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Browns QB Deshaun Watson settles three more lawsuits ahead of expected suspension

Deshaun Watson has settled three more lawsuits with the women accusing him of sexual misconduct as the NFL prepares to announce a suspension for the Cleveland Browns quarterback over dozens of accusations.

Watson settled with 20 of his 24 accusers in June and now faces only one outstanding lawsuit over sexual misconduct allegations. Specific dollar figures for the 23 settlements have not been revealed. The 26-year-old quarterback is accused of sexually assaulting and harassing female massage therapists in the Houston area between 2019 and 2021, when he was a member of the Texans.

The settlements were announced by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who has represented all 25 plaintiffs, including one woman who has dropped her lawsuit against Watson. 

‘After lengthy and intense negotiations, I can confirm that, late last night, our team resolved three of the four remaining civil cases with Deshaun Watson,’ Buzbee said in a statement provided to DailyMail.com. ‘We will continue to discuss the remaining case with Watson’s legal team, as appropriate.’

Buzbee did not identify the women who have settled with Watson.

Watson talks during Friday's practice

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, left, poses for a picture with Tanner Hall after signing one of his cleats after an NFL football practice in Berea, Ohio

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson signs autographs after Friday's practice

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson signs autographs after Friday’s practice 

The Athletic reported Sunday that the Browns believe Watson will be suspended between four and eight games by Sue L. Robinson, a former US district court judge who was jointly appointed by the NFL and players’ union to levy the punishment.

Both the league and the union, the NFLPA, have the right to appeal any decision, but that process is to be handled by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or someone designated by him – and that decision will be final.

Not wanting to let the ultimate decision rest in the hands of the league, the NFLPA released a statement Sunday saying it will respect Robinson’s decision and implored the NFL to do the same.

‘In advance of Judge Robinson’s decision, we wanted to reiterate the facts of this proceeding,” the union said in its 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.’ 

Watson has specifically been accused of forcing two women to perform oral sex on him, ejaculating on three women, and forcibly kissing another, while 18 women say he touched them with his penis during massages. 

Although he has now settled 23 of the 24 lawsuits, Watson has denied any wrongdoing, and two Texas grand juries have declined to proceed with charges against him.

The plaintiffs' attorney Tony Buzbee

Watson's attorney Rusty Hardin

The plaintiffs’ attorney Tony Buzbee (left) and Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin (right) 

Previously, in July, the Texans reached confidential settlements with 30 women who made allegations against Watson, including accusers who did not file lawsuits against him. 

The NFL club was accused of enabling Watson by allegedly ignoring his behavior and securing him a membership at a local hotel and club, where he allegedly sexually harassed and assaulted female massage therapists.

One of his accusers, Toi Garner, filed a lawsuit against the Texans in June, which Buzbee said at the time would be the first of many. However, before those suits could be filed, the team reached a deal with the 24 plaintiffs and six other unidentified women who have stated intentions to make claims against the Texans organization. 

‘We were shocked and deeply saddened when we first learned of the allegations against our then franchise quarterback in March 2021,’ read a statement from the McNair family, which owns the team.

‘Although our organization did not have any knowledge of Deshaun Watson’s alleged misconduct, we have intentionally chosen to resolve this matter amicably. This is not an admission of any wrongdoing, but instead a clear stand against any form of sexual assault and misconduct.’

Some of Watson's accusers are pictured in a Texas courtroom, where the first of two grand juries declined to press charges related to the sexual misconduct lawsuits against the NFL star

Some of Watson’s accusers are pictured in a Texas courtroom, where the first of two grand juries declined to press charges related to the sexual misconduct lawsuits against the NFL star 

In a July statement, Buzbee said Garner’s lawsuit would be dismissed with prejudice ‘as soon as the appropriate settlement paperwork is complete.’

‘I will have no further comment on the allegations or the Texans’ alleged role, other than to say that there is a marked contrast in the way in which the Texans addressed these allegations and the way in which Watson’s team has done so,’ Buzbee said in the statement.

The New York Times reported in June that Watson booked appointments with at least 66 different women over 17 months while he played for the Texans. Previously Watson attorney Rusty Hardin estimated he had appointments with about 40 female massage therapists over his five seasons with the Texans.

Not every woman has accused Watson of sexual misconduct, and 15 have issued statements of support for him at his attorney’s request.

Following the publication of the Times piece, the Texans were added as a defendant in the sexual misconduct lawsuits for allegedly facilitating the massages. The NFL club was accused of securing Watson a membership at a local hotel and private club, the Houstonian, where some of the massages were alleged to have taken place.

Several of the massage therapists allegedly met Watson at a local hotel and private club, the Houstonian, where the Texans had reportedly secured him a membership

Several of the massage therapists allegedly met Watson at a local hotel and private club, the Houstonian, where the Texans had reportedly secured him a membership 

One woman, who massaged Watson at the hotel but is not identified in the article, told the Times that she was told the room they used was ‘registered to a member of the Texans’ training staff.’

The Wall Street Journal reported in June that the NFL was seeking an indefinite ban that would prevent Watson from being reinstated within the next 12 months. An NFL spokesman did not respond to DailyMail.com’s request for confirmation.

In March, Watson signed a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed deal with the Browns, who acquired him in a trade with the Houston Texans after two grand juries declined to indict him over sexual misconduct complaints.

According to the Journal, the league’s case includes all 24 lawsuits (one of which is still outstanding), but primarily focuses on five cases that have that offer the most compelling evidence against the former Clemson star.

In addition to being suspended, Watson could also potentially be fined, which would ensure that he pays a significant financial penalty in the event of a ban. Otherwise, Watson’s backloaded $230 million contract would protect him for a hefty financial loss.

Watson is set to be paid only $1 million in 2022, when he could face a potential suspension, with another $46 million annually over each of the final four years of the contract.

This way, if Watson is suspended this season, he’ll lose around $60,000 per game missed. For comparison, were his contract structured evenly over the next five years, he’d lose more than $2 million for every game he’s suspended.

That’s a roughly $33 million discrepancy.

WATSON’S $230MILLION DEAL COULD HELP HIM AVOID A MAJOR FINANCIAL PENALTY IF HE IS SUSPENDED BY THE NFL IN 2022

By Alex Raskin, Sports News Editor for DailyMail.com

The Browns traded for Deshaun Watson in March, sending three future first-round picks and a fourth-rounder to Houston. Watson waived his no-trade clause to facilitate the deal, which came with a fully guaranteed, five-year, $230 million contract that included a $44.5 million signing bonus.  

Since then, the Browns have been criticized for that contract, which replaced the four-year, $177.5 million extension he signed with the Texans in 2020.

Specifically, critics objected to the structure of deal, which pays Watson only $1 million in 2022, when he could face a potential suspension over sexual misconduct claims, and $46 million annually over the final four years. 

This way, if Watson is suspended in 2022, he’ll lose around $60,000 per game missed.

For comparison, were his contract structured evenly over the next five years, he’d lose more than $2 million for every game he’s suspended.

Browns general manager Andrew Berry (left) and head coach Kevin Stefanski (right) both said they understood the criticism surrounding their acquisition of Watson and his contract. However, they insisted they're confident in 'Deshaun the person' following a five-month team-funded investigation that began last fall, when Watson was being benched in Houston in the aftermath of the allegations

Browns general manager Andrew Berry (left) and head coach Kevin Stefanski (right) both said they understood the criticism surrounding their acquisition of Watson and his contract. However, they insisted they’re confident in ‘Deshaun the person’ following a five-month team-funded investigation that began last fall, when Watson was being benched in Houston in the aftermath of the allegations

Browns GM Andrew Berry defended the structure of the contract in March, saying the Browns back loaded the deal to allow for more roster flexibility this year, when they still hope to add more talent to the roster. 

‘The things that were important to us from a club perspective were to… have Deshaun Watson under contract for another year, have it structured in a manner that would allow us maximum flexibility to execute the rest of our off-season plan,’ Berry said. 

The team still has last year’s starting quarterback, Baker Mayfield, on the books with an $18 million base salary for 2022.   

At Watson’s introductory press conference in March, Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski both said they understood the criticism surrounding their acquisition of the quarterback and his contract. However, they insisted they’re confident in ‘Deshaun the person’ following a five-month team-funded investigation that began last fall, when Watson was being benched in Houston in the aftermath of the allegations.

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