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’ll be set to return.
How long is Deshaun Watson out?
The suspension of Watson has played out in two stages, but the final suspension will be for 11 games. This is an increase on the six games that were originally handed out by former Delaware federal Judge Sue L. Robinson, the jointly appointed disciplinary officer for Watson’s case.
The NFL appealed the ruling and Roger Goodell designated former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to oversee the appeal. However, before Harvey could announce his decision, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a settlement of an 11-game suspension and a $5 million fine.
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
Following the appeal, we now know when Watson will return to the field for the first time since the end of the 2020 NFL season. Watson’s first action for the Browns will be in Week 13. Intriguingly it will come against his former team, the Houston Texans.
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 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 16-18. 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 original suspension was revealed, Watson settled with three more women.