Editor’s note: This story contains accounts of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or at https://www.rainn.org.
The Browns' voluntary offseason workouts have begun, and Cleveland introduced their “QB1” in a tweet.
Newly acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson is pictured with his ones up, making his way to the Browns’ Phase One of workout programs on Tuesday. Cleveland captioned the photo on twitter “QB1 in the building.”
The tweet seems to signify the obvious: the Browns have clearly moved on from signal-caller Baker Mayfield—who has been at helm since a few weeks into his rookie season after he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2018—to the former Texans quarterback.
In the aftermath of Cleveland’s very public break-up with the former Oklahoma standout, the Browns now assume Watson and the legal troubles embroiling their “QB 1.” Watson still faces 22 active civil lawsuits that accuse the quarterback of sexual assault and sexual harassment during massage therapy sessions. The lawsuits describe accounts that range from Watson refusing to cover his genitals to “touching [a plaintiff] with his penis and trying to force her to perform oral sex on him.” Civil proceedings in the 22 active lawsuits are ongoing.
On Saturday, it was reported that Tony Buzbee, the lawyer representing the 22 plaintiffs, requested records from the Texans that include any non-disclosure agreements and correspondences between the quarterback and Houston’s security staff, coaches and head trainer, Ronald Ramirez. It also asked for communication between the organization and two hotels, the Houstonian and Home2Suites, where Watson reportedly met with massage therapists.
Watson previously faced 10 criminal complaints. According to Jenny Vrentas of The New York Times, the criminal complaints he previously faced involved similar descriptions, including Watson ejaculating on the massage therapists and either other forms of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault. On March 11, a Harris County grand jury declined to charge Watson on nine complaints, returning nine “no” bills. Nearly two weeks later, another grand jury in Brazoria County declined to charge Watson on a 10th count.
The 26-year-old waived his no-trade clause on March 18 and was traded to Cleveland on a five-year, $230 million monster-deal that set a new record for the league’s highest guaranteed contract ever. Mayfield found himself in the cross-fire of the deal, and said he felt “disrespected” by the Browns for their lack of communication on the Watson deal.
Though Mayfield is still on the Browns’ roster, the team has struggled to find a landing spot for the 27-year-old. Mayfield skipped the voluntary workouts on Tuesday, and it was reported on Monday that the Panthers may be a suitor for the former Oklahoma walk-on.
It is unlikely Mayfield stays on Cleveland’s roster, though the NFL is still investigating if Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy. The NFL and NFLPA reportedly agreed for former U.S. District Court Judge Sue Robinson to act as an impartial arbitrator to lead the investigation into disciplinary cases similar to that of the Clemson product. If found to have violated the policy, he could face suspension.
The Browns built into Watson’s deal that he would only lost $55,556 for every game he’s suspended, a source told Sports Illustrated‘s Albert Breer. Watson’s base salary is just $1 million in the 2022, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
In his introductory press conference with Cleveland, Watson denied assaulting, harassing or disrespecting any woman. No trial dates have been set for any of the 22 active civil cases.
More Deshaun Watson Coverage: