When the NFL and quarterback Deshaun Watson agreed to an 11-game suspension and $5 million fine, a case could have been made that it would have been better for the Browns to have Watson miss a full year. That would have truly suspended Watson’s contract, pushing it back by a full year, keeping him under contract through 2027, and slashing his salary in 2023 from $46 million to the veteran minimum for a player with his level of experience (currently, that’s $1.035 million).
Some within league circles may have thought the same thing. As noted by Peter King in his new Football Morning in America column, a “prominent team executive” recently said this: “I think there were multiple owners who didn’t want Deshaun Watson suspended for the season, and told Roger Goodell that.”
An 11-game suspension results in the 2022 season counting under Watson’s contract, making him a free agent after 2026 and pushing his salary to $46 million in 2023. It brings Watson back with only six games remaining, making it very difficult for the Browns to realize significant value from Watson in the first year of his five-year deal.
Cleveland’s decision to give Watson a five-year, fully-guaranteed, $230 million contract has ruffled plenty of feathers. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, who now has to navigate the Watson deal when trying to sign Lamar Jackson to a long-term extension, spoke publicly about the Watson contract in March. As King reports it, some owners apparently spoke privately about not wanting Watson to be suspended for a full year, in what would be a bit of payback to the Browns for paying so much guaranteed money to Deshaun Watson.