However, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wouldn’t offer the team clarity on what the league plans to do with Watson.
"There does not need to be a criminal violation to be a violation of the personal conduct policy."
Roger Goodell speaks on the NFL's investigation and possible suspension of Deshaun Watson. pic.twitter.com/KuuqUiItLB
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) March 29, 2022
The murkiness of the situation puts the Browns 2022 NFL season plans in jeopardy.
They traded for Watson to replace current starting quarterback Baker Mayfield.
However, that move didn’t set well with Mayfield.
He now wants out of Cleveland in a time where they might need him if Watson gets suspended.
-Browns FO flew to Houston to meet with Watson
-Mayfield writes his letter.
-Thursday the Browns are "eliminated" as a destination for Watson
-Baker asks for a trade
-An hour later the Browns deny his trade request
-Today the Browns are trading for Watson
— New Year Same Bad Takes (@wrongopinionman) March 18, 2022
Watson Avoids Criminal Charges But Faces Civil Cases
The Browns knew about all the criminal cases that were pending with Watson before they made the trade.
Grand juries would dismiss those charges, taking the pressure of a criminal case off Watson.
However, Watson still faces a civil lawsuit battle against the same people that accused him of criminal sexual assault.
Because of this, the NFL is still investigating Watson based on those civil lawsuits.
So until either the NFL or the legal system make a ruling, Watson’s future remains in limbo.
Goodell Won’t Have The Final Say In Watson Matter
The decision on what happens to Watson doesn’t fall on Goodell.
There is a disciplinary officer that is in charge of the Watson investigation by the NFL.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on investigation into Deshaun Watson: "Our people are working on it. That determination will be made by a joint disciplinary officer. She will make that decision when the facts are all in. There is no timeframe on that."
— 92.3 The Fan (@923TheFan) March 29, 2022
The new CBA that was enacted in 2020 took the power away from Goodell in situations like this one.
That can be both good news and bad news for Watson and the Browns as they remain in the dark.
The good news is that if the investigator rules in favor of Watson, the NFL can’t punish Watson.
However, the bad news is that if they find him guilty of violating NFL policy, only Goodell can overturn the decision.
There might be pressure on Goodell to not overturn an unfavorable decision by the independent investigator.
Should The Browns Keep Mayfield As A Backup Plan?
With Watson facing a possibility of suspension, most people would find it wise to keep Mayfield around.
However, we already know that he wants out of Cleveland and most likely wouldn’t play if they asked him.
Plus, the team signed former Indianapolis Colts starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
While he isn’t a top tier quarterback, he can fill in if the Browns call his number.
Keeping Mayfield around only makes matters worse for the team.
They have to pay his contract, so trading him away could save them cap space.
A trade also gives them a chance to get players they need at other positions.
Brissett is the better option for having someone fill in for Watson.
How Long Could Watson Be Out For If Suspended?
The primary concern of the Browns and their fans is how long Watson will be out for if suspended.
Looking at a similar situation with Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers could give us an answer.
Big Ben got a six-game suspension in 2010 over a sexual assault case that was dismissed.
He would appeal the suspension and only serve a four-game suspension.
If the past is any sign of the future, I’d say look for Watson to miss four to six games in 2022.