Identifying the NFL’s options for handling Deshaun Watson

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns
Getty Images

When it comes to player discipline, the NFL has learned to delay taking action as long as possible. For more than a year, for example, the NFL has taken no action against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, because it hasn’t had to.

With a pair of grand juries choosing not to criminally charge Watson and with Watson now a member of the Cleveland Browns, the NFL is moving closer to the point at which some sort of decision will be expected, if not required. Below, the potential options are identified.

First, the NFL can suspend Watson now. That would be similar if not identical to the approach the league utilized against Ben Roethlisberger in 2010. At the time of the suspension, he had a pending rape lawsuit in Nevada, and he had avoided criminal charges in Georgia. In the aftermath of the decision by the prosecutor in Georgia to not charge Roethlisberger, the league imposed a six-game suspension. Later, it was reduced to four.

Second, the NFL can wait until the 22 pending civil lawsuits against Watson are resolved. If Watson ultimately prevails in all 22 cases or if he loses in one or more of them or if he settles one or more of them, the specific outcome would (or at least should) impact the league’s decision. (Indeed, if Watson wins all 22 case, it could be argued that he shouldn’t be disciplined at all.)

Third, the NFL could impose a preliminary suspension, with the possibility of further punishment hinging on the outcome of the cases. This would give the NFL a vehicle for both disciplining Watson based on the currently available information and keeping the league’s options open based on evidence that may be developed later and/or possible jury verdicts against Watson.

Fourth — and this is the possible outcome that Watson and the Browns need to take far more seriously than they currently are — the league could eventually place Watson on the Commissioner exempt list (i.e., paid leave) until the 22 civil cases are resolved, with an unpaid suspension coming thereafter. We’ve heard that this is a possibility. Others have, too. The best way to avoid this outcome would be to settle the cases now.

I made that argument last Friday, after the Browns emerged as the winner of the four-way tug-of-war for Watson. Settle the cases now.

Browns fans deserve it. More specifically, Browns fans don’t deserve to have the cloud that has hovered over Houston to migrate over Cleveland.

The Browns seem to be assuming short-term pain in the name of long-term gain. But that doesn’t mean the short-term pain should hurt more than necessary. If the cases are properly resolved, Watson arrives with a clean slate, and Browns fans don’t have the burden of wondering what will happen if/when the case go to trial. They can also conclude that Watson has had a proper reckoning.

So far, the signals from Watson’s camp point to fighting all of the cases and trying to win them. Once they realize that the league may decide to keep him from playing until the legal fight has ended, Watson’s camp may decide to take a different approach. They should.

32 responses to “Identifying the NFL’s options for handling Deshaun Watson

  1. Watson should have settled these cases in the very beginning before this thing turned into the circus it has become…. Whomever was advising him then, gave him some really bad advice….

  2. Bet on a game: indefinite suspension
    Ruin the lives of 22 women: get paid $230 million

  3. Roger Goodell and his NFL kangaroo court has always been unpredictable. Most of these domestic cases have past precedent for game suspensions. The NFL always drags it’s feet with these pending punishments/suspensions,especially for “star” players. I’m guessing 6-8 games will be the starting point,which Watson will appeal thru arbitration and negotiate it down to 3-4 games.

  4. Being a long time suffering Brown’s fan, I’m sure that the Brown’s will screw this up.UGH!!

  5. ” a pair of grand juries choosing not to criminally charge Watson ” the NFL should simply move on from this matter. Next

  6. As a Texans season ticket holder I would like to see the league suspend Watson until after all the draft picks the Texans received are determined.

  7. Reading the court documents. Anyone with a brain knows this is a money grab. He won’t be suspended. Case is ludicrous. It’s why grand just dismissed it in record time.

  8. All this hype over someone who has not played in 2 years and when he last played led his team to a 4-12 record!

  9. I wouldn’t settle at all if I’m innocent. This seems more and more like an organized effort by others.

  10. Any suspension under 1 full season will have everyone comparing which is worse:
    A. 22 accusations of sexual misconduct
    B. Betting $1,500 on NFL games while suspended and away from your team

    Oh boy…

  11. I find it hard to believe that 22 women who do not know one another, all telling similar stories about Watson, are just looking for a payout. They want justice in whatever form it takes. Watson should settle with them and clean up his mess. It will be best for the fans, the team, and the almighty “shield”. This has dragged on for long enough. He should go with the fourth option listed in the post.

  12. let him play this year, suspend him for next year. he’s a scumbag and deserves it.

  13. cardiackids says:
    March 25, 2022 at 10:06 am

    Being a long time suffering Brown’s fan, I’m sure that the Brown’s will screw this up.UGH!!


    Guaranteeing that POS $230 million IS the screw up.

  14. Unlike the court of public opinion, a real court hears the arguments from both sides rather then just one. Right now we’re hearing only from the victims. I suspect when the victims have to tell what happened, they might have to explain some shady behavior they might have engaged in themselves. I’m not saying guilt or innocence, just that every defendant has a right to confront their accusers. Some of them may not want to do that. It wouldn’t be surprising to me to see a few of them who might just say, no, I am not gonna take the stand. Those that just jumped on the bandwagon for a easy payday hurts the ones that really do have a case.

  15. He should settle for the sake of moving on with his life, and getting this OUT of the headlines. He’s already admitted to having sexual relations with more than one of the women who are accusing him, so it’s more likely that a jury in a civil case would side with any victim who says “yes we had sex but he forced me to do it”….. whether or not it was actually forced is irrelevant at that point it comes down to who the jury believes is telling the truth, and if there’s multiple women all telling the same story on the stand then it’s pretty likely he’s going to lose. In the meantime his name and reputation continue to be destroyed, and now Cleveland is stuck waiting. It’s a total mess, and thankfully it’s not my team

  16. Fifth – No Suspension as he has no criminal cases against him and grand juries could not find enough evidence to even bring a criminal case against him. So maybe, JUST Maybe, he is innocent.

  17. He should be suspended from the league until all cases are resolved. Then depending the outcome of those cases should face just punishment for his actions. Dude is a serial abuser.

  18. He can’t avoid press conferences and questions forever. I’d like to see a true journalist ask him one thing: “Why did you need 25+ women to massage your body?”

  19. Watsons salary is small this year, just 1MM.

    Goodell should take his time “investigating” and wait for the civil trials to end.
    THEN suspend him next year, when he’s making 50MM. 4 games and 10MM is a nice penalty.

  20. bradygirl12 says:
    March 25, 2022 at 11:02 am
    I find it hard to believe that 22 women who do not know one another, all telling similar stories about Watson, are just looking for a payout.

    I understand your position and normally would directly lineup with it, but the one common denominator of these claims is the sleazy attorney, Tony Buzbee, leading the charge against Watson. Buzbee is little more than an ambulance chaser and files suits to go public and try to shake down large settlements. So while there is an argument to be made of how can there be so many individual claims, but Buzbee is exactly the type of attorney that will coach without overtly telling his client on “what to say”.

    I am not a Deshaun Watson fan, even if he is not guilty of anything and these were message therapists who fully knew the score – this is extremely sleazy and disgusting behavior . . . but how can he prove his innocence (if it exists) if the league puts him on the exempt list or suspends him before his day in court. Also the recommendation of settling these claims to make them go away will be taking by the league as some sort of admission of guilt, even if the settle makes statements to the contrary.

    When a shake down takes place people line up to get paid and if there were more honorable attorneys involved I might be inclined to put more faith in the number of allegations, but with an ambulance chasing attorney known best for his shakedown settlements . . . it lacks credibility. Plus this Buzbee clown wanted the Texans to draft Johnnie Manziel in the first round, even paying for 10 billboards supporting that position around Houston . . . if his judgement is that bad I have a hard time believing this clown.

  21. Haslam wont even be at 1 pm press conference, choosing to hide later behind a video screen!

  22. The NFL is going to make them pay for trying to structure the deal as a work around the NFLs punishments.

    Far and away most likely is the NFL does exemption list for a year while they “investigate” and then one year of regular suspension the next year.

    Watson loose a year of big payout. Cleveland dumps about 30 Mill(maybe 70+ mill) down the drain and Cleveland goes 2 years without a QB.

  23. What if this is just a cash grab and Watson is genuinely innocent? Should he still settle? Admittedly, with 22 separate women suing him, there’s a ton of smoke, so there’s likely to be some fire, but if he really didn’t do anything wrong he should be given the opportunity to defend himself and his reputation. Settling now under those circumstances is nothing more than caving in to blackmail.

  24. Gotta love the hes got to be guilty of something crowd. 2 grand juries that will Indict a Ham Sandwich, both declined to indict. And they have heard more “evidence” than any of you nimrods

  25. vikinghooper says:
    March 25, 2022 at 11:59 am

    Watson has already been suspended 17 games.

    No! Suspended players do not get paid. Watson has been on PAID leave.

  26. Could it be worse than the Browns “handling” of him?! A near half decade worth of 1st rounders and a quarter billion dollars?! Hahahaha
    A Fool and their wealth are easily parted.

  27. Keep in mind, in our justice system, being found not guilty is not the same as being found innocent. Not being able to find 50.1% guilt, doesn’t mean that their might not be 40-50% guilt. (Standard in a civil trial. It’s higher for criminal charges, which is why there are times when seemingly guilty people are not charged with a crime).

    Whether he is convicted or not, doesnt mean that his behavior hasn’t been a stain “on the shield” and he will likely be punished

  28. Before these allegations showed up, Deshaun Watson was never so much as accused of jaywalking. Then, having problems with and wishing to leave the Texans organization, he suddenly becomes a devious sexual predator who apparently has a taste for massage therapists??? come on now. It is blatantly obvious that someone is trying to ruin this guy….

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.