Deshaun Watson, who signed a $230 million guaranteed contract with the Cleveland Browns in March, has settled 20 of the 24 civil lawsuits against him, says Tony Buzbee, attorney for the plaintiffs.
Watson, who has previously stated “I just want to clear my name,” and “I never assaulted, disrespected or harassed anyone,” his representatives, and the Cleveland Browns have yet to comment on the settlements. Just last week, Watson participated in his first interview with the media during minicamp and said he wanted to be able to let all of the facts come out in a court of law.
Among the four lawsuits yet to be settled is Ashley Stolis, who is the first woman to have filed a lawsuit against Watson. Stolis is also the first woman to have publicly identified herself. “Her case has not settled and thus her story and that of the other three brave women will continue,” said Buzbee in an extensive written statement. He also noted that he plans to try the remaining unsettled civil lawsuits.
With news of the settlements, came immediate speculation from reporters and fans alike about the forthcoming punishment to be imposed by the National Football League (NFL). While most predictions hover somewhere between six games and the full 2022 season, it remains unclear when the NFL will issue its decision and for how long the Browns’ new franchise quarterback will be suspended. Also uncertain is the potential impact the four remaining cases will have on the punishment if they are not resolved ahead of the NFL’s decision.
Media reports have indicated that the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) plans to defend Watson from suspension by targeting NFL owners and arguing the punishment he may face is inconsistent with how the league has treated three team owners, Washington Commanders’ Daniel Snyder, New England Patriots’ Robert Kraft, and Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, for their conduct. Such an argument would be based on the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, which states: “Ownership and club or league management have traditionally been held to a higher standard and will be subject to more significant discipline when violations of the Personal Conduct Policy occur.”
A six-game suspension would put Watson on track to return Week 7 on the road against the Baltimore Ravens, and make his home debut on Monday Night Football against the AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals. Other potential dates for Watson to return to the football field to make his Cleveland Browns debut this season include at Miami (8-game suspension), and at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-game suspension). All predictions are purely speculative at this point.
The Browns begin training camp with a closed practice on Wednesday, July 27.