One of the most impactful storylines of the NFL season has experienced significant movement recently. Judge Sue L. Robinson was retained by the NFL in order to determine what a fair punishment would be for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson amidst allegations of sexual abuse, and she has ruled that his suspension should last six games.
The NFL Players Association and Commissioner Roger Goodell have the ability to appeal her decision in order to reduce or increase the amount of time Watson will be unavailable to Cleveland. While this story is not yet over, there is now an established baseline with which to work, and time will tell whether the signal caller misses six games or serves a different suspension length.
Football Perspective: How Did We Get Here
It seems like forever ago since we last saw Deshaun Watson play in an NFL game. To be exact, the last game he appeared in was a January 3, 2021 contest against the Tennessee Titans. At that point in time, he was still playing for the Houston Texans, who were capping off a difficult 4-12 season.
Later that month, Watson would request a trade from Houston, since he did not feel like he was in the best position to win games for the foreseeable future. At that juncture, it was unclear as to whether the Texans organization would even want to trade Watson, who signed a four-year extension with the organization in 2020. He was one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, and moving on from him would completely alter the direction of the franchise.
Shortly after Watson’s trade request, a bevy of legal allegations against him surfaced, which complicated the football side of things immensely. Without definitive clarification about his availability, and the idea that Watson no longer wanted to be with Houston, a resolution was not going to be easy to come by.
It was decided that the star quarterback would not suit up for the Texans during the 2021 season. Other franchises inquired about a trade, but ultimately could not move forward due to the uncertainty of his legal situation.
What This Means For The Browns
Looking to upgrade the talent under center in a notable way, the Cleveland Browns traded for Watson last March. Before he would ever play a snap for the organization, the front office gave him a brand new five year contract worth $230 million, all guaranteed. It was a massive leap of faith considering he has been out of football for a full season, and his suspension had not yet been confirmed.
Barring any major surprises, Watson will eventually take the field for Cleveland at some point during the 2022 season. If his six game suspension holds, he will first be eligible to play for his new team on October 23rd against the Baltimore Ravens.
Watson’s addition will allow head coach Kevin Stefanski to open up the offense in ways he did not feel comfortable doing with previous quarterback Baker Mayfield. Until Watson is able to return, look for the team to rely heavily on their ground game, anchored by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The team will hope to get off to a decent start early on in the season, so their new star quarterback can be in a good position to lead them back to the postseason.