Can Browns void Watson contract over ‘new’ allegations?

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A report emerged last month claiming that the Cleveland Browns were “still all-in” on quarterback Deshaun Watson despite the numerous accusations of sexual misconduct during massage sessions hovering over him, and Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio later confirmed that the March trade of Watson to Cleveland was a done deal and couldn’t be voided. 

Since that time, Watson’s legal team has reached settlements with 20 of 24 plaintiffs suing him, and the 26-year-old has completed a hearing in front of league disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson that will help determine his status for at least the upcoming season. 

For a mailbag published Wednesday morning, Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com addressed a new question about the Browns possibly voiding the fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract they awarded Watson this spring. 

“I hear the only way the Browns can void Watson’s contract is if he runs into more off-field problems after his new contract with Cleveland was signed,” Pluto explained. “Anything that happened with Houston prior to the trade to Cleveland doesn’t negate the deal.

“Watson was an ‘as is’ acquisition. No one forced the Browns to bid on him and give him the highest guaranteed contract in NFL history. That was their decision.”

Interestingly, a claim made in a lawsuit mentioned on June 27 says: “It is now known that in many of Watson’s multiple massage interactions, more than massage therapy occurred — indeed, with at least thirty different women, the ‘more’ that occurred included unwanted sexual advances and outright sexual assault by Watson.” 

It’s unclear if the filing of any new lawsuits would allow the Browns to explore canceling the signal-caller’s contract or if they’d even be interested in doing so at this point. 

Robinson’s ruling on a possible suspension of Watson is not expected before next week at the earliest. Backup Jacoby Brissett will rise to the top of the depth chart if Watson becomes ineligible to play. 

Watson has denied any wrongdoing, and two grand juries declined to indict him on criminal charges. 

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