Not only was the six-game suspension for Deshaun Watson considered too light of a punishment, many were also upset about how his contract with the Cleveland Browns helps him financially.
Watson has a $1.035 million base salary in 2022, and he will lose about $344,655 from missed game checks from a six-game suspension. His nearly $45 million signing bonus will not be affected by any suspension.
According to Peter King of NBC Sports, the rest of the league has taken issue with the contract structure.
"One influential NFL person told me on this trip that it doesn’t sit well with the league or 31 other owners that the Browns rigged the Watson contract so that his suspension would cause him to lose only a fraction of his 2022 compensation," King wrote.
The NFL announced it will appeal the suspension and seek a harsher penalty. According to ESPN's Jake Trotter, the league wants an indefinite suspension that lasts a minimum of one year to go with a fine.
Watson faced 24 civil lawsuits from women who accused him of sexual assault or sexual harassment. He has since agreed to settlements with all but one of the plaintiffs. Disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson wrote in her report the investigation confirmed Watson engaged in sexual assault.
The current suspension still only represents a minor loss financially for Watson, especially compared to his $230 million overall guaranteed contract with Cleveland.
The five-year deal features a $46 million base salary in each of the next four years, while no guarantees can be voided by future suspensions, per Spotrac.
It's not uncommon for teams to get creative with contracts to reduce the cap hit. Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Tom Brady is scheduled to make $30 million in 2022, although he has just a $1.12 million base salary and $11.9 million cap hit, per Spotrac.
On the other hand, the Browns have $47.2 million in cap space available, more than double any other team in the NFL.
It seems Watson's deal was less about helping the team and more about reducing the impact of a likely suspension.