The Cleveland Browns just received a serious body blow when it comes to their new quarterback. The legal issues Deshaun Watson has been facing for more than a year won't be resolved until at least 2023. That means the issues related to allegations sexual misconduct and assault leveled against him will hang over the franchise for at least another year.
On Tuesday it was reported that Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing 22 women suing Watson for sexual misconduct and sexual assault, and Rusty Hardin, Watson's defense attorney, haven't been able to agree on a number of issues. That has pushed the proceedings back so much that it would violate an agreed-upon moratorium set to last from August 1, 2022 to March 1, 2023.
Watson still has a number of depositions remaining and will have at least six in June alone. There's no way to get everything done and start the trials before the August 1 date. That means they'll all begin after March 1, 2023, just after Watson's first season with the Browns ends.
While it's nowhere near the most important aspect of this story, the Browns would almost certainly prefer Watson to just settle the lawsuits and put it behind him. He has steadfastly refused to do so. Now Browns officials, coaches and Watson's teammates will be asked about his issues continuously.
The Browns pushed all their chips in on the 26-year-old quarterback despite his troubling off-field issues. They sent first-round draft picks in 2022, 2023 and 2024, as well as a third-rounder in 2023, and fourth-rounders in 2022 and 2024 in exchange for Watson and a 2024 sixth-round pick. Then they handed Watson a five-year, $230 million deal that's fully guaranteed, making him the highest-paid player in NFL history. Given everything they gave up for him and the contract he received, Cleveland needs its new franchise quarterback on the field.
Trading for and signing Watson was a huge risk for the Browns that carried a tremendous downside. It appears they're going to have to deal with the repercussions through at least the 2022 season and possibly longer. The quarterback and the franchise will face endless scrutiny and these issues won't just be swept under the rug. Nor should they be.
The Browns chose this path knowing the issues. This kind of negative attention is fully deserved for all of the parties involved in this mess.