At long last, 19 months after requesting a trade, 17 months after the first lawsuit, and five months after finally getting traded to the Browns, the Deshaun Watson discipline saga is finally, FINALLY over. After receiving an initial punishment of a six game suspension a few weeks ago, following an appeal of the punishment by the NFL, the two sides — the NFL and NFLPA — agreed on a settlement for Watson's revised punishment.
Watson will miss the first 11 games of the season, pay a $5 million fine, and will be ordered to promptly undergo a professional behavioral evaluation and follow a prescribed treatment plan. Additionally, the NFL and the Cleveland Browns will supplement Watson's $5 million fine with another $1 million apiece to create a nonprofit fund that will help educate young people on healthy relationships and prevent sexual misconduct.
The NFL had been seeking a one year suspension during this appeal process, but the two sides settled in the middle, in between the initial six game ruling and the full season of 17 games. One benefit for the NFL in settling on the 11 game suspension is that this ends the discipline conversation. Watson's camp had been threatening to sue the league if the ]punishment had been increased to a full season.
Now, it's over, and we can all move on. However, there is fallout from all of this. Here are a few thoughts on the aftermath of one of the longest, most arduous stories in NFL history:
4. So who the hell broke this news?
When news like this comes down, we expect it to be reported first by ESPN's Adam Schefter or the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. We don't expect it to come from an independent Patriots reporter with 16 followers (at the time) on Twitter, but these are the times we live in:
Thursday was a big day for Joseph Pasteris!
3. Watson's first game will be on December 4 at NRG Stadium
Yes, for Houstonians reading this post, I have buried the lede! Deshaun Watson's return to the NFL, after sitting on the sidelines for what will end up being 703 days, will be in the very stadium he chose to abandon back in January of 2021 with his trade request. The big winners in all of the are Texans season ticket holders who are looking to cash in on at least ONE game this season on the secondary market. That should be quite the spectacle! The build up to the game should feel like an HBO drama. It's an interesting "coincidence" that this is Watson's first game back. On the one hand, I could see Watson wanting to make sure he was eligible for this game, but on the other hand, coming in with 703 days of rust is not ideal. Like I said, it should be an incredible afternoon.
2. What do the first 11 games look like for Cleveland?
In the broader picture, the Texans are also concerned with the Browns' overall performance in 2022, as they hold the Browns' first round pick in the 2023 draft. So how badly does Watson's 11 game suspension torpedo the Browns' season? Well, here is what the first 11 games of the season look like for Cleveland:
WEEK 1: at CAR
WEEK 2: vs NYJ
WEEK 3: vs PIT
WEEK 4: at ATL
WEEK 5: vs LAC
WEEK 6: vs NE
WEEK 7: at BAL
WEEK 8: vs CIN
WEEK 9: BYE
WEEK 10: at MIA
WEEK 11: at BUF
WEEK 12: vs TB
I think the Browns, even with Jacoby Brissett as their quarterback, will be favored in the first four games of the season. I also think, with Brissett as their starter, they will be underdogs, at times HEAVY underdogs, in the next seven games. If they go 6-5 in those 11 games, the Browns should feel very fortunate.
1. Is 11 games enough for the Browns to go get Jimmy Garoppolo?
So that raises the question as to whether or not the Browns should look to upgrade the quarterback position in the 11 games Watson will be gone. San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo is available, right now via trade, and possibly to sign as a free agent if the Niners are forced to cut him (and his $24 million salary) before the start of the season. Personally, I am not a big fan of Garoppolo's game, but perhaps he gives the Browns a better chance in one or two of those first 11 games. I think the only games where he might flip the Browns from underdog to favorite would, ironically, be against the Patriots, the team that drafted Garoppolo in 2014.
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