Deshaun Watson

Browns Rumors: Hunt, Watson

Browns running back Kareem Hunt is heading into a contract year for the 2022 NFL season, after only appearing in eight games last year. Mary Kay Cabot of spoke on the contract situation, reporting that it seems very up in the air for now.

Hunt entered the 2021 season as the back up to Nick Chubb, racking up 361 rushing yards, along with five touchdowns before suffering a calf injury that would land him on injured reserve. He appeared in two more games after returning from injured reserve, but sat for the last four games of the season.

Cabot posits that if negotiations can be dealt with before camp is underway, it would bode well for Cleveland’s chances to keep the Hunt-Chubb tandem together. If no deal is reached by the time the season starts, though, it would be much less likely that Hunt stays in the orange and brown.

Hunt showed in Kansas City that he can be a lead back, and, with Nick Chubb firmly planted above him on the depth chart, Hunt may be willing to let this year be an audition to other teams to show that he is healthy and ready to take over lead-back responsibilities once again.

Here are a few more rumors from Cleveland, these concerning newly acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson:

  • Cleveland turned a lot of heads when they gave up a package that included three first-round draft picks to acquire Watson and then gave him a fully-guaranteed contract for $230MM, despite the 22 civil lawsuits he faces for alleged sexual misconduct and sexual assault. Mike Sando of The Athletic heard from several executives from around the NFL who thought the moved reeked of desperation. Many thought the deal showed team owner Jimmy Haslam putting head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry in a bind, forcing a move the two likely wouldn’t otherwise have made. They claim the move gives Watson undue power to force decisions and do whatever he wants, saying he “doesn’t need to listen to anybody.” One executive said that rewarding Watson with the fully-guaranteed contract basically was a statement that all of his publicized issues don’t matter.
  • Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic enlisted the help of Jason Fitzgerald, operator of, to talk about some of the deals made around the NFL this offseason. Fitzgerald addressed the opinion that Watson’s legal situation being ignored in the awarding of his fully-guaranteed contract will set a new precedent for guaranteed contacts around the league. “I don’t think it will,” Fitzgerald said. He continued, “I know I’m in the minority on that…He was basically a free agent. The Texans said, ‘Go out and sell yourself to these teams.’ And that was what he did…Deshaun Watson was essentially a free agent. I don’t think there’s any other quarterbacks that ever make it to free agency to where they’re even gonna have that opportunity.” He compared the situation to Kirk Cousins, when he signed his first fully-guaranteed deal, ignoring the obvious publicity issues that come with Watson’s situation. He even mentioned earlier in the article that he saw Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson pursuing a situation that will play out similar to Cousins’. So it’s strange that a couple teams later in the article, he would claim that the precedent doesn’t matter because he thinks it likely won’t happen again. Regardless, Fitzgerald seemed to acknowledge that a precedent may have been set, but minimized the importance of that precedent on the assumption that similar situations would be few and far between.

NFL Expected To Seek Second Deshaun Watson Meeting

The NFL’s Deshaun Watson investigation has entered its final stages, but the league has not wrapped up one of its key prongs. The Browns quarterback met with NFL investigators this week in Houston. New information will be presented to the public soon, and the league is expected to seek a second meeting with Watson, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Watson attorney Rusty Hardin told Cabot the NFL is aiming to end its investigation in June or July. No firm timetable exists. Several of Watson’s accusers spoke with HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel for a piece that will air Tuesday. The women interviewed detail their allegations and reactions to Watson being given a five-year, $230MM fully guaranteed contract despite being embroiled in this controversy.

The league’s investigation will almost certainly wrap up before the 22 women who have accused Watson of sexual assault and/or sexual misconduct have concluded their depositions in his civil trial. That could set up a scenario in which the NFL levies a suspension this summer but leaves the prospect of additional punishment — similar to the league’s 2020 Antonio Brown ban, which was announced in late July of 2020 — coming to pass based on the civil cases. No second punishment occurred in Brown’s case, and he returned to play after his eight-game ban.

Watson has given several civil depositions and will give two more in late June. No depositions will take place between August 1 and March 1, according to Cabot, with both sides agreeing to not proceed during the Browns’ season.

Twenty-four women have accused Watson of these crimes, though two of the accusers are not part of the civil suit. Two Texas grand juries cleared Watson, who awaits the outcome of the civil cases and his NFL fate. The 26-year-old QB is not engaged in settlement talks, Hardin adds.

NFL Officials To Meet With Deshaun Watson

There will be an important step in the ongoing NFL investigation into Deshaun Watson in the coming days. CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson reports (on Twitter) that league officials will meet with him in Texas this week. 

The news comes not long after the civil suits the quarterback is still facing were amended to include counts of negligence and gross negligence. While it remains to be seen what effect doing so will have on the overall outcome of Watson’s upcoming legal proceedings, it was seen as a victory for the plaintiffs with respect to discovery and a wider range of potential punishments.

The NFL investigation remains, of course, separate from the case, which has on two occasions resulted in no criminal charges being filed. The question of whether or not the 26-year-old violated the league’s Personal Conduct Policy remains unanswered, and this sit-down represents the next step in the investigation. A suspension is still a possibility at this point, though it is widely believed Watson will not land on the Commissioner’s Exempt List.

A league spokesperson said, “We will decline comment as the review is active and ongoing” (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport). While this is a significant step towards a final disciplinary decision being made, the league still has months between now and the beginning of the season to arrive at that decision. Any trial proceedings resulting from the civil cases, meanwhile, will not take place between August 1 of this year and March 1 of 2023, to avoid overlap with the NFL season.

Latest On Lawsuits Against Browns QB Deshaun Watson

Two of the 22 women who have filed suit against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson have amended their claims to include counts of negligence and gross negligence, as Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today reported last month. In addition to creating more grounds for financial recovery, those claims allow the plaintiffs to propound more discovery, and the gross negligence claim carries with it the possibility of punitive damages.

As Schrotenboer noted in a separate piece, almost all of the lawsuits already included counts of civil assault and infliction of emotional distress, and other suits could be amended to include the negligence-based claims as well. Essentially, those claims allege that Watson “knew of his sexual proclivities in massage settings” but did not take steps to prevent those proclivities from manifesting or to warn the plaintiffs of them.

David Ring, a Los Angeles-based attorney who has represented sexual assault victims and whom Schrotenboer consulted for his article, acknowledges that the new claims represent something of a reach (“how does a person negligently have a massage?” Ring wondered). Nonetheless, they have already helped the plaintiffs achieve an important discovery-related victory. The parties were battling over whether Watson should be compelled to list all women that gave him massages since 2019, and the court ruled that he must do just that, as such a list could be relevant to proving Watson’s alleged proclivities.

Shortly after the suits were filed against Watson, the quarterback’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, publicly released a list of 18 other therapists who had sessions with Watson but who had no issues with him. The plaintiffs, though, want to know more about those sessions, along with sessions Watson might have scheduled with women aside from the 18 therapists and 22 plaintiffs. If Watson had sexual relations with them, that could bolster the argument that he routinely scheduled massage sessions with sexual intentions, and it will make the plaintiffs’ claims more believable.

So even if the legal theory behind the amended suits is shaky, the plaintiffs might still be backing Watson into a corner, as Ring and South Texas College of Law Houston professor Kenneth Williams believe. Although plenty of harm has already been done to Watson’s reputation, he was still able to land a historic contract from Cleveland and can begin taking steps towards redemption if he settles these cases quickly and avoids further revelations of (at best) embarrassing and (at worst) predatory behavior.

Per Adam Ferrise of, the trial of this matter is unlikely to take place before August 1, and the parties have agreed that no trial will be scheduled between August 1 and March 1, 2023, so as to avoid conflict with the football season. As such, if the cases ultimately proceed to trial, there will be no resolution until sometime next year.

Latest On Browns QB Baker Mayfield

Baker Mayfield is on his way out in Cleveland, and the quarterback is starting to speak his mind about the entire situation. After being bumped to the trade block following the Browns’ acquisition of Deshaun Watson, Mayfield stated that he’s felt disrespected throughout the whole ordeal.

[RELATED: “No Market” For Baker Mayfield]

“I feel disrespected 100% because I was told one thing and they completely did another,” Mayfield said during his appearance on the “Ya Neva Know: You Know What I Mean?” podcast (via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal). “That’s what I’m in the middle of right now. And you know what? OK. I got my taste of it because I’ve had four different head coaches in four years, a bunch of different coordinators. I’ve had the highs, and they always come back.”

Mayfield is referring to statements made by Andrew Berry back in January, when the GM said he fully expected the former first-overall pick to be under center for Cleveland in 2022. Things have obviously changed following the blockbuster acquisition of Watson, and while it hasn’t been explicitly stated, there’s no way the Browns enter next season with Mayfield still on the roster.

We heard recently that the Browns were struggling to find a suitor for Mayfield, but Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes that neither side wants this tension to linger deep into the offseason. In fact, the reporter believes we could get a resolution in the coming weeks. So where could Mayfield land? The quarterback has some of his own theories.

“Um … Seattle?” Mayfield said during his podcast appearance (via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times). “I mean it’d probably be the most likely option. But even then, I have no idea.”

Latest On Browns’ Deshaun Watson

None of the lawsuits against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will go to trial during the season, Adam Ferrise of the Cleveland Plain Dealer hears. It’s still possible that Watson’s 22 accusers could call him to court, but those trials won’t take place between August 1 of this year and March 1 of 2023, per the agreement struck by the lawyers handling the matter. 

[RELATED: Details On Watson’s Fully Guaranteed Deal]

It remains to be seen whether Watson would face 22 separate trials or one trial to consolidate them all. Watson’s camp would prefer the latter and, based on the previous round of talks, would only consider settling with all 22 accusers at once. Publicly, Watson’s reps say that they’re not looking to settle at all.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has kept the door open to suspension, though Watson is on track to take the field in Week 1 as of this writing.

“The civil cases were in play over the last year,” Goodell said recently. “The only thing that’s changed is the criminal element has been at least resolved, and that was an important element in the context of the Commissioner Exempt List as discussed with the Players Association. So that was an important (decision as it relates to the Commissioner Exempt List).

“If the criminal had proceeded, that more than likely would have triggered the Commissioner Exempt. I think at this point, the civil case in and of itself would not do that. If there’s a violation of the Personal Conduct Policy, that may trigger something, but that more than likely trigger some kind of discipline in some fashion.”

Anticipating a suspension at some juncture, the Browns reduced Watson’s 2022 base salary to $1MM. That’ll significantly limit the hit will face if/when the quarterback is penalized.

Deshaun Watson Could Be Suspended For Only Four Games; “No Market” For Baker Mayfield

We recently heard that new Browns QB Deshaun Watson would not end up on the Commissioner’s Exempt list since he will not be criminally charged in connection with the sexual assault allegations for which he is still facing 22 civil suits. And, as Mary Kay Cabot of writes, the absence of criminal charges may also help Watson avoid a lengthy suspension.

Per Cabot, league investigators will view the grand jury non-indictments as “mitigating factors” when it comes to doling out punishment to the embattled passer. A suspension may not be put in place until the civil matter is resolved — and Cleveland will not pressure Watson to settle the suits — but when the NFL’s investigation concludes and a decision is made, Cabot hears that Watson could be hit with a six-game ban that gets reduced to four games.

That would obviously count as a huge victory for the Browns, who gave up a bounty of draft capital and a market-altering contract to acquire Watson in a move that many pundits have classified as desperate. Winning, though, has a way of rewriting history, and if Watson escapes all of his legal troubles with only a four-game suspension (at least as far as on-field ramifications are concerned), Cleveland will have a very good chance of winning in 2022 and beyond.

Of course, the Browns are still rostering Baker Mayfield, an awkward reality that would become even more awkward if they are forced to retain him throughout the 2022 season. GM Andrew Berry recently said he would be willing to do so, but that surely is just a bit of posturing. Berry obviously wants to trade the former No. 1 overall pick, and he is content to wait until a starting quarterback on another club suffers an injury and creates a QB need for that club. According to Cabot, Berry may need to do just that, because there is “no market” for Mayfield at this point.

Still, Cabot says Berry does not want to give Mayfield away or include one of his own draft picks in a trade to entice another team to assume Mayfield’s contract. She writes that the plan remains to have newly-signed QB Jacoby Brissett, and not Mayfield, operate as the starting signal-caller in the event of a Watson suspension. The one-year deal that Brissett signed with the Browns last month has a base value of $4.65MM, almost all of which ($4.5MM) is guaranteed, as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network tweets. Brissett will have a chance to earn more via incentives, including, perhaps, play-time incentives that could be realized if/when Brissett stands in for Watson.

One more item on Mayfield: his disenchantment with the Browns was intensified in the wake of a report that surfaced prior to the Watson trade indicating that the team was looking for “an adult” at the quarterback position (thus implying that Mayfield is not, in fact, an adult). Per team owner Jimmy Haslam, that comment did not come from the Cleveland front office (Twitter link via Jeff Schudel of the News-Herald).

Browns Won’t Push Deshaun Watson To Settle Suits

Deshaun Watson has a brand new team, but he still has 22 civil lawsuits to face. While other interested clubs wanted Watson to settle those suits before a potential trade, the Browns will not push him to do the same, as Mary Kay Cabot of writes. 

[RELATED: Latest On Browns, Mayfield]

That’s up to them,’’ owner Jimmy Haslam said. “He feels very strongly that he did nothing wrong. We have confidence in Deshaun and his legal team. They’ll make good decisions.”

That’s been the position of Watson’s camp too — the quarterback maintains that his overall innocence and refuses to settle. The Browns — who have furnished Watson with a fully guaranteed $230MM contract — are on board with that plan.

In the meantime, the NFL will hold off on any possible suspension. The league office wants to avoid a situation where they levy a suspension, then have to adjust it later based on new information. Still, their own investigation continues – at least ten of the 22 women have filed suit against Watson have spoken with NFL officials.

Watson’s contract calls for just $1MM in base pay this year, which would limit any fines imposed against him. Most of Watson’s 2022 money has already been delivered / placed in escrow by way of his signing bonus.

While the Browns wait to see how that all shakes out, they’ll work to find a suitable trade for former starter Baker Mayfield.

Haslam: Browns GM Proposed Fully Guaranteed Deshaun Watson Deal

The Browns’ decision to make a major quarterback upgrade has generated multifront pushback, given Deshaun Watson‘s off-field trouble and the contract structure’s effect on other teams’ future QB negotiations. The fully guaranteed $230MM did not surface until late in the process.

Watson initially rejected the Browns, and Jimmy Haslam said third-year GM Andrew Berry approached him with a radical idea to put the team back in the mix for the Pro Bowl passer. Berry pitched the idea of a fully guaranteed contract to move the needle, Haslam said. The result: a five-year deal that saw the Browns break the NFL’s record for fully guaranteed money authorized by $80MM.

I don’t how much Andrew knew,” Haslam said of other teams’ contract offers, via the Akron Beacon Journal’s Nate Ulrich. “First of all, I don’t know what’s accurate. [Berry] just said, ‘Would we consider fully guaranteeing it?’ OK. What’s that mean? When’s the money due? Do you do four versus five [years]. Can we make this work? And he got us comfortable with that.”

Although four teams were finalists for Watson, it appears just one was willing to go to this extreme place. Watson refusing to waive his no-trade clause for the Browns may well have centered on Cleveland’s weather compared to the three NFC South cities in this mix. Browns co-owner Dee Haslam said Wednesday she believed this was the case. While Berry’s fully guaranteed pitch is quite the step to convince a quarterback to play in northeast Ohio, Watson had three other teams pursuing him.

The Falcons were on the verge of landing the Atlanta-area native, appearing to finish second ahead of the Saints and Panthers in this unusual pursuit. The Panthers were not comfortable guaranteeing the final two years of Watson’s contract, Ulrich adds, and Arthur Blank did not make it sound like the Falcons were prepared to authorize this landmark guarantee, either. Blank said the Falcons were only doing due diligence when they met with Watson, though the team being later reported as on the verge of landing him would contradict the owner’s view of his team’s interest.

You have to leave that to Jimmy and Dee Haslam, to make their own judgment,” Blank said, via USA Today’s Jarrett Bell. “The fact it’s $80MM above the highest contract ever given, guaranteed, in the history of the league, 102 years old, says a lot. Whether most teams in the NFL or any other team in the NFL would have committed to that contract, I don’t know. That certainly is a huge commitment.”

It is interesting contract matters played into these talks, considering Watson had only played one season on the $39MM-per-year deal he signed with the Texans in 2020. Technically, Watson was tied to that contract for two years, since Houston deactivated him throughout the 2021 season. But that Texans deal ran through 2025. Watson having a no-trade clause gave him considerable power, and the bidding war led to the Browns making an offer he could not refuse.

Latest On Potential Deshaun Watson Discipline

Two grand juries didn’t criminally charge Deshaun Watson with any crimes, but the Browns’ new quarterback still faces 22 civil lawsuits that will make him subject to discipline. Commissioner Roger Goodell said today that there’s no timetable on potential discipline for the QB, but he did keep the door open for a suspension, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Meanwhile, Charean Williams of relays that Watson will only be subject to a suspension under the Personal Conduct Policy, meaning the QB won’t land on the Commissioner Exempt List.

[RELATED: Latest On Deshaun Watson Investigation]

“The civil cases were in play over the last year,” Goodell said (via Williams). “The only thing that’s changed is the criminal element has been at least resolved, and that was an important element in the context of the Commissioner Exempt List as discussed with the Players Association. So that was an important (decision as it relates to the Commissioner Exempt List).

“If the criminal had proceeded, that more than likely would have triggered the Commissioner Exempt. I think at this point, the civil case in and of itself would not do that. If there’s a violation of the Personal Conduct Policy, that may trigger something, but that more than likely trigger some kind of discipline in some fashion.”

Watson still faces 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault. We heard previously that the NFL was unlikely to act on a Watson suspension until his civil trials conclude. The league’s investigation is ongoing. Anticipating a suspension, the Browns previously reduced Watson’s 2022 base salary to $1MM, which will significantly limit the financial penalties the quarterback will face if/once the NFL’s ban is handed down.