Shortly before the NFL and Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson agreed to his punishment in a settlement, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell passionately said that Watson deserved at least a year suspension, citing “egregious” and “predatory” behavior.
Obviously, something changed because Watson and the NFL agreed to an 11-game suspension and $5 million fine due to the Browns’ quarterback’s sexual misconduct charges. And Peter King of Pro Football Talk might have just found the reason why.
According to King, a “prominent team executive” told him that other team owners in the league did not want Watson suspended for a year.
“I think there were multiple owners who didn’t want Deshaun Watson suspended for the season, and told Roger Goodell that.”
While this logic might seem counterintuitive because you would expect them to want the most substantial possible punishment for an opposing quarterback, the reason is actually a little more nuanced. Because if Watson is punished for less than a year, the Browns are arguably punished even more than a longer suspension, due to Watson’s contract.
“If Watson was banned for the year, his contract would have rolled over into 2023, and the Browns would have had him for an extra season—through the 2027 season,” King wrote. “By Watson playing part of this season, his contract now expires after the 2026 season, and the Browns will owe him $40 million for being eligible to play a meager six games in 2022. The way NFL contracts work is if a player doesn’t play in a season because he either chooses to sit out or is suspended for the year, the contract “tolls,’’ or is pushed back one season.”
Whether or not those owners influenced Goodell’s decision, they got their wish.