Likely Suspension Length For Browns’ Deshaun Watson Determined: Report

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Getty Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns are likely to be without their starting quarterback Deshaun Watson for a meaningful chunk of the 2022 regular season, which will lead to some tough and expensive decisions at the position.

While no official decision on a suspension has yet been handed down, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported on Tuesday, July 19, that the Browns are preparing to be without Watson’s services for half of the year.

“Per a league source, the Browns privately are bracing for an eight-game suspension of Watson,” Florio wrote. “That obviously doesn’t mean anything as to the eventual outcome. It only means that the team has come to the subjective conclusion, one it would never admit publicly, that it expects to not have Watson for eight of 17 games in 2022.”

Earlier in the day Tuesday, Florio issued a separate report citing a source who said the expected range of Watson’s punishment puts the suspension ceiling at eight games.

“As one source who has reviewed the materials submitted last week by the parties to Judge Sue L. Robinson told PFT on Monday, the final punishment most likely won’t be one year,” Florio wrote. “The currently expected range is two to eight games.”

“Whether the league would appeal such an outcome, and whether Commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee would impose a dramatically longer ban, remains to be seen,” Florio continued.

The year-long punishment Florio mentioned is a reference to a report by Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press from July 12, in which he said the NFL is seeking a suspension of a full season and the option for Watson to apply for reinstatement at that time. Watson and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) have stated their joint intent to sue the league if the quarterback ends up suspended a full year, be it by Judge Robinson’s decision or a decision from the league on appeal, per Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com.

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Likely 8-Game Suspension For Watson Puts Browns in Awkward Spot

Colts NFL Playoff Chances

GettyQuarterback Jacoby Brissett, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts, drops back to pass against the New Orleans Saints during a game at Mercedes Benz Superdome on December 16, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com noted on July 15 that the Browns intend to sign a fourth quarterback to the roster should Watson face a lengthy suspension, though the term “lengthy” was not specifically defined.

“With training camp beginning July 27, the Browns are hoping for a decision sooner than later so they can plan accordingly,” Cabot wrote. “If Watson is out for a lengthy period of time, [they] will sign a quarterback to back up interim starter Jacoby Brissett.”

One option for Cleveland is to go the inexpensive route and sign a player with a successful history looking for another shot, such as Cam Newton, formerly of the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots. Florio discussed what that might look like on Tuesday.

“There’s apparently some chatter about the possibility of the Browns adding Cam Newton, in the event that Watson isn’t available for the full season,” Florio wrote. “Would Newton be an option for half of the season? Would he be the backup to Brissett or the starter?”


Fear of Long Suspension For Watson May Lead Browns to Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo

Getty Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers reacts during the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at AT&T Stadium on January 16, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The suspected suspension length of eight games puts the Browns right on the edge of looking for a backup to Brissett or a currently legitimate starter to supplant him.

Despite having access to an NFL-leading $48.5 million in salary cap space as of Wednesday, Cleveland has spent a ton of money already this offseason on the acquisitions of Watson and wide receiver Amari Cooper, as well as long-term deals for cornerback Denzel Ward and tight end David Njoku — and the spending didn’t stop there.

The franchise is prepping for at least a five-year Super Bowl window, the length of Watson’s fully-guaranteed $230 million contract, and throwing away the first season due to a missing piece at quarterback may not be palatable after committing to a such an expensive and long-term investment.

Enter Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers.

The former Super Bowl starter has one year left on his deal and represents a cap hit just shy of $27 million. The Browns can easily fit him into their pay structure for the year, and Garoppolo will be equally motivated toward success as he auditions for another big contract with a new team in 2023.

Niners insider Matt Barrows of The Athletic laid out the case for Garoppolo landing in Cleveland on July 12.

“The Browns are in win-now mode, which might spur them to make a move and should make them an attractive destination for a quarterback auditioning for 2023 free agency,” Barrows wrote. “Garoppolo would join a team with two Pro Bowl guards, a Pro Bowl running back and a head coach who calls the offensive plays.”

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