Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will serve an 11-game suspension and pay a heavy fine as part of a settled decision after the NFL appealed his initial suspension.
NFL arbitrator Susan L. Robinson had initially given Watson a six-game suspension, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appealed that decision. The settlement, involving Watson, the NFL and the NFLPA, was reached before a ruling could be reached in the appeal.
Watson will also pay a $5 million fine, and agrees that he violated the league’s personal conduct policy.
Watson was accused by 25 women of sexual misconduct while he was a member of the Houston Texans. After a pair of Texas grand juries declined to prosecute Watson earlier this year, he was traded to the Cleveland Browns for five draft picks, including three first-round picks.
The Browns then gave Watson a historic fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract that was structured in such a way as to minimize the financial impact of a potential suspension.
In addition to the $5 million fine, Watson will undergo mandatory mental health counseling. He has settled 24 of the 25 lawsuits filed against him with undisclosed settlements. Watson apologized to his victims in an interview with Cleveland Browns reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala this preseason.
“I’m grateful that the disciplinary process has ended and extremely appreciative of the tremendous support I have received throughout my short time with the Browns organization,” Watson said in a statement. “I apologize once again for any pain this situation has caused. I take accountability for the decisions I made. My focus going forward is on working to become the best version of myself on and off the field and supporting my teammates however possible while I’m away from the team. I’m excited about what the future holds for me in Cleveland.
The Browns and then NFL will reportedly donate an additional $7 million to sexual assault prevention programs.
Watson will miss the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first game against the Browns in Cleveland on Sept. 22, but will be eligible to play in the season finale against the Steelers at Acrisure Stadium Week 18. Watson will miss one game against each of the Browns’ three AFC North opponents, while playing in the second game against all three teams.
His first game back after the suspension will be against his former team, at Houston on Dec. 4. With Watson suspended, the Browns are expected to start Jacoby Brissett at quarterback for most of the 2022 season.