The NFL and NFL Players Association reached a settlement Thursday in the disciplinary matter of Deshaun Watson, agreeing that the Cleveland Browns quarterback will serve an 11-game suspension after he was accused by more than two dozen women of sexual misconduct during massage sessions. , a League source told ESPN.
Watson will also pay a $5 million fine that will go to charity, the source said.
The deal has not been signed but has been agreed, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
“I am grateful that the disciplinary process has ended and am deeply grateful for the tremendous support I have received during my short time with the Browns organization,” Watson said in a statement from the Browns. “I apologize once again for the pain this situation has caused. I take responsibility for the decisions I have made. My focus for the future is on working to become the best version of myself on and off the pitch and supporting my teammates, however possible, while I’m loving the team. I’m excited about what the future has in store for me in Cleveland.”
Watson will be available to play for the Browns again in Week 13, when Cleveland will run into his old team, the Houston Texans, on the road.
The settlement between the two parties leads to a ruling by former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey, who has appointed Commissioner Roger Goodell to oversee the NFL’s appeal against Disciplinary Officer Sue L. Robinson that Watson should be given a six-game suspension.
Robinson, an independent arbitrator appointed jointly by the league and the players’ union, originally ruled on Aug. 1 that Watson would receive a six-game suspension but would not be fined for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, writes in a statement. 16-page report that “the NFL bore its burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson engaged in sexual assault (as defined by the NFL) against the four therapists named in the report.”
Goodell, in explaining the league’s decision to appeal Robinson’s ruling, said the evidence argued for a suspension of at least a full year.
“As we have previously stated, Deshaun and his representatives have adhered to the NFL and NFLPA structure pending a final decision and we have respected the process,” Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement. “Now that the discipline has been decided, we understand this is a real opportunity to create meaningful change and we are committed to investing in programs in Northeast Ohio that will educate our youth about awareness, understanding and most importantly prevention of sexual misconduct and the many underlying causes of such behavior.Since entering our building Deshaun has been an outstanding member of our organization and has shown a genuine commitment to working on himself both on and off the field.We will continue to serve him as he focuses on earning the trust of our community.”
Watson has been accused of sexual assault and other inappropriate behavior during massage therapy sessions in lawsuits filed by 25 women. The actions alleged in the lawsuits took place from March 2020 to March 2021, while Watson was a member of the Texans. One of the 25 lawsuits was dropped after a judge ruled in April 2021 that the plaintiffs had to change their petitions to reveal their names. Two other women filed criminal charges against Watson, but did not charge him.
Watson has settled or has agreed to settle all but one of the remaining lawsuits, which are still pending. In July, the Texans settled 30 women who made or were willing to file claims against the NFL organization for allegedly “allowing” Watson’s behavior.
Although two Texas grand juries declined to charge Watson earlier this year, the NFL had investigated whether he had violated its personal conduct policy since 2021. The league interviewed Watson for several days earlier this summer. The NFL researchers also spoke to some of the women.
In her report, which concluded that Watson violated personal conduct policy with “extreme” and “predatory” behavior, Robinson noted that an aggravating factor in her decision to suspend Watson for six games was his “lack of expressed regret.” ‘ used to be.
After previously denying any wrongdoing and saying he had “no regrets” for his actions during the massage sessions, Watson publicly apologized on August 12 to “all the women I influenced” before kicking off Cleveland’s preseason opener against the Jacksonville jaguars.
Watson hasn’t spoken to reporters since the training camp started.
The Browns traded for Watson in March and sent three first-round draft picks to the Texans. Cleveland then gave Watson a new five-year contract that was the richest deal in NFL history for any player.
Watson’s contract with the Browns guarantees him a league-record $230 million, with a base salary set to rise to $46 million by 2023 and a $44.965 million signing bonus.
But because Cleveland structured his contract to include a base salary of just $1,035 million in 2022, Watson would lose just $57,500 per game suspended, without the $5 million fine imposed in the settlement.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said at the start of training camp that Jacoby Brissett would become Cleveland’s starter in the event of a Watson suspension, and recently admitted that he has been “very impressed” with Brissett so far.
“Very comfortable with him,” Stefanski said. “I think he understands very well what we are trying to do offensively.”
Despite being a backup for much of his career, Brissett has 37 starts with a 14-23 record.