It would have been bad for Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson to have been suspended for the full season. It arguably wouldn’t have been quite so bad for the Browns.
If Watson had missed the full season, his contract would have tolled until next year. It would have been a true suspension of his career. He would have gotten the minimum salary for 2023 (something in the range of $1 million), instead of the $46 million he’s due to earn. And he would have been under contract through 2027, not 2026.
The 11-game suspension doesn’t toll his contract. (Some are suggesting that a 12-game suspension would have delayed his contract by a year. Without getting into the specific details, that’s incorrect.) Thus, next year, the Browns will have to pay Watson $46 million, barring a restructuring. And they’ll only have him through 2026, not 2027 — barring an extension.
What will six games with Watson do for the Browns in 2022? Maybe they’ll tread water through a difficult schedule and have a chance to get hot down the stretch. But when he returns in December, it will be nearly 23 months since he last played in a regular-season game.
Whatever the Browns do this year, not having Watson for 11 games will make it harder to get there. But it still counts as the first of five years under his contract. He’ll have only four years left as of 2023.
So, yes, it arguably would have been better for the Browns to not have Watson at all in 2022. Especially if, when he returns, they’re something in the range of 4-7 or worse.