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With all but four civil lawsuits settled, NFL decision looms for Browns QB DeShaun Watson

Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson has been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault by several women.
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Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson has been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault by several women.

Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShaun Watson has settled all but four of 24 civil suits from women accusing him of sexual misconduct during massage appointments. Watson, who signed a fully guaranteed, five-year, $230 million contract with the Browns in March, has denied any wrongdoing. Two grand juries in Texas declined to file charges.

Commentator Terry Pluto says the settlement was expected.

"At some point, he was going to have to settle. I'm a little surprised that came this soon. But it was just posturing when he said, 'I want to clear my name.' That that was just not true at all, because a year ago they offered to try to settle, the Watson camp did. And they were not able to work a settlement. This time, they did," he said.

What do the settlements mean for Deshaun Watson and for the Browns?

"If these civil cases had lingered on, there was a chance that the NFL would put Watson on paid leave for all 2022, because the cases were not supposed to go to court until March of 2023. And then in 2023, when those civil cases went to court, he could still get suspended. So that would have been a nightmare for the Browns and for Watson. Meantime, I think probably a number of the women involved in this wanted to get it over with and get whatever settlement they could. The Browns, I'm sure, were pushing Watson to settle," Pluto said.

Now it's up the NFL to rules on a possible suspension, and the league issued a statement saying that the settlements will have no impact on its decision.

"Some people's will say [Watson] didn't get charged criminally. The cases are settled. Let's play ball. You've got to look at how the NFL operates. It's not just a matter of whether you are criminally guilty or not. The league can do what it wants," Pluto said.

"The fact that there were no criminal charges filed doesn't preclude the NFL taking any action at all."
Terry Pluto

Pluto cites some recent examples:

"Tom Brady deflated footballs — not exactly a criminal offense — got suspended four games. Myles Garrett — that brawl he had on the field with Mason Rudolph, the Steelers quarterback, and he hit Rudolph with the helmet. No criminal charges, but he got [suspended] six games. Kareem Hunt had an altercation with a woman. There were no criminal charges filed. He was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs. He sat out about eight or 10 games there where he didn't get paid and then when he was reinstated, immediately got hit with an eight-game suspension. So, the fact that there were no criminal charges filed doesn't preclude the NFL taking any action at all," Pluto said.

Pluto says he's expecting a decision from the league in the coming weeks.

"I was hearing on July 4th, and I think that actually this opens the door for that. Now, what the NFL will rule? I don't know. There's a lot of rumblings about it being very severe, maybe the full season, 10, 12 games. So we'll wait to see," he said.

As for Pluto's thoughts on the issue, his stance remains the same.

"I've hated this thing from — I started to say from the beginning, but even before it began. I wrote two columns as they were thinking about trading for Watson and saying, 'Don't do it.' Afterwards, I was sickened, not only because of the moral situation, but also they gave this guy the highest contract in NFL history in terms of guaranteed money. They traded six draft picks for it. There was not one aspect of it I liked. Granted, 26-year-old Deshaun Watson is a very good quarterback, but there's just all this stuff hanging on and it continues to linger," Pluto said.

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