How long is Deshaun Watson out? Suspension timeline, return date, and more on Browns quarterback

We finally have clarity surrounding Deshaun Watson and his suspension. How long is the Browns QB set to miss, and when will he return?

Ever since the allegations against Deshaun Watson came to light, a suspension has been regarded as inevitable. Now, more than a year later, we finally have an update and some clarity on the situation heading into the 2022 NFL season. Let’s take a look at how long Watson will be suspended and when he will be set to return.

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How long is Deshaun Watson out?

Former Delaware federal Judge Sue L. Robinson, the jointly appointed disciplinary officer for Watson’s case, issued her much-anticipated ruling. She has recommended that Watson be suspended for the first six games of the 2022 NFL season.

It’s important to note that any ruling can be appealed, but the NFL Players Association called for the league to not appeal the decision and has stated it will not appeal the ruling. The NFL will have three days to decide whether or not they want to file an appeal. Should the punishment be appealed, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or a designee will issue a written decision “that will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute.”

The Browns and Watson anticipated that there would likely be a significant suspension in 2022 following the trade for the star QB. Therefore, Watson’s contract is structured in such a way as to minimize his financial losses. When a player is suspended, their base salary is usually what they lose, and Watson has a base salary of just $1.035 million this year. While that is still a lot of money, in a deal that is valued at $230 million, it’s a relative drop in the ocean.

Watson’s return date from suspension

If both parties agree not to appeal this suspension, that means the first time we see Watson on the field for the Browns in the regular season will be Week 7 against the Ravens in Baltimore.

The uncertainty around Watson’s suspension and what kind of shape the QB will be in after missing a substantial amount of playing time were big reasons as to why Watson ranked 10th in PFN’s QB rankings. As Dalton Miller discusses in the article, the last time we saw Watson, he was “arguably one of the five best quarterbacks in the NFL when he was playing.”

Watson’s legal timeline

We have to go back to March 17, 2021, to find the start of the legal proceedings against Watson. The first of these was brought by Ashley Solis and came six weeks after Watson had requested a trade from the Houston Texans. A further two lawsuits were filed the same day, with another four following on March 18. By April 5, 2021, the number had increased to 22 civil suits filed against the QB.

In the period between March 17 and April 5, the NFL opened its own investigation, and the Houston PD released a statement that a criminal complaint had also been made (April 2, 2021). After two judges in Harris County ruled that the plaintiffs must identify themselves, one suit was dropped on April 13. However, on April 14, a new suit was raised to take the number back to 22.

During the 2021 season (Oct. 26), Goodell stated that the league did not have sufficient evidence to place Watson on the exempt list. After Watson didn’t play a snap during the 2021 season, a judge ruled on Feb. 21 that Watson could be disposed in nine of the civil suits. At his deposition on March 11, Watson invoked the fifth amendment. The same day, a grand jury returned nine “no” bills on the nine criminal complaints against Watson.

On March 24, 2022, a grand jury in Brazoria County also declined to charge Watson on a 10th criminal complaint. On April 15, the Texans were subpoenaed by the 22 plaintiffs. Watson then met with NFL officials between May 16 and 18. A 23rd lawsuit was added on May 31, 2022, with a 24th being filed on June 6. It was then reported on June 8 that the Texans were to be added as defendants to the lawsuits.

On June 21, Watson reached settlements for 20 of the 24 lawsuits. While the settlements are confidential, a statement by Tony Buzbee confirmed that Solis, the first plaintiff to file, was not one of the women to settle. Over a month later, the same day his suspension was revealed, Watson settled with three more women.

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN

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