One question the team just put to bed, however, is who will start Week 1 should Watson prove unavailable. The definitive answer is backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
Jake Trotter of ESPN appeared on “SportsCenter” over the weekend and laid out the situation, saying that neither Cleveland nor Mayfield have any intention of reaching a compromise that would see the team’s four-year starter take another snap in a Browns uniform.
“The Cleveland Browns are still bracing for a significant suspension to their starting quarterback. If the NFL does suspend [Deshaun Watson], expect the Browns to enter training camp with Jacoby Brissett, not Baker Mayfield, as their starting quarterback,” Trotter said.
“While Mayfield remains on Cleveland’s roster, I’ve been told he has no intention of playing for the Browns again. Cleveland has no plans for this to happen either,” Trotter continued. “Instead, in the event of a Watson suspension, look for the Browns to move forward with Brissett, the former Indianapolis Colt, as the starter at quarterback.”
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Jacoby Brissett Has Extensive NFL Experience as Starting QB
The Browns signed Brissett to a one-year deal in mid-March, just days after acquiring Watson from the Houston Texans via trade. Cleveland knew then, when they extended Watson’s contract to a value of $230 million over five years, that there was a good chance their pricey new quarterback would miss a significant amount of time.
Thus, the franchise likely envisioned from the beginning Brissett making several starts in 2022. While he doesn’t have a track record of great success as an NFL starter, Brissett does have a good deal of experience in the role and is among the better backup options across the league.
Selected by the New England Patriots in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Brissett has started multiple games under center in four of his six professional seasons. Including stints with the Indianapolis Colts and the Miami Dolphins over the last five years, Brissett’s career record as a starter sits at 14-23 heading into next season. He has thrown for 7,742 yards, 36 touchdowns and 17 interceptions across 60 appearances, per Pro Football Reference.
Lengthy Suspension Appears Likely For Browns’ QB Deshaun Watson
Watson’s disciplinary hearing begins on Tuesday, June 28. The most likely outcome will be a significant suspension for the quarterback after he was accused by 24 different women of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to assault.
The quarterback has settled a total of 20 of those 24 civil cases, with four remaining open. Criminal complaints were filed in 10 instances across two counties in Texas, though two grand juries chose not to file official criminal charges against Watson after hearing the evidence.
Mark Maske of the Washington Post on Friday, June 17, reported that Watson will face a “significant suspension” from the league, noting further that the quarterback’s own camp has speculated the NFL might seek punishment amounting to a full year on the sideline.
“The league ‘probably’ will seek a suspension of one full season for Watson, a person on Watson’s side of the case said Friday,” Maske wrote. “A person familiar with the league’s view of the case cautioned to be ‘careful’ about specifying a precise length at this point for the suspension the NFL will seek. But that person also said: ‘Significant would be the proper term.'”
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk suggested in late March that Watson would be almost certain to face a minimum six-game suspension due to violations of the NFL’s player conduct policy. He added that the suspension could be up to a year, particularly if Watson chose not to settle and the civil cases remained open when the regular season began.
At the time of Florio’s comments, Watson was facing 22 civil cases alleging sexual misconduct. Two more have been filed since that time. After Watson reached settlements with 20 of the 24 alleged victims, the NFL issued a public statement saying that the legal conclusion of those cases would have “no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process.”