NFL and NFLPA reached a solution on Thursday regarding the discipline of Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Watson is suspended for Cleveland’s first 11 regular season games without pay and fined $5 million. He must also undergo a mandatory evaluation by behavioral experts and follow their treatment plan.

The settlement is the final resolution of the disciplinary process, ending the NFL’s appeal of the six-game suspension without a fine disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, who was appointed jointly by the NFL and the NFLPA, had imposed on Watson. Robinson found Watson in violation by engaging in sexual assault, conduct that poses an actual risk to the safety and well-being of another person and conduct that undermines or endangers the integrity of the NFL in its 16-page decision. The settlement bars the NFLPA from pursuing legal remedies through the federal court system.

Before the settlement, the NFL had sought an indefinite suspension where Watson could apply for reinstatement after a year from Peter C. Harvey, who had been selected by commissioner Roger Goodell to handle the appeal. The 11-game suspension is the longest suspension ever imposed under the personal conduct policy for sexual misconduct. What’s not known is whether Robinson’s mandate that Watson’s massage therapy be limited to team-approved massage therapists for the rest of his career remains. Watson’s punishment is in line with what the NFL was seeking in settlement talks that took place before Robinson’s decision. The NFLPA rejected the NFL’s reported offer of a 12-game suspension and a $10 million fine.

Watson’s suspension takes effect Aug. 30 when the final 53-man roster reduction is made for NFL teams. Under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, Watson will be allowed to return to team facilities and will be allowed to participate in limited activities during the second half of the suspension under conditions similar to players suspended under the performance-enhancing substance policy. of the NFL. On Oct. 10, the day after the Browns’ Week 5 contest against the Chargers, his permitted activities will include attending team meetings, working out individually with Browns strength and conditioning coach, meeting individually with Browns coach Kevin Stefanski , offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and quarterbacks coach Drew Petzing and treatment/rehabilitation by the Browns’ medical staff and coaches. Watson will be able to practice during the final two weeks of the suspension beginning on November 14. The suspension will be lifted on November 28. Watson will be eligible to play in the Browns’ Week 13 game against the Texans, Watson’s former team, on Dec. 4. His return will be in Week 13 instead of Week 12 because Cleveland has a Week 9 bye.

Many other NFL teams feel the five-year, $230 million, fully guaranteed contract Watson signed in March as part of his trade from the Texans was structured in a way designed to minimize the financial fallout. of suspension. No pay refers to basic pay with suspensions. Watson received a $44.965 million signing bonus and his base salary for 2022 is $1.035 million, his league minimum base salary in the deal. He forfeits $632,500 (or 11/18 of his $1.035 million 2022 base salary) as he makes $57,500 each of the 18 weeks in the regular season.

The Browns will receive $632,500 in 2022 cap relief from the base salary that Watson will not earn due to the suspension. Apparently, $57,500 from Week 9 will be treated as suspensions under the NFL substance abuse policy. It must be paid in equal installments over the remainder of the season after Watson serves his suspension. Watson’s contract does not end with his 11-game suspension. His contract years will run as intended, meaning his deal ends after the 2026 season. His salary figures from 2023 through 2026 will each remain at $54.993 million ($46 million in base salary and $8.993 million in pro rata signing bonus).

Had there not been a settlement where Harvey would have given Watson the one-year suspension the NFL was demanding his contract would have paid. Essentially, Watson’s contract would have been frozen and restarted in 2023 with pay. His 2022 contract year would have become his 2023 contract year and the additional years on the contract would also have been pushed back a year. Instead of Watson’s contract expiring after the 2026 season, it would have ended after 2027. Although the contract would have been pushed back a year, the $8.993 million per year signing bonus percentage from 2022 through 2026 would had remained intact.

None of Watson’s $44.935 million signing bonus is at risk, thanks to language in the contract. Watson’s salary guarantees won’t be voided, either. Contract guarantees are usually void for an exhaustive list of defaults by a player. After the cancellation, the player would still have the opportunity to earn the salary that is no longer guaranteed on a non-guaranteed basis.

The relevant language for the Watson signing bonus is as follows:

” … a suspension by the NFL solely with respect to matters provided to the Club in writing pursuant to Paragraph 42 that results in the Player being unavailable to the Club solely for games during the 2022 or 2023 NFL League years shall not subject the Player to forfeiture of the Signing Bonus.”

Without that language, the Browns would have been entitled to ask Watson for one-eighth of the $8.993 million signing bonus attributable to the 2022 salary cap for each week of the 18-week regular season missed with the suspension. 11 matches. The Browns would have the ability to recoup $5,495,722 (or 11/18 of $8.993 million) from Watson.

The relevant language preventing the disclaimer of Watson’s warranties is below:

“…shall not constitute a failure or refusal to practice or play with the Club and the Player shall not be in absentia if: … (iii) the Player is suspended only in respect of matters disclosed to the Club in writing in accordance with Paragraph 42 resulting in the player being unavailable to the Club for games only during the 2022 or 2023 NFL years.”

The language is significant because it prevents the Browns from getting out of the contract without massive consequences due to known misconduct before the trade. In other words, the Browns can’t get out of the deal because of allegations stemming from the suspension of the personal conduct policy. Practically, the Browns would not have during the early part of the contract if possible after giving up first-round picks in 2022, 2023 and 2024, a fourth-round pick in 2022, a third-round pick in 2023 and a fourth-round pick in 2024 picks to get Watson and a 2024 sixth-round pick.

The suspension puts to bed a 17-month ordeal that will not be easily forgotten. Watson still maintained his innocence Thursday, despite what Robinson called his behavior predatory and “more egregious than any previously reviewed by the NFL,” largely disappointing. Last week’s apology rings hollow and seems like something he did specifically to get a settlement.

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