What the Deshaun Watson ruling means for the Browns

Deshaun Watson, Browns. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)
Deshaun Watson, Browns. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images) /

The NFL and NFLPA have reached a settlement on Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s suspension. Watson will miss 11 games and pay a $5 million fine.

The NFL and NFL Players Association have reached a settlement on the ruling of a suspension for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. This has been a dark cloud that has hung over Watson and the Browns since he joined the team via trade last spring.

In the original ruling, Watson was only set to miss six games and pay a $345,000 fine. However, after the appeal from the league, he will now face an 11-game suspension and a fine of $5 million.

For the sake of this article, the only thing that will be discussed in terms of the case is the ruling and where the Browns as a football team go from here to still keep the team’s goals alive.

How the Deshaun Watson settlement impacts the Browns

It’s undeniable that there will be an enormous drop-off in quarterback play from Watson to Jacoby Brissett. While Brissett is a very talented backup, Watson is arguably one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. In the 11 games that Watson will miss, the Browns will face the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Chargers, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

While Brissett could handle the first four games of the year, games five through 11 may end up being a much different story. That stretch in Cleveland’s schedule may be the toughest seven-week stretch that we see from any team this season. They are facing off against some of the best teams in the league, all of who will likely be in playoff contention at that point of the season the Browns play them.

It wouldn’t be extreme to believe Cleveland may have a 4-7 record by the time Watson returns to action. If that ends up being the case, there will be a lot of work to be done for the Browns to have a chance of sniffing the playoffs.

However, he won’t have quite the same strength of schedule that Brissett will have to take on in the middle of the year. Watson will be starting against the Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, Washington Commanders, and Pittsburgh Steelers. At worst, the Browns should only lose two games over the stretch of Watson being a starter.

As a result of this, Cleveland’s record will likely be 8-9 or 9-8 when the 2022 regular season concludes. With the AFC set to be as stacked as it is this season, it’s highly unlikely this record will get them into the playoffs. As a result of this, it has been rumored that a deal around sending Kareem Hunt to the San Francisco 49ers for quarterback Jimmy Garropolo has been rumored.

Garoppolo may be able to win the Browns enough games during the suspension that they’ll need to make their final push for the playoffs when Watson returns. However, Hunt has been an incredible weapon for the Browns during his time with the team.

There are conflicting reports on if he wants to remain in Cleveland or be moved to a new team, but it’s clear that he finally wants to be paid. If the Browns can make the cap space to keep Hunt, they should resign him and ride with Brisett during Watson’s suspension. However, if things cannot be worked out with Hunt, this trade provides a perfect “gap quarterback” to get the Browns through the season.

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