The Cleveland Browns and their fans have some cautious optimism for the upcoming NFL season, as the team has some new weapons, the like of which it hasn’t had at any time in recent memory.
Watson is, at the very least, a significant upgrade over Baker Mayfield, who showed promise at times but ultimately turned out to be shaky and mercurial.
But some Browns fans always feel that there is trouble lurking around every corner for their team, and there is a dark cloud hanging over the team regarding Watson.
Although a grand jury failed to indict him on charges after he was accused of harassment and misconduct by massage therapists, he is currently facing 22 pending civil lawsuits regarding the incidents in question.
But more and more negative reports are coming out about the allegations.
During a pretrial deposition last week, #Browns Deshaun Watson admitted that one massage therapist did cry after their session, but he said he did not know why, according to USA Today
— NFL Rumors (@nflrums) May 18, 2022
The league office hasn’t decided yet whether to discipline Watson as a result, and reportedly, it may issue its decision within the next several weeks.
“Deshaun Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, believes the NFL will render its initial decision on Watson’s possible discipline by June or July, and that they’ll want to talk to Watson again beforehand,” wrote Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
“‘We should know what their position is initially sometime in June, and then everybody will figure out if there’s going to be a hearing about it or can people work things out, or whatever,’ Hardin told cleveland.com by phone on Friday evening. ‘The only thing that’s certain is that they want to try to get everything done this summer — and earlier than later in the summer. Past that, we don’t really have any firm dates or possibilities.'”
Such a decision could have a drastic effect on the Browns’ season and their playoff chances.
No Watson, No Playoffs?
If Watson is indeed suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, as some expect, it will be extremely hard for Cleveland to make the playoffs this season.
After playing three teams in the first four weeks of the 2022 season that didn’t make the playoffs this past year, the Browns will start a very difficult stretch by taking on the revamped Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5.
That stretch carries over all the way to Week 12 with a contest versus Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
One would think that a Watson suspension would likely last more than four games.
— Craig Fountain (@CraigAFountain) May 12, 2022
If he is out for the start of the season, the Browns could lose a couple of their initial games versus bad or mediocre teams, and those are the games they really need to win to put themselves in position to compete for a playoff spot come December and January.
If they’re no better than 2-2 when they face Justin Herbert and company in Week 5 and Watson is suspended, Cleveland’s chances of reaching the postseason could end up being slim to none.
The fact that Mayfield asked to be traded and that the organization reportedly said that it wants an “adult” at QB make it seem extremely unlikely that the team would go to him in the case of a Watson suspension.
The Carolina Panthers have reportedly had interest in trading for Mayfield, but an agreement wasn’t reached, partly because the Browns didn’t want to pay any part of the nearly $19 million owed to him next season.
According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the NFL may have given a tell as to the length and timing of a potential Watson suspension.
“Remains to be seen when Deshaun Watson will make his regular-season debut, and how long he will be suspended, but I can’t help but wonder if a Week 9 bye is any sort of indication,” wrote La Canfora. “They face the Bengals on a Monday night in Week 8.”
That would be in the heart of the killer stretch the Browns will face, and if it comes to pass, it could torpedo any real shot they have at making the playoffs for only the second time since 2002.