The NFL is expected to decide whether to suspend Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson before the season begins, though there's a small chance the issue could drag into 2023, The MMQB reported Monday.
According to the report, the NFL has talked with at least half of the 22 women who filed civil suits against Watson last spring, contending he committed sexual improprieties with them during the course of massages.
Watson was questioned last week by two NFL investigators.
Work on the civil cases is expected to be put on hold on July 1 until after the 2022 season. At that point, the NFL could make a decision on a potential suspension or wait until before the 2023 season, which MMQB said was unlikely.
Once the investigators have finished their work, they will give their results to former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson, who can determine the penalty for Watson, per the report.
Two grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson in any of the cases, and he maintains he did nothing wrong.
But in a pre-trial deposition recently, Watson admitted at least one massage therapist left their session in tears and he sent her an apology, according to attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the women.
Cleveland surrendered significant draft capital that included three first-round picks to acquire Watson in a trade with the Houston Texans on March 18. Cleveland then signed him to a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract.
Watson's contract was structured in a way that he is scheduled to receive just $1.035 million in base pay in 2022, meaning he's at risk to be hurt much more financially with a 2023 suspension when he is slated to earn $46 million in base pay.
Watson, 26, did not play in 2021 amid a request for a trade and his legal issues.