended six games (reduced to four) in 2010 for two sexual misconduct allegations, neither of which resulted in criminal charges. In 2017, Ezekiel Elliott was suspended six games for domestic violence allegations that ended in neither criminal nor civil claims. The league can, and will, do whatever it chooses — and the decisions quite often will be driven not by notions of fairness and justice but by balancing the P.R. consequences of taking action and not taking action.

On Monday, I suggested that the league should tell Watson that he can either settle the cases and take an unpaid suspension to start the season or keep fighting the cases and be placed on paid leave until they are resolved. I now believe the league won’t do that. The league won’t do that because the league doesn’t do that. It doesn’t telegraph its plans or tip its hand.

The league has learned to keep its head low and its mouth shut in these matters, or as long as it can. The league will act when the time comes to act. And I’m currently confident that, if 22 civil cases remain pending against Watson when it’s time to play games, Watson won’t be playing in those games.

The league won’t tell Watson or the Browns that. The league will expect Watson and the Browns to figure it out on their own. And the league will shed no tears and make no apologies if/when they decide to place Watson on paid leave, if Watson fails to get the cases settled before football season rolls around.

59 responses to “Possibility of Commissioner exempt list still looms for Deshaun Watson

  1. Baloney.

    No way Cleveland does this if he’s still on that list or suspended indefinitely.

  2. On a scale of Browns to Browns, how Browns of a development would this be if Watson still never plays another snap?

  3. It makes me smile knowing he will be booed in every stadium this year… Including home games

  4. This list needs to go away. The team suffers, having to pay the player, teammates suffer as they do not have the player to help them win. The player gets a paid vacation and is the one who caused the problem in the first place. The NFL needs to wait and punish the player if warranted, not before.

  5. Would seem to me that the NFL would likely (unless something new happens in the cases) allow Watson to go through off season workouts and training camp before dropping the hammer. That at least allows the team to work with Watson and prepare him for the time when he can actually play.

  6. How about we just don’t waste everyone’s time, acting like paid leave for him is any type of punishment for anything? He’s about to make HOW many tens of millions while sitting out maybe two seasons?

    If they wanna punish him, they should suspend him for the first 8 games of the next two seasons, so he has to struggle to pick of the pieces halfway through the season.

  7. The “NFL Investigaton” is going nowhere. How many years do they need? Roger is trying to bury this.

  8. Wonder how the league will act with a contract specifically designed to circumvent any suspension this year?

  9. Leveraging away the future with six draft picks, nearly a quarter-billion dollars, for a soon to be suspended player? There is only one city on the face of earth which could be linked to such an impossible scenario.

  10. Do it! Someone with a backbone (and maybe someone with a daughter) needs to stand up to a predator like this. Dude got rewarded with a raise for his behavior.

  11. The league and its sponsors want this cleaned up well before the season starts, if it is not look at Watson being put on paid leave until it is then being suspended for at least 6 games. There are no rules besides doing something to crap on the Shield and Roger can do whatever he wants even make stuff up or already made up mind fill in the blank type investigation/report to support what I have already decided. The directive to Cleveland who is not a protected team will be have this sorted with late Friday news drops before July or pay the price.

  12. I knew he would be more problems then he was worth and was thrilled when it was announced that Cleveland was out of the running. Then my worst nightmare became reality. We mortgaged our future by giving up so many draft picks and with the size of the contract we will be in “salary cap hell” for years. Leave it to the Cleveland Browns to overpay and then leave the draft cupboard bare. Fans here are furious.

  13. Dude needs to settle already. $230 million minus $1 million to each of 24 victims should leave him enough after attorneys fees to get by, I’d hope. Of course, ain’t gonna be many endorsements in his future….

  14. Watson wasn’t indicted. There is no way the the state of Texas wouldn’t have indicted Watson if they had any proof of the claims. Why are people not getting this? There is no way the state of Texas would just let some one just get away with sexual assault & not indict that person unless they had no case.

  15. Still unbelievable that any team would employ Watson until his situation untangles. Even more ludicrous is a team traded a king’s ransom and guarantees this pariah a quarter of a BILLION dollars. Even more incredible is a league which has bent over backwards to be on the progressive side of social justice would allow a man accused of 22+ sexual assaults to represent it in ME TOO era. Something is definitely off here.

  16. And…the beat goes on. Guy is such a tool, but that’s nothing new for the NFL. Give it a few years and he’ll be making zillions in broadcasting.

  17. Then he should get on with it! 3 or 4 years ago he hired the police chief of Washington, D.C. to run his security! I know that she’s highly competent because I live in the D.C. area. Yet, there’s ZERO evidence that she’s being allowed to do her job as these buffoonish decisions, delays and inactions go on and on and on!

    I’m old enough to remember how Paul Tagliabue and even Pete Rozelle ran the league! It was NEVER a constant torrent of buffoonery and embarrassment like this!

  18. thetooloftools says:
    March 22, 2022 at 12:22 pm
    I knew he would be more problems then he was worth and was thrilled when it was announced that Cleveland was out of the running. Then my worst nightmare became reality. We mortgaged our future by giving up so many draft picks and with the size of the contract we will be in “salary cap hell” for years. Leave it to the Cleveland Browns to overpay and then leave the draft cupboard bare. Fans here are furious.
    ———————————————————-

    Amen. The Watson signing has finally outshined drafting Manziel for Haslam at his worst. And not for football reasons. I don’t care how good he potentially is, I don’t want to be put in a place where rooting for my team has moral or ethical implications.

    As a Browns fan, I’m not excited by this, I’m frustrated and angry. He was going to play somewhere, but I didn’t want it to be in Cleveland.

  19. I hope they let him play and suspend him for 2023. That would be “well done” by the NFL.

  20. 22, 2022, 12:00 PM EDT
    Leveraging away the future with six draft picks, nearly a quarter-billion dollars, for a soon to be suspended player? There is only one city on the face of earth which could be linked to such an impossible scenario

    Incorrect. Word is at least 13 teams approached the Texans about trading for this guy. All of them would have grabbed him if they could.
    To say “only Cleveland would do this” is patently false.

  21. “touchback6 says:
    March 22, 2022 at 11:35 am

    Baloney.

    No way Cleveland does this if he’s still on that list or suspended indefinitely.”

    It’s the Browns. Would you really be shocked if this ends up being a total fiasco?

  22. Sometimes I think I’m the only one paying attention. The Browns didn’t sign him to play this year. You don’t think they have some idea from the league of what to expect? That’s why they aren’t trading Baker. Baker will play this year and then hit free agency next year. Watson will get suspended 6 to 8 games, maybe the whole season. Doesn’t matter. Look at the contract. $1M for 2022. Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves but that doesn’t mean they didn’t know what they were doing.

  23. papabuck says:
    March 22, 2022 at 12:33 pm
    Still unbelievable that any team would employ Watson until his situation untangles. Even more ludicrous is a team traded a king’s ransom and guarantees this pariah a quarter of a BILLION dollars. Even more incredible is a league which has bent over backwards to be on the progressive side of social justice would allow a man accused of 22+ sexual assaults to represent it in ME TOO era. Something is definitely off here.

    215Rate This
    ———————–

    It’s just unreal. Goodell.

    It’s all Goodell.

  24. thetooloftools says:
    March 22, 2022 at 12:22 pm
    I knew he would be more problems then he was worth and was thrilled when it was announced that Cleveland was out of the running. Then my worst nightmare became reality. We mortgaged our future by giving up so many draft picks and with the size of the contract we will be in “salary cap hell” for years. Leave it to the Cleveland Browns to overpay and then leave the draft cupboard bare. Fans here are furious.
    =============================================================================
    Why? Didn’t the Rams just win the super bowl doing exactly what you just said here? On an annual basis, about %50 percent of 1st round picks are busts. just in 2018, 3 QB picks in the top ten didn’t pan out with Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold & Josh Rosen. I’m sure those teams would’ve rather of made a trade for a known commodity than what they ended up getting.

  25. Folks who think Watson sitting out last year, should/could be considered his suspension, are flat out wrong!

    Watson said he would never take another snap for the Texans, it was his decision, not the Texans, not the NFL, Watson’s decision.

    Look for Watson to demand another contract before the 2025 season, or a trade, because he will not want to risk injury with only two years left on his contract! He is the type to sit out and pout if he does not get what he wants.

    The Browns next headache after his suspension, will be replacing the HC & GM that he wants to be pick!

    Thank God, the Texans are done with the Watson issues!

  26. The league could drag its feet on a suspension, and then make a ruling for the start of the 2023 season, costing Watson an awful lot more in terms of missed game cheques. I think that’s what bothers me most – that Cleveland went far above and beyond to shelter him from $ penalty for any 2022season suspension.

  27. The players union is a joke, and should dissolve. Would Roger do this to an owner?

  28. papabuck says:
    March 22, 2022 at 12:33 pm

    Even more incredible is a league which has bent over backwards to be on the progressive side of social justice would allow a man accused of 22+ sexual assaults to represent it in ME TOO era. Something is definitely off here.

    =====

    You’re right, and I think what is off is that an invisible line related to money has been crossed by the league.

    Money has always been a driving force of pro sports. But it was always counterbalanced by some sense of groundedness or responsiveness to reality. In other words, you could only go so far before a social limiting factor kicked in to keep it from being absolutely anything goes for money.

    But I feel like things have shifted. From the league diving full-bore into gambling to players quitting on teams to get their way to this sordid Watson mess, it feels like the league is letting go of any pretense of a moral foundation or basis for anything, and is submerging fully into pure greed.

    This sport is all entertainment, so it’s never really about winning at all costs in any objective way. Winning and losing is just part of the spectacle. Nobody is “forced” to make these kinds of sleazy moves, teams and the league are just choosing to. And it’s getting ugly in a disturbing new way.

  29. it is disgusting that he is even on ateam, but i agree with joenash72. 1 million per accuser(althought that does not start to give them what he supposedly took from them) is the way to go. the browns basically are making the payments to the supposed victims for him by guaranteeing him 42M per year, so his 1st yr bonus would go to alleged victims and lawyer fees. 1st yr is a wash monetarily for him and he should get a big suspension from the nfl. if ben got 4 games for 2 accusations, should he not get 4 games for every 2 allegations which would be about 40 games? but im sure the nfl wont do that to the greatest most prolific qb in it’s history.

  30. My guess is the league slaps an 8 game suspension on him and it goes to 6 games on appeal. In the mean time he will be told in no uncertain terms to settle the suits ASAP.

  31. He should be on a No Play Ever list until he gets these cases settled. This is unreal that somebody can sign a deal that pays them $40 million dollars when they’re being accused of the types of crimes he’s being accused of, and yes you’re innocent until proven otherwise, but these cases are still working their way through the courts, and the league hasn’t closed its investigation yet. His contract with the Texans should have remained frozen until the league finished its investigation. No trades, no new deals. The Texans pay him to stay home, and if his current contract ran out, and the league was still investigating then he remains under contract with the Texans until it’s resolved at which time they could trade him.

  32. The league could put him on the exempt list next year, giving him a paid leave worth 1 million dollars then suspend him for the subsequent year so that Watson actually suffers pecuniary loss as a result of his sexual misconduct.

  33. rumourville says:
    Leveraging away the future with six draft picks, nearly a quarter-billion dollars, for a soon to be suspended player? There is only one city on the face of earth which could be linked to such an impossible scenario

    Incorrect. Word is at least 13 teams approached the Texans about trading for this guy. All of them would have grabbed him if they could.
    To say “only Cleveland would do this” is patently false.
    —————–

    None of them offered an over the top crazy contract like this for Watson. Otherwise he would have went there instead of Cleveland.

    I am not surprised teams were interested in a trade. I am surprised about the size of the new contract. Watsons OLD contract extension didnt even start yet.

  34. Putting Watson on the exempt list until the lawsuits were settled would punish the Browns for their decision to reward Watson with a contract designed to insulate him from harm for being suspended this year. The Browns would have to pay Watson VERY big bucks not to play for them at all next season.

    Then the NFL could suspend Watson for the 2023-24 season after they deem their investigation complete and when Watson’s contract doesn’t offer the same protection.

    The Browns would then have to do without Watson for two years and pay him for one of them as well as watch the players they could have drafted play against them while Watson sits and the rest of the team ages.

    The NFL could make the Browns pay big time for this trade, it will be fun to see if they do.

  35. what stops him from dragging these cases on for years since his $ is fully guaranteed each year? hypothetically, he does not settle for 3 more years and does not play for those 3 yrs he would have earned about 129M for not playing and having 22 cases pending?? in what world is that fair and just, and what is there to stop others from doing the same since the browns set the bar so low? unreal

  36. Is there video of the accusations.

    No

    Well thank,God.

    Tell him that he can play without any suspensions looming.

  37. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, the NFL should only punish convicted players. Put the onus on the legal system to handle these situations.

  38. Who is ready for a Browns dynasty and multiple Super Bowl rings? Thats what is gonna happen. Book it!

  39. Exemption list this year and let him get paid the small amount that he chose, trying to screw over the NFL discipline system. Then, suspend his ass for all of 2023, where he loses all of the salary he is trying to “hide” from suspension/fines.

  40. Robert Kraft got no discipline from the league and he was charged with two counts of solicitation.
    His money got him off.
    Him and Watson frequent prostitutes, plain and simple.
    Why punish the player but not the owner?

  41. mlhigh77 says:
    March 22, 2022 at 11:56 am
    The “NFL Investigaton” is going nowhere. How many years do they need? Roger is trying to bury this.

    9833Rate This
    I wish we had a criminal investigation and a grand jury for this. That would really show Watson!

  42. WhatInSamHill says:
    March 22, 2022 at 5:20 pm
    Robert Kraft got no discipline from the league and he was charged with two counts of solicitation.
    His money got him off.
    Him and Watson frequent prostitutes, plain and simple.
    Why punish the player but not the owner?
    —–
    Krafts situation involved two consenting adults. Watsons situation allegedly involves 22 non-consenting adults.

    Also, Kraft got off because law enforcement gathered evidence in an improper/illegal manner.

  43. cdollaz5096 says:
    March 22, 2022 at 2:53 pm
    Exemption list this year and let him get paid the small amount that he chose, trying to screw over the NFL discipline system. Then, suspend his ass for all of 2023, where he loses all of the salary he is trying to “hide” from suspension/fines.

    Then the browns convert next year’s salary to bonus and do the same thing for no more cap hit. This contract structure guarantees that rogerboy never touched any real part of his contract.

  44. kenmasters34 says:
    March 22, 2022 at 6:10 pm
    WhatInSamHill says:
    March 22, 2022 at 5:20 pm
    Robert Kraft got no discipline from the league and he was charged with two counts of solicitation.
    His money got him off.
    Him and Watson frequent prostitutes, plain and simple.
    Why punish the player but not the owner?
    —–
    Krafts situation involved two consenting adults. Watsons situation allegedly involves 22 non-consenting adults.

    Also, Kraft got off because law enforcement gathered evidence in an improper/illegal manner.

    ———————————————-

    Spin it any way you want…
    Watson entered in a deal with other consenting adults.
    You don’t know what happened behind closed doors and neither do I.
    What we know is Kraft solicited prostitution…
    You believe all 22 of these “working girls” didn’t know what might happen and turn into a business opportunity?
    Again it’s not a good look for the league and Kraft skated.

  45. He just needs one victory as a starter to win over most Cleveland fans. They would absolutely take the deal if offered a Super Bowl win with Watson.

  46. —–
    Krafts situation involved two consenting adults. Watsons situation allegedly involves 22 non-consenting adults.

    Also, Kraft got off because law enforcement gathered evidence in an improper/illegal manner.

    ———————————————-

    Spin it any way you want…
    Watson entered in a deal with other consenting adults.
    You don’t know what happened behind closed doors and neither do I.
    What we know is Kraft solicited prostitution…
    You believe all 22 of these “working girls” didn’t know what might happen and turn into a business opportunity?
    Again it’s not a good look for the league and Kraft skated.
    ———————–
    It doesn’t matter that you dont believe those women. The point is, the allegations are completely different.

    A) 2 consenting adults.
    B) 22 women alleging non-consensual behavior.

  47. It doesn’t matter that you dont believe those women. The point is, the allegations are completely different.

    A) 2 consenting adults.
    B) 22 women alleging non-consensual behavior.

    —————————————————-

    What state do you live in where prostitution is legal?
    In Florida it’s illegal.
    Kraft was busted…
    Shady police tactics don’t cover up the crime..
    Watson and Bobby boy are both creeps…
    The statement is punish them both…
    Neither has been charged for a crime…
    Like Ben and Zek

  48. “Deshawn Watson”
    A Poem in Haiku Form

    Grabs her hand, forces
    Trade big price, suspension nears
    Cleveland fans sad, weep

  49. I get that Cleveland has been starving for a championship for a very long time. What I don’t get is why Haslam and company would alienate the fan base by bringing in Watson and his 22 unsettled accusations. If I was Browns fan,I would be livid. All that money,all those picks…unreal.

  50. The easy way for the NFL to save some face.

    1 Put Watson on the exempt list for all of this season.

    2 Suspend him for all of next season.

    This would be painful for both him and the Browns.

  51. Also if the Brown try to change his contract again – the NFL doesnt have to approve the contract – they can say its a sham to avoid punishment.

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