Sue L. Robinson, the disciplinary officer jointly appointed by the NFL and players’ union, is expected to issue a decision Monday on whether Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy following accusations of sexual misconduct, sources confirmed to ESPN.
Meanwhile, Watson has agreed to settle three of the remaining four active civil lawsuits against him, Houston attorney Tony Buzbee told ESPN’s John Barr early Monday morning.
If Robinson, a former US district judge, imposes any punishment, either side will have three days to submit an appeal in writing. In that case, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee “will issue a written decision that will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute,” per terms of Article 46 in the collective bargaining agreement.
The NFL Players Association already made it clear in a statement Sunday night that it won’t appeal.
“In advance of Judge Robinson’s decision, we wanted to reiterate the facts of this proceeding,” the union said in a statement. “First, we have fully cooperated with every NFL inquiry and provided the NFL with the most comprehensive set of information for any personal conduct policy investigation. A former Federal Judge — appointed jointly by the NFLPA and NFL — held a full and fair hearing, has read thousands of pages of investigative documents and reviewed arguments from both sides impartially. Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished based on the whims of the League office. This is why, regardless of her decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by her ruling and we call on the NFL to do the same.
Robinson heard arguments from the league, union and Watson’s attorney during a three-day hearing held in her home state of Delaware in late June. The sides discussed a potential settlement all the way up through the hearing but could not agree to a deal.
The league and Watson’s side did engage in further settlement talks in recent days, sources told ESPN’s Dan Graziano, but neither side ever felt they were close to an agreement. The most Watson’s side indicated it was willing to offer was a suspension in the range of six to eight games, according to sources. The best the league indicated it was willing to offer was a 12-game suspension and a significant fine — in the range of $8 million, sources said.
Watson has been accused of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during massage sessions in civil lawsuits filed by 25 women. The encounters cited in the lawsuits took place between March 2020 and March 2021, while Watson was a member of the Houston Texans. One of the 25 lawsuits was dropped following a judge’s ruling in April 2021 that plaintiffs needed to amend their petitions to disclose their names. In June, Watson settled 20 of the 24 lawsuits he was facing; on Monday, he agreed to settle three of the remaining four, according to Buzbee, who represents the women suing Watson.
Last month, the Texans reached settlements with 30 women who made claims or were prepared to make claims against the organization for its alleged role regarding the allegations against Watson.
Although two grand juries in Texas declined to pursue criminal charges against Watson earlier this year, the NFL has been investigating whether he violated its personal conduct policy since last year. The NFL interviewed Watson over multiple days earlier this summer. The league’s investigators also spoke to several of the women.
Watson has continuously denied all wrongdoing and said he has no regrets for any of his actions during the massage sessions. Watson also said he cooperated with the NFL’s investigation and “answered every question truthfully” that he was asked by the league’s investigators.
The Browns traded for Watson in March, sending three first-round draft picks to the Texans. Cleveland then gave Watson a new five-year contract worth $230 million and fully guaranteed, the richest deal in NFL history for any player.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said last week that Jacoby Brissett would become Cleveland’s starter if Watson were to be suspended. The Browns had Sunday off from training camp but are scheduled to resume practice Monday.
CBS Sports first reported that Robinson’s decision is expected Monday.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and The Associated Press contributed to this report.