Ultimately, it was all about compromise for the NFL and Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson.
After an extended appeal and negotiations, the NFL issued a decision in the Watson personal conduct case.
Watson will sit out 11 games starting with the Week 1 season opener against the Carolina Panthers.
BREAKING: The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to a settlement on discipline for #Browns QB Deshaun Watson, who will serve an 11-game suspension and pay a $5 million fine for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, per league source.
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) August 18, 2022
He can be reinstated the Monday after the Week 12 game against Tampa Bay.
Cleveland travels to Houston the following week for Watson’s probable 2022 debut.
Eleven games put them almost midway between the 17 games the league wanted and the 6 games Sue Robinson recommended.
Besides the games missed, the agreement added a series of fines and donations.
Source says this is real. 11 games. $5M fine for Watson. https://t.co/SaMjiGlj27
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 18, 2022
Watson will pay $5 million, while the NFL and Cleveland Browns will add $1 million each for various women’s organizations.
Cleveland already has their starting quarterback in counseling for his sexual antics.
Those sessions are now mandatory and Watson’s progress will be monitored by the league, according to documents obtained by PFT.
It Is More Than Games
Many analysts expected a large fine to be part of the original decision by Sue Robinson.
Robinson was critical of the NFL’s inconsistent discipline in the past, claiming it limited her penalties.
But with Watson’s new contract including a standard minimum first-year salary, many felt a fine was in order.
Watson made $10 million while sitting out last season with the Texans.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 18, 2022
Cleveland new passer stated several times during the process he was willing to pay $5 million as part of a deal.
That made it even more surprising Robinson did not include payment with her 6 game suspension.
In a decision leaked to PFT, the NFL concedes Watson has started a treatment program and take steps to better himself.
But they still made a league-designated evaluation and treatment plan mandatory as part of the deal.
After explaining the appeal process, the announcement says the process is over and the deal is final.
As of this writing, there was no response from the NFLPA.
What It Means To The Browns
Jacoby Brissett is the projected starter for the Browns’ first 11 games.
Nobody from the Cleveland front office or press pool is projecting a deal for another starting quarterback at this time.
Josh Dobbs and Josh Rosen will get a chance to earn the backup spot behind Brissett.
But it remains likely Andrew Berry is monitoring other camps and the waiver wire for more veteran help.
What became clear in Deshaun Watson settlement talks, per sources, is Watson was open to paying a hefty fine to see the field as soon as possible. That was the goal. And got the sense he would have paid more than $5M to be eligible for half the season.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 18, 2022
Watson gets 6 games at the end of the season to push the Browns into the playoffs.
After an emotional return to Houston, he gets the Bengals and Ravens in games that could decide a division title.
New Orleans, Washington, and Pittsburgh wrap up the 2022 regular season.
Anything short of 10-11 wins won’t prevent Brissett from taking a seat in Week 13.
After all, Watson gets the big bucks to be the Browns’ future.
But Brissett could parlay a playoff-contending record into a big opportunity in 2023.