Deshaun Watson has settled 20 of 24 civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct, but the Browns quarterback is not out of the woods when it comes to NFL discipline. While the former Texans star has publicly sworn innocence and avoided criminal charges for an alleged pattern of abuse during private massage therapy sessions, the NFL Players Association is concerned the NFL will suspend Watson for the entire 2022 season, if not indefinitely, according to Pro Football Network.
This echoes reporting from The Washington Post, which said last week that Watson's camp expects the NFL to argue he "deserves to be suspended for at least one full season," and that league executives will likely seek a "significant" penalty for the QB. The Browns have been awaiting a "lengthy suspension" for their new starter, per Aaron Wilson, and are expected to proceed with new backup Jacoby Brissett as their emergency No. 1 in the event Watson is suspended for most, or all, of 2022.
The NFLPA, meanwhile, previously championed Watson's record contract with the Browns, who signed the QB to a five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract, despite him still facing almost two dozen lawsuits at the time. NFLPA president JC Tretter, a former Brown, has celebrated Watson's earnings as a potential "turning point" for other guaranteed contracts around the league. Watson's own agents negotiated the contract to protect the QB from any substantial financial losses in the event of a lengthy 2022 suspension, suggesting the former Pro Bowler always anticipated NFL discipline for his alleged off-field transgressions.
As for the possibility of the Browns reconciling with former No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield -- who remains on the roster -- as a fill-in for Watson, that's considered almost impossible in Cleveland, per Wilson. The Browns are still seeking to offload Mayfield's $18.8 million guaranteed salary via trade, aiming to deal the QB by the start of training camp, and if not then, by the start of the regular season. The Seahawks, who have a high level of interest in Mayfield, per CBS Sports NFL insider Josina Anderson, are considered a more likely landing spot for the veteran than the Panthers, who had prior talks with the Browns.