The Cleveland Browns got their wish when they won the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. They have been searching for a franchise quarterback since returning to the league in 1999 and believe they have just that in their new signal-caller.
Fans know the entire story by now. Watson demanded a trade from the Houston Texans and was able to dictate where he wanted to go. Ultimately, the Browns won out by offering him a five-year, fully-guaranteed $230 million deal. It was unprecedented and explains why the quarterback's decision was an easy one.
In a normal situation, all the drama would be gone. Watson would be preparing with the team and getting ready to chase a Super Bowl during the entire duration of that contract. But things aren't so easy in this scenario.
The quarterback is still dealing with over 20 civil complaints of sexual harassment that have not magically gone away. In fact, he routinely does depositions, and reports say this could stretch well into 2024.
That last part is the key thing here. Twenty-two separate civil cases could mean one or two could lead to a suspension from the NFL. That means there remains a huge lack of clarity surrounding the team's situation for the foreseeable future.
Deshaun Watson has a long way to go before he is cleared
Certain fans will claim that the quarterback should have nothing to worry about because he was cleared criminally. And that is true, in terms of avoiding jail time. However, the NFL can suspend players, even if they don't face any criminal charges. This is not new information for football fans.
That means Watson could be hit with a suspension in 2022 while his civil litigation is ongoing. He could, then, face even more uncertainty in terms of suspensions in 2023, depending on how the cases go. That is a tough way to handle a franchise quarterback.
This all creates a huge cloud of uncertainty over the entire Cleveland franchise. Even a four-game suspension could be enough to derail a season in an AFC that is newly stacked. A handful of very talented teams are not going to make the postseason due to the surplus of talent in the conference.
It is still May, and Browns fans know the team has acquired one of the best quarterbacks in all of football. However, no one knows if he can play a full 17 games in 2022, 2023, or beyond.
And there does not seem to be any impending clarity from the league. The full schedule will be released this week, and Browns fans don't know what games he will or won't miss.
So when will that clarity come? That is anyone's guess, but fans already know that what is decided in 2022 could be totally different from what ends up happening in 2023.