On Monday, the Browns and NFL world finally got the news they had been bracing for and anxiously expecting for some time.
NFL Disciplinary Officer Sue Robinson officially handed down a suspension for Deshaun Watson.
Per NFL insider Ian Rappoport, Watson will sit out six games this season.
The decision came over a month after Robinson heard both Watson’s and the NFL’s arguments.
And while six games are hardly anything light, it’s a far cry from the full-season suspension the NFL sought.
And it’s even less than the eight games the Browns were bracing for.
So now what?
The NFL world has lived with this Watson story hanging over it for over a year.
Before coming to the Browns in March, Watson sat out the entire 2021-22 season.
Initially, he wanted a trade out of Houston.
But shortly after demanding a trade, allegations of severe sexual misconduct came to light.
While Watson sat out, that number swelled to twenty, with some two-dozen alleging very similar and disturbing conduct while Watson was with the Texans.
Nonetheless, the Browns traded for Watson, forking over a bevy of draft capital (including three first round picks).
Parties involved in the disciplinary hearing for #Browns QB Deshaun Watson have been informed by Judge Sue Robinson that Watson should be suspended 6 games, sources say.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 1, 2022
The team then gave Watson a five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million deal.
All the while, the specter of suspension and fan outrage swirled in the ether.
On Monday, the next chapter in this story was written.
And while an official suspension might sometimes bring a level of closure, there’s still a chance this isn’t the final say.
Both Watson and the NFL can appeal the decision to Commissioner Roger Goodell, who can then extend or abbreviate the punishment.
The NFLPA already announced it will not appeal the suspension.
The NFL, on the other hand, may well appeal with the hopes of extending the suspension.
But the Commissioner may well not want to exercise those powers on the first case after the NFL’s newest CBA took unilateral suspension power out of his hands.
That’s what the NFL is dealing with right now.
Do they extend the suspension, getting what they want?
Or do they let the suspension be and put their hands up saying, “we did what we could”?
The league has three days to decide.
If Watson’s suspension isn’t altered, then he will return in Week Seven against the Baltimore Ravens.
By that point, the Browns will have played the Patriots, Chargers, Falcons, Steelers, Jets, and Panthers.
In theory, backup Jacoby Brissett should have a fairly easy going.
Of those six squads, only the Chargers and Patriots enter this season with any real expectations.
Frankly, it’s likely the best the Browns could have hoped for.
Difference between Calvin Rildley & Deshaun Watson:
Judge Robinson, who was approved by the NFL & NFLPA, recommended 6 games. NFL wanted a full season.
The NFL (not a judge) suspended Ridley for a full season.
The NFL could step in with Watson and appeal. We'll see if they do.
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) August 1, 2022
But it’s also a questionable punishment for Watson.
Yes, it’s on par with the precedent established by Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension years ago.
But the NFL sought a full-season ban.
Watson wanted no suspension.
Why not meet in the middle at eight games?
Further, Watson will face no fine.
And Watson will be allowed to participate fully in team activities this season since his suspension is less than one year.
Oh, and what about Calvin Ridley?
Ridley was suspended an entire season for betting on games that he didn’t even play in.
Precedent might say that Watson’s actions merit far less of a suspension than Ridley’s.
But everything else, including ethics, justice, and common sense, begs to differ.