Sue L. Robinson, the joint disciplinary officer appointed by the NFL and the players’ union, is expected to rule Monday on whether Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy after allegations of sexual misconduct, sources told ESPN.
Meanwhile, Watson has agreed to settle three of the four remaining active civil lawsuits against him, Houston attorney Tony Boothbey told ESPN’s John Barr on Monday morning.
If former U.S. Magistrate Judge Robinson imposes any sentence, both sides will have three days to file a written appeal. In that case, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee “will issue a written decision that sets forth the full, final and complete disposition of the dispute pursuant to Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.”
The NFL Players Association already made it clear in a statement Sunday night that it will not appeal.
“Prior to Judge Robinson’s decision, we want to reiterate the facts of this process,” the union said in a statement. “First, we have fully cooperated with every NFL inquiry and provided the NFL with the most comprehensive set of information in any private conduct policy investigation. A former federal judge — appointed jointly by the NFLPA and the NFL — conducted a full and fair hearing, reading thousands of pages of investigative documents. and impartially reviewed both sides’ arguments. All players, owners, business partners and stakeholders need to know that our process is legal and will not be compromised by the whims of the league office. That’s why, regardless of her decision, DeShawn and the NFL are free from her decision. We stand by and call on the NFL to do the same.
Robinson heard arguments from the league, the union and Watson’s attorney during a three-day hearing in her home state of Delaware in late June. The parties discussed the possibility of a settlement pending trial, but were unable to agree on a settlement.
Sources told ESPN’s Dan Graziano that the league and Watson’s team had held more settlement talks in recent days, but neither side felt they had reached an agreement. Sources have indicated that a suspension in the range of six to eight games is what most of Watson’s team is willing to offer. The best the league has indicated it’s willing to offer is a 12-game suspension and a hefty fine — in the $8 million range, sources said.
Watson is accused of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior during a massage in a civil lawsuit filed by 25 women. The collisions cited in the lawsuits took place between March 2020 and March 2021, when Watson was a member of the Houston Texans. One of the 25 lawsuits was dismissed in April 2021, when the judge ruled that the plaintiffs would be able to amend their complaint to reveal their names. In June, Watson acquitted 20 of 24 charges; On Monday, Boothby, representing the women who sued Watson, agreed to settle three of the remaining four counts.
Last month, Texans reached a settlement with 30 women who filed claims or filed claims against the company.
Although two grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson earlier this year, the NFL has been investigating whether he violated its personal conduct policy since last year. The NFL interviewed Watson over several days earlier this summer. League investigators also spoke to several women.
Watson has consistently denied all wrongdoing and says he has no remorse for his actions during the massage sessions. Watson also said he cooperated with the NFL investigation and “truthfully answered all the questions” asked by the league’s investigators.
The Browns traded for Watson in March, sending three first-round draft picks to Texas. Cleveland then gave Watson a new five-year contract worth $230 million and fully guaranteed, the richest deal for any player in NFL history.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said last week that if Watson is suspended, Jacoby Brissett will be Cleveland’s starter. The Browns had Sunday off from training camp but are scheduled to resume practice on Monday.
CBS Sports first reported that Robinson’s decision is expected Monday.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fuller and The Associated Press contributed to this report.