Lawyers on both sides continue to shuffle and tweak their cases in the Deshaun Watson civil trial.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys already won a decision requiring disclosure of Watson’s history with non-plaintiff therapists.
The #Browns begin off-season workouts on April 19th, Deshaun Watson has already said he will be in attendance.
— MoreForYouCleveland (@MoreForYou_CLE) April 1, 2022
Those charges might be added to all, if not most of the remaining cases, according to lead attorney, Tony Buzbee.
Texas declined to charge Watson criminally at this time on 10 charges presented to a pair of county grand juries.
But negligence charges open Watson up to more scrutiny in the 22 pending civil cases.
They extend the breadth of permitted inquiries and offer a channel for punitive damages at sentencing.
Plaintiffs suing Deshaun Watson have expanded the scope of their lawsuits against him with amended petitions https://t.co/DXZDmcKnBF
— Brent Schrotenboer (@Schrotenboer) April 8, 2022
More importantly for the Cleveland Browns, it could push Watson’s trial to next year.
Attorneys for Watson and the plaintiffs earlier agreed not to schedule the trial during the NFL season.
Unless the judge speeds up the judicial process or Watson settles out of court, that could push the trial into 2023.
And that could present some challenges for Andrew Berry regarding the 2023 roster.
Will Watson’s Contract Burn The Browns?
Under Watson’s new contract, Cleveland paid all but $1 million of his 2022 compensation as a signing bonus.
Such a contract is not unusual, but it raised eyebrows because of the potential Watson suspension.
The deal works to Watson’s advantage if he misses game checks in 2022.
But the NFL already said they will not suspend Watson until the civil case is resolved.
The Cleveland Browns are the only team among the top 10 in active spending still in the black even with the reduced salary cap. And that's why rollover cap space is important.
— Brent Sobleski (@brentsobleski) February 28, 2021
Should the case drag into 2023 or beyond, the Browns could have a $55 million cap hit sitting home for a spell.
They’ll start the offseason with some cap concerns, but Jacoby Brissett is already signed as Watson’s backup.
Dead cap hits won’t allow Cleveland to simply cut a high-profile player to save money next year.
This means Andrew Berry’s plans probably won’t be much different with or without Watson on the field.
Rapid Resolution Still the Best Scenario
Deshaun Watson continues to deny any wrongdoing and says he wants his day in court.
But he used the Fifth Amendment to keep from testifying at depositions so far.
His lawyer admits sexual contact took place but as consensual actions.
The plaintiff’s negligence claims might cause Watson to rethink his position, regardless of culpability.
— Tyler Johnson (@T_johnson_TJ) April 1, 2022
Plaintiffs hope to show intent and no attempt to curtail activity Watson knew would create a harmful situation.
Such a scenario opens Watson to the negligence charge and potentially large punitive damages.
Plaintiff’s attorney might hope the monetary risk pushes the defendant to settle out of court.
Making a deal ends the matter and allows the NFL to issue any disciplinary response immediately.