The eleven-game suspension is over. The past is in the past. The book has been closed, but for the lingering civil litigation.
Deshaun Watson is back.
In six days, the Browns quarterback will play in his first real game since the final week of the 2020 regular season. Today, his suspension is entirely and completely over. He’s free and clear of any and all league discipline. He has complied with all requirements.
And now the Browns will finally get a return on the investment they made to get Watson. From draft picks surrendered to fully-guaranteed dollar committed to P.R. hit taken for embracing Watson despite the widespread off-field allegations of sexual misconduct, it’s time for the Browns to start getting something for the sacrifice they’ve made.
It comes at an intriguing time. With the Browns somehow toppling the Buccaneers in overtime on Sunday in Jacoby Brissett‘s last game as the Band-Aid replacement for Watson, Cleveland sits at 4-7. They’re still alive in the chase for a wild-card berth.
It won’t be easy. After facing the Texans in Houston (the city from which Watson was traded), the Browns go to Cincinnati. Then, the Ravens come to town. Next up are the Saints, who remain very much alive in the downtrodden NFC South.
The Browns visit the Commanders after that. And Washington is chasing a playoff berth, at least for now.
Finally, it’s a Week 18 trip to Pittsburgh. The Steelers won’t lay down for anyone, no matter their record as of January 8. If the Browns are still alive and if the Steelers aren’t, the Steelers would surely love to put a stake in Cleveland’s playoff chances.
So it won’t be easy for the Browns to run the table. Especially with Watson undoubtedly showing some rust. But it’s not impossible. The first step will be the easiest. The next two, against the teams vying for the AFC North crown, will be the best test as to whether Watson and the Browns can parlay an unlikely Week 12 win over the Buccaneers into a much more unlikely playoff appearance.