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Roger Goodell: No Timetable for Deshaun Watson Discipline Decision After Browns Trade

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVMarch 30, 2022

Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke to reporters Tuesday at the NFL Annual Meeting, saying there was no timetable to determine if Deshaun Watson would be disciplined or when the league's investigation would conclude. 

Lindsay Jones @bylindsayhjones

Goodell says the NFL will "let the facts guide" the Watson investigation. "We will seek to find every fact we can on that."

Zac Jackson @AkronJackson

Goodell on the Watson contract: We have been very clear the personal conduct policy is something very important to us and doesn’t need a criminal violation to apply. <br><br>Basically, no answer to the contract question and no real details on when NFL will conclude investigation.

Watson, 26, was sued by 22 women who accused him of sexual assault and misconduct. That lawsuit is ongoing. Ten women also filed criminal complaints against Watson with Houston police, though two separate grand juries have declined to indict him. 

Goodell added that Watson likely wouldn't be placed on the commissioner's exempt list going forward. 

Albert Breer @AlbertBreer

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell very clear here—it’ll likely be a suspension/fine or nothing for Deshaun Watson. Commissioner’s exempt list not in play. <a href="https://t.co/vSMlcuWhQU">pic.twitter.com/vSMlcuWhQU</a>

"If the criminal [case] had proceeded, that would more likely have triggered [the commissioner's exempt list]," he said. "At this point, the civil case in and of itself would not do that. If there's a violation of the personal conduct policy, that may trigger something. But that would more likely trigger some kind of discipline in some fashion."

The commissioner's exempt list is essentially a paid administrative leave on which players can frequent a team's facilities for non-football activities like treatments or individual workouts but are not permitted to practice or appear in games. 

Only Goodell has the authority to place a player on the exempt list, and only he can determine how long they remain on the list. 

Watson was not placed on the commissioner's exempt list for the 2021 season and was kept away from the rest of his Houston Texans teammates while receiving his paycheck. He didn't play a single game in 2021. Watson reportedly had requested a trade last offseason before the accusations of sexual assault came to light. 

This offseason, he was traded to the Cleveland Browns for a massive trade package that included first-round picks in 2022, 2023 and 2024. He was then signed to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million extension that included a $44.9 million signing bonus but just a $1 million base salary for the 2022 season. 

One theory was that the deal was structured that way so Watson would lose as little money as possible if he was suspended and forced to sacrifice game checks. Given his 2022 base salary, he would lose approximately $58,823 each game he was suspended. Players do not lose any signing bonus money when they are suspended.

Goodell said the deal wouldn't limit the league's potential punishment options:

Brooks Kubena @BKubena

Roger Goodell said the way Cleveland structured Deshaun Watson’s $230 million contract “would not restrict our ability to apply discipline. We would be able to apply discipline as we feel appropriate.”<br><br>Key parts of the NFL’s conduct policy boxed below: fines, suspension. <a href="https://t.co/8zaGGx0hOb">pic.twitter.com/8zaGGx0hOb</a>

General manager Andrew Berry told reporters last week that the Browns structured the deal in such a way because it gave them cap flexibility, though he added they "understand the optics" of the contract being drawn up in a way that potentially helps to mitigate any significant financial loss to Watson.

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