Praise can be hard to come by in the NFL.
From division opponents, it’s even rarer.
But DJ Reader of the Cincinnati Bengals, division rival of the Cleveland Browns, lauded March’s signing of Deshaun Watson.
In fact, Reader made it clear that he views Watson’s addition as a net positive for the entire team:
“They got a lot better, he’s a really good player. He was like Michael Jordan that one time. That’s my brother. I love Deshaun. He has made some special memories for me as a player watching him. Being on the other side, I’ve been blessed to play with some good quarterbacks as of late.”
Watson or Watsoff?
While Reader’s comments are nice, it remains to be seen how much better the Browns will be with Watson on the roster.
He’s an undeniably talented player, no question.
That’s not the issue.
It’s a matter of will he actually play for the team this season.
Watson faces 22 civil suits for sexual harassment and assault, and the league has yet to weigh in with its own punishment.
Recall back in 2010, when Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger was dealing with a similar situation.
At that point, no criminal case was underway (like present-day Watson), but he still faced a civil suit.
The league suspended Roethlisberger six games, which was ultimately cut to four.
In an offseason where the league has happily doled out partial season suspensions for PEDs (DeAndre Hopkins) and total season bans for gambling (Calvin Ridley), it will be interesting (and telling) to see where the league comes down on Watson.
The league has shown an inexcusable callousness with sexual and domestic misconduct in the past.
Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens (yet another AFC North rival), received only a two-game suspension for violating the league’s domestic violence policy in 2014.
He was later suspended indefinitely by the league and shortly thereafter reinstated following an appeal.
Will the NFL come down on Watson similarly, with a light punishment?
Or will the league set a clearer example with Watson, suspending him for half a season or more?
Based on Commissioner Goodell’s comments, it might be awhile before we know.
Based off Roger Goodell’s prior comments, it seems like the #Browns will have Deshaun Watson for the entire 2022 season. https://t.co/sOQgVlhUjY
— Nick Pedone (@NickPedone12) May 9, 2022
But what is obvious is that the team should be prepared to watch snaps from backup Jacoby Brissett.
I wouldn’t exactly call Brissett one of the “good quarterbacks” that Reader has been “blessed to play with.”
He’s a warm body, but Brissett is far from the quarterback the Browns will need if they want to return to the playoffs.
That’s even more the case in a crowded AFC.
On a positive note, the Browns are tied with the best odds to win the division, per Fanduel.
On a not-so-positive note, the team will face two games against the Ravens and Bengals, the latter of which went to the Super Bowl last season.
And Reader seems pretty confident the Bengals are the team to beat.
DJ Reader on the AFC North: “It goes through us right now. Until someone comes and takes it, it goes through us.”
— Marisa Contipelli (@BengalsMarisa) May 10, 2022
And don’t think a wildcard spot is going to cut it.
The loaded AFC West, with perennial playoff QBs in Russell Wilson, Derek Carr, Justin Herbert, and Patrick Mahomes might make a run for all three wildcard spots.
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