Deshaun Watson suspension increased to 11 games, receives largest player fine in NFL history in settlement

Deshaun Watson will serve an 11-game suspension and pay a $5 million fine for multiple violations of the league’s personal conduct policy in what amounts to one of the most significant penalties in NFL history, sources have confirmed to Yahoo Sports.

The Cleveland Browns quarterback and the NFL have settled his disciplinary case prior to a final ruling by arbitrator Peter C. Harvey, following an agreement between the two sides on Thursday. The fine is the steepest ever levied against an NFL player.

In a statement through the Browns, Watson said "I apologize once again for any pain this situation has caused." Team owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam also issued a statement.

Watson also spoke to the media Thursday at Browns camp, maintaining his innocence and explaining his apology.

“I’ve always been able to stand on my innocence, and always said I never assaulted or disrespected anyone,” Watson said, “but at the same point I have to continue to push forward with my life and career.

“(I apologized) for everybody that was affected by this situation. There were a lot of people that were triggered.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also issued a statement as part of the official announcement.

There was no immediate comment from the NFL Players Association.

The settlement also includes mandatory mental health counseling for Watson, and the Browns and the NFL will donate an additional $1 million each to sexual assault prevention programs.

The agreement features a sizable suspension increase over the six-game ban handed down by arbitrator Sue L. Robinson earlier this month after Watson was accused by two dozen women of sexual assault and misconduct, which included no financial penalty. The NFL appealed that ruling and had been seeking an indefinite one-year suspension from Harvey, a former New Jersey attorney general who was selected by the league to rule on the appeal.

Deshaun Watson and the NFL have settled on his punishment. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Deshaun Watson and the NFL have settled on his punishment. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

While the final outcome for Watson appears costly, it will keep his current contract from tolling for one year. Had he been suspended for a calendar year, his fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million extension with the Browns wouldn’t have begun until 2023. That would have pushed his next free agency window out one year and effectively wiped off an entire season of his career. In theory, such a development could have cost Watson one season of his $46 million average salary. Now he’ll lose the 11-game prorated portion of his $1.035 million salary (which works out to $632,500), alongside the $5 million fine.

Harvey had been weighing appeal briefs filed by the league NFLPA since Aug. 5, but sources told Yahoo Sports that a settlement window remained open between the two parties. The effort at negotiations became more apparent on Aug. 12, when Watson delivered a publicly apology during an interview with the Browns’ in-house media prior to the team’s first preseason game.

“I want to say that I’m truly sorry to all of the women that I have impacted in this situation,” Watson said in that interview. “The decisions that I made in my life that put me in this position I would definitely like to have back, but I want to continue to move forward and grow and learn and show that I am a true person of character and I am going to keep pushing forward.”

Watson's first game back is set to be in Week 13 at his former team, the Houston Texans.