The book on the Deshaun Watson saga is finally closed with the final chapter being written Thursday. It reads as follows: The NFL and NFL Players Association have reached an agreement to push Watson’s suspension from six games to 11 games along with a $5 million fine. In addition, the agreement calls for Watson to undergo some sort of behavioral evaluation.
So, that’s it. The End.
There are going to be many people that will feel let down by its ending. When something dominates headlines for so long, dragging on for months on end, dividing opinion and “triggering” a wide range of emotions, it’s almost imperative that it ends in a satisfying way. Only then is there a feeling of completeness about it. Whereas a weak ending leaves many feeling dissatisfied in some way and carrying a sense of letdown from which it’s quite difficult to recover.
The only party that’s not let down by this feeble ending is Watson. Go figure! It’s quite fair to say that he might be the biggest winner in all of this, even though the NFL and NFLPA agreement features a sizable suspension increase and reportedly the steepest fine ever levied against an NFL player.
Defiant Watson Stands on Pedestal of Innocence
Watson issued a statement minutes before going into a press conference. In it, he suggested he was ready to take accountability. He pretty much said as much, “I take accountability for the decisions I made.”
In his presser (stressing, just minutes later), he seemed to strike a less conciliatory tone. He showed little contrition during his tête-à-tête with the media on the day, claiming the agreement was necessary in order to “continue to push forward with my life and career,” but that he continues to “stand on his innocence.”
He was at pains to remind the media that he’d already apologized to those “affected by this situation. There was a lot of people triggered.”
At the same time, he was very careful to stress that he wasn’t admitting to any wrongdoing in agreeing to the terms of the settlement. Rather it was for the greater good of all those involved – a means to an end if you will.
“For us to be able to move forward, I have to be able to take steps and put pride to the side, and I’m going to continue to stand on my innocence and keep pushing forward,” he told reporters.
As a parting shot, Watson shared his plans to tell his side of the story at some point in the future.
Shudder the thought but, maybe, the book isn’t closed on this story after all.
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Watson Profits in Punishment
The NFL had been pushing for a one-year suspension. Had the league got its way, it would have wiped a year off his career and, importantly, hit deeper in the pocket by pushing back Watson’s cunningly crafted, fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract to 2023.
Instead, Watson’s 11-game suspension falls nicely in line with his handsome contract. That was constructed with the express purpose of mitigating the impact of any suspension on his potential earnings this year while still making him one of the richest quarterbacks in the game.
Watson’s $230 million deal works out to a pay packet of $46 million per year. However, the first year’s $46 million was fiddled to his benefit. The figure is split between a base salary that amounts to only $1.035 million. The rest was given to him in a hefty $44.965 million signing bonus. Talk about clever!
So, based on his 2022 base salary, the 11-game suspension will only cost him $632,000. (This is calculated by multiplying 11 x (1/18 per game of 1.035 million). In layman terms, it’s a slap on the wrist.
In comparison, had Watson taken a base salary of $46 million this year, the total fine would have been a whopping $28.11 million. That hefty sum might have been “triggering” for the embattled quarterback.
How Does Watson 11-Game Suspension Impact NFL Odds?
NFL expert picks markets were quick to react to Watson’s 11-game suspension, setting Cleveland’s odds adrift in several key markets. These are as follows
- To Win AFC North – moved from +300 to +375
- To Win AFC – moved from +1200 to +1600
- To Win Super Bowl LVII – moved from +2500 to +3300
- Regular Season Win Totals – saw the UNDER 8½ juiced to -150 and the OVER tipped at +120.
Along with Cleveland’s future odds, Watson’s odds to win the Offensive Player of the Year have come off the board. This is to be expected because a player needs to play for the better part of the season to qualify for this award in the first place. (No player that played fewer than 15 games won this award in recent history).
Interestingly, Kevin Stefanski’s odds to win Coach of the Year remains nailed-on at +2200. Suppose, if the Browns were to somehow pull off a double-digit winning season and/or make the playoffs with Jacoby Brissett as the main signal caller during the season, it probably would warrant at least considering Stefanski for the award.
Brissett is an experienced quarterback, but his record in the league leaves much to be desired. That said, one does want to root for the guy. He’s been largely overshadowed by the Watson saga. As well, one wants to root for the other 52 players on the roster, who – through no fault of their own – are now going to have deal with the consequences that Watson’s suspension will have on their season and all the other ramifications that come with it both professionally and personally.
Cleveland’s Schedule Impact
Now that the Browns have absolute clarity about Watson’s status, they can plan accordingly. At the same time, bettors will have a better sense of the shape of their season, too, especially those that are looking to bet the Browns’ regular season win-total.
The games Watson is set to miss are as follows:
- Week 1: @ Carolina Panthers
- Week 2: vs New York Jets
- Week 3: vs Pittsburgh Steelers
- Week 4: @ Atlanta Falcons
- Week 5: vs Los Angeles Chargers
- Week 6: vs New England Patriots
- Week 7: @ Baltimore Ravens
- Week 8: vs Cincinnati Bengals
- Week 9 BYE
- Week 10: @ Miami Dolphins
- Week 11: @ Buffalo Bills
- Week 12: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Unless the Browns pull another rabbit out of the hat, Brissett is expected to be the starter in these games. Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers is a name that is being floated as a potential last-minute scoop, although it’s hard to imagine that a quarterback of his ilk would be satisfied with being just a placeholder for a limited number of games.
Cleveland’s schedule isn’t easy, by any stretch of the imagination. Stefanski and his staff are likely to devise game plans to suit Brissett’s skill set, but it’s hard to see the journeyman quarterback carrying the Browns on his shoulders. Thus, maximizing the win potential of this schedule will be challenging.
According to the stats, Brissett’s record as a starter in the league is 14-23. It’s important to note that this record was acquired while he played on very good teams with some of the most respected coaches such as Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, Frank Reich and the Indianapolis Colts, and Brian Flores and the Miami Dolphins.
Watson will return for the final six weeks of the season, beginning with a reunion with his former Texans teammates in Houston. In fact, four of the last six games are road games and they are as follows:
- Week 13: @ Houston Texans
- Week 14: @ Cincinnati Bengals
- Week 15: vs Baltimore Ravens
- Week 16: vs New Orleans Saints
- Week 17: @ Washington Commanders
- Week 18: @ Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s impossible to know what to expect from Watson in these last few games because one has to believe that the Browns’ record going into Week 13 will dictate the plan going forward and how they’ll utilize Watson down the stretch.
According to the NFL predictions, if the Browns are 1-10 ahead of their date with the Texans, no way will they risk their precious franchise quarterback unnecessarily in meaningless games.
Of course, if by some weird miracle, Stefanski manages to squeeze wins out of his 11-game-placeholder (Brissett), then it’ll be a different story altogether.
How will it all go, though?
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