Could 24th lawsuit against Deshaun Watson eventually allow Browns to void his guarantees?

Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout
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Perhaps the most significant development from Monday in the Deshaun Watson situation was no development at all. Specifically, the lack of a response from Watson’s team to the 24th lawsuit could end up creating significant consequences for Watson with the league and/or the team.

Attorney Rusty Hardin issued a statement on Monday indicating that he’s unable to respond to the 24th lawsuit because “our legal team has not had time to investigate this new filing and had not heard her name until today.”

There’s an important distinction between not hearing her name and not being aware of her potential claims. The early stages of the civil litigation against Watson featured a delicate and convoluted guessing game as to who the plaintiffs were, because they initially sued under the Jane Doe pseudonym. The effort to identify potential plaintiffs potentially included a person whose name Watson didn’t know or remember who eventually would make the claims reduced to writing in the lawsuit filed Monday. Hardin’s statement says only that they hadn’t heard the person’s name until Monday; it’s possible they knew, via aggressive questioning of their own client, that there was a 24th interaction that could have resulted in a claim being made.

That’s important for multiple reasons. First, if this person whose name previously wasn’t known to Watson’s legal team now files a criminal complaint, the allegations could be submitted to another grand jury. And the graphic details contained in the 24th complaint, if repeated to a grand jury and accepted by the grand jury, could result in an indictment. (Although I’ve tried to avoid repeating the graphic details, the 24th plaintiff contends that, after trying to get the plaintiff to to touch his penis and asking her “where do you want me to put it?” he ejaculated — and “some of his ejaculate got on Plaintiff’s chest and face.”)

Second, if Watson eventually is suspended for the conduct alleged in the 24th lawsuit, the Browns possibly will be able to void his guarantees and move on from him, and possibly to recover a significant portion of his signing bonus.

As explained in early April, after we obtained a full copy of Watson’s contract, the contract exempts from the standard default/guarantee void language a suspension imposed by the league “solely in connection with matters disclosed to Club in writing pursuant to paragraph 42 and such suspension results in Player’s unavailability to Club solely for games during the 2022 or 2023 NFL League Years.”

In paragraph 42 of the contract, Watson “represents and warrants (except as disclosed to club in writing), as of the date hereof, that (i) Player has not been charged with, indicted for, convicted of or pled nolo contende to any felony and/or misdemeanor involving fraud or moral turpitude, (ii) Player has not engaged in conduct which would subject him to a charge, indictment or conviction of any such offense, and (iii) no circumstances exist that would prevent Player’s continuing availability to the Club for the duration of this Contract.”

The written disclosure was not attached to the contract. A source with knowledge of the document told us in April that it’s a “fair assumption” that it refers to the 22 pending civil lawsuits.

The question now becomes whether it was written broadly enough to encompass individuals who had not previously come forward, either with a lawsuit, a criminal complaint, or some other public statement. The plaintiff who sued last week, for example, was known to Watson’s camp because she did a podcast interview last August. Based on Hardin’s statement, they didn’t know the name of the person who filed the 24th lawsuit until Monday.

Beyond the question of whether the 24th plaintiff’s claims could potentially fall beyond the language of the exception to the default language in Watson’s contract is the basic reality that Watson ultimately could be suspended at some point after 2022 and 2023. Without any clear indication as to when the NFL will act against Watson and with literally two dozen lawsuits that will work their way through the legal system (with August 1 through March 1 out of bounds for any of the trials), if the league either defers all punishment until the cases are over (not likely) or imposes a preliminary suspension now and leaves the door open for another suspension based on the outcomes of the cases (a reasonable middle ground), Watson could still face a suspension in 2024 or beyond.

Then there’s the possibility that still can’t be ignored of the NFL changing its position on paid leave. Although Commissioner Roger Goodell removed paid leave from the table in late March, recent developments could put it back in play. When we asked the league that very specific question on Monday — a question the Commissioner freely answered in March — the league had no comment.

So we’ll see how it all plays out. For the first time since the flurry of lawsuits was filed in 2021, however, a case will play out involving a person whose name wasn’t previously known to Watson’s camp. That could (not will, but could) potentially create major problems for Watson, in multiple ways.

61 responses to “Could 24th lawsuit against Deshaun Watson eventually allow Browns to void his guarantees?

  1. Well, it won’t matter, because according to the Browns they did their homework. And we all know how well that’s worked for them in past situations.

    That’s sarcasm for the poorly informed.

  2. Aw man, the Browns is the Browns. They run out and sign a guy like that while ticking off their 1st round franchise QB, after finishing last in the division again (tied with Baltimore, bwahaha). Then they watch the Steelers draft a soon-to-be-superstar QB who is as wholesome as the Wheel of Fortune on Sunday school morning. The Browns could’ve drafted him themselves before the Steelers but they mucked it up again. The problem in Cleveland isn’t Baker Mayfield. Cleveland has ruined the careers of many young QB’s who would’ve thrived with most other teams. There is a culture problem at the factory of sadness.

  3. You would think they would but they are not gonna. That should be a bad sign for Baker

  4. If true, this is the best news for the Browns: Cut bait. Own your mistake. Start scouting for the next franchise QB in the 2023 draft. It’ll take a while for people to stop laughing, but we’re used to it.

  5. Watson is scum. I bet there will be others coming forward too.

    If this doesn’t let the Browns walk away, then I hope all 24+ defendents get judgments against Watson for the whole sum of his new contract, minus a few hundred K in living expenses for himself and such, so as to make it where he doesn’t have anything left.

  6. With the type of allegations in the 24th complaint, the Browns cannot afford to let Watson put on their uniform. Watson needs to settle all these complaints before he steps onto the field in a Browns uniform.

  7. I actually feel for Browns fans. All they want to do is root for their team. One of the worst front offices I’ve ever seen in sports.

  8. If the browns worded the contract so broadly that a new claimant or who knows how many more new claimants co.e forward and they cannot void the cont4act then they are dumber then everyone thinks and they should sell the team

  9. It was ok when it seemed like all these women got together and got their stories together but now its just smelling suspicious. The court said no to all them and now the new one waits all this time and her story smells worse than all of em. If its true then he should do time, however i have a hard time believing they never said anything until all of a sudden he gets paid and now they are ready to talk. In the real world women say something the next day, tell theor friends and family but none of these people said a word to anyone. Hard to believe.

  10. The Browns just gave up a huge amount of draft stock, they aren’t cutting him anytime soon, even with no guarantees.

  11. So 23 accusations was OK for them to give him $200 +million guaranteed, but #24 will be the deal breaker!?

  12. Even if the Browns could void a portion of the guarantees, the draft picks are not coming back. The Clevelanders I know are good people. They don’t deserve this.

  13. As much as I hate that this predator is getting enormous money, I hope the browns are still on the hook for every penny.
    They deserve to pay for their stupidity!

  14. So she stayed and watch “if” he even did that and was was close enough to get some on her. BS. These allegations are just getting more and more outrageous.

  15. I hope the browns have to pay him and it buries them for the next decade. They chose to go all-in on a villain so they deserve to get the consequences.

  16. So these allegations have been out for almost two years and the this plaintiff just decides to file this lawsuit? Never went to the police to press charges? C’mon now…this smells fishy on all accounts. Looks like a money grab to me…

  17. Should have paid the victims 250-350k and this would have all gone away. Instead Watson got cheap and offered 100k. Now he will lose out on hundreds of millions. Not a very smart business person.

  18. Based on what has come out of Watson’s legal camp in the last couple of weeks it’s clear that they are scrambling. I would also think that if what Hardin says is true about not knowing the identity of this most recent accuser until Monday that he is not happy with Watson, particularly if he didn’t disclose it to his lawyers.

  19. I am curious to see how this all unfolds. How much was this Watson being a predator and how much of this was masseuses giving him a little extra for some cash then seeing this as a way to score even bigger? I am guessing the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

  20. Browns said they “did their due diligence” so they should be stuck with the contract. When over 20 women claim sexual assault, what is really 1 more? They knew what they were getting themselves into. If the courts let them out of it, I hope the NFLHQ holds them accountable.

  21. After reading this article, I have two questions.

    If Cleveland can get out of Watson’s contract, would they cut Watson and end his contract? IMHO, I think Cleveland will try to ride Watson’s lawsuit out and see what the league does.

    If Cleveland does get out of the Watson contract, they cut him, and he becomes a free agent, would any other team sign Watson? IMHO, another team would sign Watson, Panthers, Seahawks, or Falcons, but the contract would be for much less & have out clauses based on the outcome of the pending lawsuits.

  22. One has to start wondering if his career is over. I’m sure there are many other girls beyond the 24 that he has done this to. Once he settles more will come out and it will be a never ending problem. My guess is that league will be suspending him for 2 years in line with MLB’s recent suspension.

    It’s crazy to think how dumb Cleveland was to give up so much for a guy with large legal issues.

  23. When Watson was traded and signed a kazillion dollar contract the thinking seemed to be he’d get a six game suspension. I think that ship has sailed, been torpedoed and sunk…

  24. Certainly the Browns aren’t happy that this problem isn’t going away, but at this point they’ve taken the PR hit, probably accepted that he’ll be suspended for half a season or so and are still in need of his services so they will not void this one unless there’s prison time.

  25. Although there may be a way of the Browns not having to pay him.

    They have sacrificed their immediate future draft picks. This action is what is really going to hit them the hardest. Of course, they also burnt their bridges with Mayfair.

    I feel bad for Browns fans, but not their management.

  26. Somewhere Baker is shaking his head wondering how he ended up being even remotely tied to all this. I’d never set foot in that locker room again if I was him.

  27. When is Goodell going to say something about this situation? Watson is putting dirt on “The Shield” and the owners can’t be happy about it.
    Either suspend him or clear him, but let’s get clarity for the season.

  28. Since the claimants have as much, or more, interest in Watson being paid than Watson himself, they would be wise to tone down their rhetoric. They can only receive their maximum benefit if Watson is paid and the more despicable they portray him, the less likely that is. To maximize their eventual settlement, their attorney needs to walk them over a tightrope of greed and prudence. It’s a conundrum.

  29. So she stayed and watch “if” he even did that and was was close enough to get some on her. BS. These allegations are just getting more and more outrageous.
    reserve your judgement until it all plays out. We do not know the context of the utterance and situation.

    The filing said Watson used ‘over 100’ massage therapists. That is a big number and suggests a large pool of potential lawsuits exists.

  30. The Browns went from being a team to root for, To a team to despise! With Watson there I hope they lose every game! Joke franchise to sign this clown!

  31. Might this Watson trade go down as one of the worst trades in NFL history? The Texans knew what they were doing on this trade.

  32. If the Browns didn’t put a poison pill in the contract to get out of it if he is unable to play then the Browns deserve what they get. No team should have any interest in the guy until he is free and clear. And then why bother with him, he’ll be 2+ years away and never regain the ability he had before he got a gajillion massages. Why would any team want the circus? Managing 20 something year old millionaires is big enough job with out asking for more trouble.

  33. If I see one shred of evidence that these ladies were forced to do anything, I’ll be on board with whatever suspension they give him including expulsion. It clearly doesn’t exist. Dude needs help. A lot of help. If he forced anything he should go down. The police and grand jury have told us this isn’t the case.

  34. I too want Cleveland to be bound to every penny they’ve guaranteed this guy. This type of guaranteed money needs to be tested so other teams won’t make this mistake. Cleveland decided to skew the market for players so let them be the test case for the ramifications of such a contract. If this contract is binding, you’ll never see this type of contract again without significant provisions that run contrary to the guaranteed nature of such a contract. You’ll have the non-guaranteed, guaranteed contract. And let the snowflakes freak out and feel disrespected!

  35. The Cleveland Browns front office did dirt to its starting QB, Mayfield. What goes around comes around…it’s now the starting QB, Watson, doing dirt to the Cleveland Browns’ front office.

  36. It’s the Browns so it’s just as likely that the 24th lawsuit will add extra guaranteed money to Watson’s contract while demoting Mayfield to 4th string behind a random fan chosen at kickoff.

  37. How ironic if the latest news saves the Browns from themselves. Just sell the team Jimmy, we deserve better.

  38. As badly as I feel for the Cleveland fan base, I hope that the Browns are stuck with Watson and his contract. It will be an expensive lesson learned the hard way. This may not stop at 24 law suits, either. Watson probably can’t even count how many women he allegedly victimized.

  39. The NFL should not allow Browns any slack on salary cap from Watson’s situations

  40. The desire of defensive players to get to the QB and take him down is always intense at every level. But, imagine you’re an NFL level defender playing against Watson. I don’t really think players at the NFL level need a lot of extra encouragement or motivation considering they’ve been perfecting their craft almost their entire lives. But, one has to think guys will relish the opportunity to plant this particular quarterback under the field turf. Honestly, I would be very surprised if Browns games with Watson under center aren’t more than a little “chippy”. League office might want to keep Watson out just for his own protection.

  41. The thing with this guy is that if there are 24 women that have filed suit, its not hard to imagine there aren’t several others that could similarly initiate claims. This guy is just plain troubled — no normal pro athlete (to the extent there is a normal pro athlete) uses this varied number of massage therapists for legitimate reasons.

  42. A few random neural firings:

    NFL puts DW on the Exempt List for 2022 and defers any decision regarding a suspension until after one or more of the suits are resolved in Spring of 2023.

    Sometime along the way, Cleveland proceeds to void the guarantees to DW.

    DW files a grievance (unfair labor practice by Cleveland) with NFLPA and/or pursues a claim (breach of contract) via the legal system. Who knows how long the timeline for resolving those issues will run?

    DW would then be actively engaging in legal actions on two fronts, one as the defendant, the other as the plaintiff.

    NFL assesses a suspension for the 2023 season and reserves the right to assess further disciplinary action (or not) until all remaining claims are resolved.


    The irony is that Cleveland might actually have to pay little if any of that contract (as a result of Exempt List designations, suspensions, void clauses, timeline to resolve legal issues). And yet, the mere existence of that (possibly voided) contract is likely the Rubicon; its ramifications will impact many mega-star player negotiations from this point forward.

    Houston’s front office is over-joyed because it is spending its time focusing on what to do with all of the draft picks they received from Cleveland instead of figuring out what their next step with DW would be.

    Dolphins’ owner SR avoids the DW debacle ONLY because he was lucky that his insistence of including NDAs was rejected. The SR sighs of relief stem from knowing that, despite his best efforts to the contrary, he has avoided having to deal with the DW mess every day, which leaves him plenty of time to focus on minor issues like addressing tank/not tank allegations and responding to a wrongful termination claim.

    Owners and front-office folks of franchises with a proven mega-star QB are trying to figure out how to avoid/minimize the imminent financial tsunami created by Cleveland’s irresponsible $230M guaranteed contract to a lesser talented qb.

    NFL HQ has plenty of time on its hands to focus on those matters…once RG finishes testifying before members of congress, dealing with DS and the Commanders, and placating owners livid at the prospect of having to co-fund the costs, et al, associated with the Rams’ move to LA.

  43. As a Texans fan, this has become a bad cartoon turned a little humorous thanks to CLEVELAND.
    How far fetched is it that the Texans wins say 6-7 games this year, and still own the #1 pick next year due to Cleveland’s total QB FAILURE. NO WATSON(suspension),& NO BAKER (trade bait).
    When HOUSTON sells the Browns #1 next year for 3 more #1’s, Jimmy Haslam might take the FLYING out of his “J”.

  44. Nice work by the Browns front office, trading away their future and giving this creep that huge contract. Still shocking that he hasn’t been indicted, but that could come yet. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, which applies to Watson’s actions, and to the entire Browns organization dumpster fire.

  45. How in god’s name is Watson not suspended yet? Also, what’s going on with Alvin Kamara? Wasn’t he arrested in the Pro Bowl locker room for beating someone up on video? The hammer came down hard and fast on Calvin Ridley, for placing a $1,500 bet on a non Falcons game, so we can all sleep well at night, but what’s going on with DeShaun and Alvin?

  46. Big problem for the Browns. If this contract is not voidable and he is suspended, possibly permanently.they cannot compete with the salary cap. Add all the capital lost in the draft, front office just committed football suicide. The Browns is the Browns

  47. Indictments are issued by a Grand Jury for felonies. The DA could charge Watson with misdemeanor sex crimes, issue a warrant for his arrest, and she does not need a Grand Jury to make it happen.

    When do the Browns play in Houston?

  48. If Cleveland wins a Super Bowl with Watson at QB, would any Browns fan be happy with that?

  49. The browns advised they did their homework before they signed. They should be bound to the terms of the contract. They were so hot to trot to sign the guy. Now pay the piper.

  50. The biggest black eye the NFL has ever had. The league looks weak the Browns name continues to drop

  51. I absolutely have no sympathy for the Browns. They tried to swoop in and guarantee a guy all of that money knowing but not caring that he is a sexual pig and predator. Rewarding a predators financial future and fully guaranteeing the pigs future will cost you 6 picks and 3 of them first rounders. I also hope it hurts the salary cap hit too. The measly 1 million dollar first year part of the contract was to further aid the predators financial future. The Browns are given tons of 1st round picks for a decade and they do desperate sleazy things to blow it up. It’s hard to have any sympathy. They are going to have to change owners before they have a chance at having any kind of culture inside of that organization. It really is quite pathetic.

  52. I’m absolutely floored by how much this guy has screwed up. After working hard on his craft and becoming one of the best, he throws it away by doing dumb stuff. Why can’t these athletes do normal things. Go to work. Don’t go to night clubs. Go home. Spend time with family or people who can influence him for good things….

  53. I simply cannot get my head around how much money this man got, and stands to get, to NOT play! Over $10M from the Texans, a $9M signing bonus from the Browns, $1M base salary for 2021, and an additional $46M in bonus money under the terms of his contract? There is just something sick and twisted about this entire story.

  54. It’s time for the Browns to cut ties now! This isn’t going to go well with this new allegation. It’s time to tear up the contract today! Move on!

  55. This is going to go down as one of the worst deals in history. There’s no voiding those 3 first round picks gone. What a disaster.

  56. this had to be going on at Clemson, no? I wonder if anybody has investigated that?

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