Deshaun Watson has reached a settlement with the NFL and will serve an 11-game suspension as well as pay a $5 million fine, according to reports from the Associated Press and ESPN.
Watson had previously been suspended for six games without pay for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy after 24 women accused him of sexual misconduct, but the NFL appealed that suspension hoping to suspend him indefinitely. The women say the misconduct occurred during several massage therapy appointments over the past several years while Watson was playing with the Houston Texans.
Watson’s first game is set to be the Browns’ game on Dec. 4 in Houston.
Watson’s original six game suspension was handed down by independent arbitrator Sue L. Robinson, a former federal judge jointly appointed by the league and players union. Robinson said Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy after reviewing an investigation into his actions and called his behavior “egregious” and “predatory.”
At the owners’ meetings this earlier in August, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league’s aim of a yearlong ban was warranted following its investigation and Robinson’s findings.
“She reinforced the evidence,” Goodell said. “There were multiple violations that were egregious, and it was predatory behavior.”
Two separate grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson, who has denied any wrongdoing. He recently settled 23 of 24 lawsuits.
Watson and the Browns agreed to a 5-year, $230 million contract earlier in 2022, the highest guaranteed contract in the history of the NFL.
In anticipation of a likely suspension for at least part of the 2022 season, the Browns structured Watson’s contract so that he only makes $1,035,000 of his 5-year $230 million contract as a base salary in year one of his contract, according to sports contract website OverTheCap. Therefore, Watson will “only” forfeit a percentage of his $1.035 million in salary, amounting to minimal financial losses.
That however is no longer the full extent of Watson’s financial losses. Watson will now be fined an additional $5 million by the NFL for his conduct, which was not previously part of his punishment for violating league rules.
Judge Robinson’s original punishment was criticized by several organizations, including The National Organization for Women, which called it “unacceptable, insulting and dangerous — but not surprising.”
Veteran Jacoby Brissett, who has made 37 career starts, is set to become the Browns starter in Watson’s absence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.