During his introductory news conference,On March 25, When asked if he would settle civil lawsuits against him, he said that he would.
Watson replied, “That's not what I intended.” Watson said that his intention was to keep my name clean as much as possible. That's what I am focusing on.
Watson and his legal team reversed their course on Tuesday.
Tony Buzbee was the attorney for plaintiffs and stated in a statement to ESPN that. Buzbee reports that the other four, including Ashley Solis, who was the first woman to sue Watson for negligence, have not yet been settled and will continue to be tried next year.
Two grand juries from Texas declined to bring criminal charges against Watson earlier in the year. However, the NFL is currently investigating whether Watson violated its code. The league has not yet provided a timeline for when it may make a decision. Brian McCarthy, the league's spokesperson, said that Watson settlements will not affect the collectively bargained disciplinary process.
Now that Watson has been convicted in 20 cases, what is next for Watson, the NFL, and the Browns? Below are the answers from ESPN reporters Sarah Barshop (Dan Graziano) and Jake Trotter (Jake Trotter).
What happened Tuesday?
Buzbee released a statement announcing that all four lawsuits against Watson have been settled more than a year ago. Buzbee stated that his law firm is still working through the paperwork associated with these settlements. Buzbee indicated that these cases would be dismissed once the paperwork is completed. Buzbee stated that the terms of the settlements and their amounts are confidential. He will not make any comment.
It is not clear if the confidentiality agreement only covers settlement figures or if Watson and the plaintiffs are prohibited from discussing details of the lawsuits. Rusty Hardin (Buzbee's attorney) acknowledged in April 2021 that settlement negotiations had failed because they couldn't agree on a non-disclosure arrangement. — Barshop
Four plaintiffs didn't settle. What do we know about these cases?
Other than the statement Buzbee made, we don't have any information. ESPN's John Barr reached the attorney and he declined to provide further information on the four plaintiffs. — Barshop
Is it likely that these four cases will be tried? If so when?
Buzbee & Hardin have committed not to stand trial from August 1, 2022 to March 1, 2023. Although Bubzee acknowledged there were discussions about Solis' case being tried before Aug. 1, it now seems more likely that these trials will take place after 2022. — Barshop
What is the NFL's position on Watson's probe?
Although the NFL has not provided a timeline for its investigation, conversations with people familiar with the matter indicate that there is at least some chance of it being completed. Some league officials would prefer to wait to see what new information emerges from the ongoing lawsuits or other cases before imposing discipline. This is in case the proposed punishment proves insufficient. Some others are calling for a quicker resolution to avoid the uncertainty that will continue throughout the regular season. Although the Browns want to know more before training camp starts late next month, they don't know if they will be able to. — Graziano
What happens once the league has concluded its investigation?
The new collective bargaining agreement stipulates that any suggestion the NFL makes regarding Watson's discipline — whether it be a suspension, fine or both — will then be made to retired U.S. district Judge Sue L. Robinson. Robinson is a jointly appointed (by both the NFLPA and NFL) discipline officer. Robinson will likely conduct her own hearing. This would include an interview with Watson, and other witnesses. The process could take several weeks to complete, even if the league has made a decision about whether or how to discipline Watson. Robinson enforces the discipline and Watson may appeal the decision. Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, would then hear the appeal and issue a final decision. — Graziano
Does this settlement change the investigation or timeline?
Jeremy Fowler discusses the potential time when the NFL will announce a decision about its investigation into the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback.
Absolutely not. This was made clear by the NFL in a statement they issued just minutes after Buzbee's announcement on Tuesday.
The league insists on the collectively-negotiated aspect of the process. It also points out that Lisa Friel, the league's investigative officer, is currently conducting the investigation, while Goodell waits for the decision from his investigators and eventually Robinson.
Given the reduced number of civil cases that could be brought to trial, is it possible that 20 of the pending civil lawsuits could be settled in order to speed up the league’s investigation and provide new information? Sure. With four more pending, it is possible that additional information could be found that the league's investigation didn't uncover. — Graziano
Is the NFLPA involved in all this?
Watson and Watson have been working together with Watson's lawyers to devise a strategy for challenging any possible discipline before Robinson. Jeffrey Kessler is the long-serving counsel for the union. The NFLPA and its lawyers will likely support Watson's request to reduce the discipline if Friel and his team make a recommendation. According to sources, the NFLPA expects some form of discipline, most likely a suspension. However, it is not clear how long this suspension would last. — Graziano
Watson could be suspended
All indications point in this direction. This is a unique situation in many ways. It's the first possible discipline case since the CBA was established in spring 2020. However, based on my conversations with the league over the past few weeks, there is a general expectation that Watson's suspension under the personal conduct policy will result from the league's investigation.
Robinson, who is new to all this, may agree or disagree with the league. Robinson could make a recommendation for discipline and Robinson could review the case to determine if that is appropriate. While the answer is yes to the question, given the information so far, there is still a very small chance that Watson will be suspended. — Graziano
Is there any change for the Browns now?
Cleveland will not be affected by the settlements. These settlements are unlikely to reduce Watson's suspension. Now, the Browns will be focusing more on the NFL decision — if it comes. — Trotter
Who will play Watson's place? If it is possible?
This is the NFL, this is Browns, so you can't say never. Sources have indicated that Mayfield is not interested in playing another down for Browns, particularly after a source from the team told ESPN NFL Insider Chris Mortensen they were searching for an “adult” to replace Mayfield as quarterback in their pursuit for Watson in March. The Browns have not indicated any interest in Mayfield being a down for them. Both sides have moved on even though Mayfield remains on the roster. Cleveland will continue to play with Watson if he is suspended.As its starting quarterback, the team signed the earlier this offseason. He has 37 career starts in league. — Trotter
Watson can be suspended if he does not want to train camp.
Watson would be permitted to train camp, unless otherwise specified by the league. Watson would also be eligible to participate in the three preseason games. Watson would begin serving the suspension if he is suspended. This would mean that Watson would be prohibited from participating in practices during the second half of the suspension. The CBA states that players will be allowed to attend club facilities and engage in limited activities during the second part of a suspension. — Trotter