Deshaun Watson has been suspended by the NFL for the first 11 games of the 2022 season, and while the Cleveland Browns likely were hoping for a better outcome, the organization now is able to move forward with some answers.
Watson’s availability this season has been in question ever since the Browns traded for the Pro Bowl quarterback this offseason. He faced more than 20 civil lawsuits for sexual misconduct and has been suspended for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Despite settling, and despite releasing an initial statement that contradicted his own words during a press conference, he maintains his innocence and wants to move forward with his career.
Watson will return to the Browns for their Week 13 game against his former team, the Houston Texans.
Those answers, however, do prompt some more additional questions for Cleveland.
The first is in regards to how the Browns will handle their signal-caller position for the first 11 games. It was reported the Browns would consider trading for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo should Watson’s suspension be extended past the six games that were initially considered. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell pushed back with an appeal while indicating he thought Watson should be suspended the entire season.
The Browns currently have Jacoby Brissett behind Watson on the depth chart with Joshua Dobbs and Josh Rosen third and fourth, respectively. The Browns acknowledged how they were comfortable with moving forward with Brissett during a press conference Thursday, as shown on NFL Network, but given Cleveland’ss talented roster, a trade to better the team behind center might be worth consideration.
Another question that arises relates to how Watson’s 11-game suspension impacts Cleveland’s 2022 outlook.
The Browns finished third in the AFC North last season before missing the playoffs. And Cleveland does face stiff competition both in the AFC North and the conference as a whole.
The Browns currently have the third-best odds to win the division on DraftKings Sportsbook with Watson’s suspension reveal causing their prices to move from +300 Aug. 9 to +380 Thursday afternoon. Similarly, the Browns moved from 12-to-1 to win the AFC as of Aug. 9 to 20-to-1 following the league’s announcement Thursday. The Browns also had their Super Bowl futures move from 25-to-1 on Aug. 1 to 30-to-1 on DraftKings on Thursday. And FanDuel Sportsbook moved the juice on Cleveland’s win total from Under 8.5 (-130) to Under 8.5 (-160), which is a rather strong move as well.
In the big picture, though, Cleveland might opt not to go all-in on the 2022 campaign and ride with what they have until Watson returns.
The Browns traded for and extended Watson with the long term in the forefront of their mind. Owner Jimmy Haslam acknowledged just as much during Thursday’s press conference stating how Watson is just 26 years old and a “high-level NFL quarterback.” Haslam and the Browns seemingly put that above all else with the offseason trade. Now they’ll have to live with the public criticisms which come with it, after getting the answers they probably never wanted.