CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Browns are still all in on Deshaun Watson despite new civil suits and allegations, and aren’t looking to void his NFL-record, fully guaranteed $ 230 million contract or the trade with the Texans, league sources tell cleveland. com.
The Browns do have typical club protection in the five-year deal – and extra protection as first reported in April by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk – that would allow them to void the contract in the event actions take place after it was signed, or actions from beforehand that come to light that would prevent him from fulfilling his duties.
So far, nothing has transpired since he signed the deal in March that has caused the Browns to change their view of Watson or contemplate trying to get out of the contract – not even the 24th suit filed Wednesday.
Likewise, sources say nothing has taken place that has the Browns trying to void the blockbuster trade with the Texans – which included sending three first-round draft picks and three other picks to the Texans in exchange for Watson and a sixth-rounder – even though the Texans will soon be added to the suits as a defendant for allegedly enabling Watson’s misconduct.
The franchise’s unwavering support of Watson has been articulated by the team to Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin.
“The Browns and all of us that know Deshaun are still totally behind him,’ ’Hardin told cleveland.com in a text response. “These latest claims by [plaintiffs’ attorney Tony] Buzbee change nothing, and they are totally false, and that will ultimately be what everyone concludes when they hear the evidence. ”
The Browns’ faith in Watson comes in the wake of:
- two new civil suits filed by Buzbee over the past two weeks on behalf of massage therapists alleging sexual misconduct for a total of 24;
- Buzbee adding the Houston Texans and other defenders to the suits for enabling Watson to engage in alleged misconduct; and
- A New York Times article by Jenny Vrentas in which a few non-suing accusers speak publicly for the first time about similar alleged misconduct. She also wrote that he set up 66 massage appointments in a 17-month span from the fall of 2020 to the spring of 2021, which is more than the 40 over five seasons he’s acknowledged publicly.
It also comes after the HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel show two weeks ago in which Soledad O’Brien interviewed two of the plaintiffs, Ashley Solis and Kyla Hayes.
- Here is how to view the public filings in the lawsuits brought against Watson
The Browns, who knew they’d take a barrage of PR hits at least at the beginning of Watson’s career here, are standing firmly behind their new QB despite Buzbee stating that he’s considering “many more” cases against Watson, and the NFL determining how long to suspend him.
At this point, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that Watson will be suspended, either for a specific number of games, or indefinitely, in which case he’d have to miss the entire 2022 season and apply for reinstatement afterward. He can also be fined.
The league has given no indication of when it will render a decision, but once it talks to the accused – and Hardin told cleveland.com they’re done interviewing Watson after two sessions spanning four days – the discipline is usually not far behind.
Those close to the situation anticipate hearing something before training camp begins in late July, possibly early in the month. Even if Watson is suspended for the season or indefinitely, the Browns will stand by him and plan for the future.
Likely the only thing that could change that would be criminal charges, which no one is anticipating.
In the meantime, Watson has focused on football and getting acclimated to the community despite constant new developments in the case. He just wrapped up three weeks of Organized Team Activities this week, and is gearing up for mandatory minicamp next week.
“I think for everybody, you come to work and you go to work,” coach Kevin Stefanski said Wednesday. “You have to make sure that you focus on your job and focus on the job that you have to do out there with the players. I think that’s what he’s doing. “
If Watson is suspended, Jacoby Brissett will start in his place. The Browns are still trying to trade Baker Mayfield and have excused him from mandatory minicamp.
Watson’s new teammates have embraced him, and he’s acclimated well to the team, including taking his offensive teammates on an all-expenses paid trip to the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas.
“I think he’s a professional, ” safety John Johnson III said. “Once he comes to work it’s about work. It’s about building relationships with his teammates. As you saw, he took the guys on a trip, I think he has something else planned. Just building bonds, building relationships, so I think he’s done a great job of just being a true professional and hopefully it all clears up soon but as of now, we’re just going to keep working. ”
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