How Much Salary Will Deshaun Watson’s Suspension Cost Him?

Though Watson or the NFL could still appeal the ruling, Cleveland's quarterback is set to miss the first six games of the season

Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns rests after running a drill.
Deshaun Watson is set to miss a chunk of time for the Cleveland Browns.
Nick Cammett/Getty

In somewhat of a rarity in terms of timing, news leaked out on Monday morning that U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson has ruled Deshaun Watson should be suspended for six games for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy.

The ruling comes more than two years after the Cleveland Browns quarterback, who was a Texan until this past offseason, was hit with a civil lawsuit related to his alleged sexual misconduct toward a female massage therapist. That lawsuit was one of more than 20 that were ultimately filed by women against the 26-year-old, though he was never charged criminally for his alleged misconduct. (All but one of the lawsuits filed against Watson, including the original, have now been settled.)

As a result of Robinson’s ruling, which can be appealed by the NFL or Watson (though it seems the latter will not go that route), the former Clemson quarterback will forfeit his salary for the games that he misses due to suspension. As it stands now, Watson is only going to lose $345,000 of his $1.035 million salary for the 2022 season. For a player who has fully guaranteed salaries of $46 million for each of the next four seasons and had his deal for this year reworked so the financial impact of a suspension would be minimal, losing $345K doesn’t even qualify as a slap on the wrist. Robinson also could have imposed a fine on Watson, who sat out all of last season but did not lose his salary, to make things tougher on him, but chose not to. Perhaps this reasoning, while extremely confusing because any sort of sexual misconduct would seem violent by definition, is why.

That’s not to say that the ordeal and the suspension, whether it stands as is or not, won’t have an impact on Watson. He’s lost endorsements and fans and will likely never be the superstar that he was shaping up to be during his days in Houston as the NFL will be loath to promote him as one of the faces of the league. But, considering what he was accused of doing and essentially found guilty of, at least to some extent, by Robinson, Watson got off fairly lightly. At least that’s how most people see it.

Perhaps the perception that the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who has maintained his innocence and said any sex with the women was consensual, was not disciplined hardly enough will gain enough traction that the NFL will appeal Robinson’s ruling. Should that happen, the appeal would be handled by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or by his designee, per the 2020 collective bargaining agreement. The ensuing ruling would then be final.

The NFL has three days to appeal Robinson’s decision, which interestingly includes an unprecedented condition: Watson can only get massages from therapists on the Cleveland Browns’ staff moving forward. Stay tuned.

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