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BEREA, Ohio – The Cleveland Browns called their investigation and investigation of Deshaun Watson, including allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct against him, “comprehensive” in a statement the team released Sunday, announcing the deal.
“We are very aware of and empathetic to the very personal feelings expressed about this decision,” Brown owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam said in a statement. “Our team’s comprehensive evaluation process was of utmost importance due to the sensitive nature of his situation and the complex factors involved. We also understand that there are still some lawsuits going on and we will respect fair process.
“It was crucial that we, along with Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski, meet with Deshaun to have a straightforward dialogue, discuss our priorities and hear directly from him on how he will approach his career on and off the pitch. He was humble ., sincere and honest.In our conversations, Deshaun described his commitment to leading our team, he understands and embraces the hard work needed to build his name both in the community and on the field …. We trust Deshaun and are excited to continue with him as our quarterback and support his genuine and determined efforts. ”
Last Friday, the Browns bought Watson from the Houston Texans. Cleveland swapped its 2022, 2023 and 2024 first-round draft picks as well as two other picks in the deal. The Browns also gave Watson a new five-year contract worth $ 230 million guaranteed, the most guaranteed money on a single contract in NFL history with $ 80 million.
Unlike the Texans, who announced the deal shortly after it was agreed to Friday, the Browns waited two days before publicly acknowledging it.
“We’ve done extensive investigative, legal and reference work over the last many months to give us the information we need to make an informed decision to pursue him and move on with him as our quarterback,” said Brown’s general manager Andrew Berry in an announcement. “Deshaun has been among the very best in the position and he understands the work needed to re-establish himself on and off the pitch in Cleveland. We are confident he will make a positive contribution to our team and community when we support his return to football. “
The Browns did not provide details about their investigation. They also did not speak to any of the 22 women who have filed civil lawsuits against Watson and accused him of sexual assault and sexual misconduct, according to their lawyer.
“The Browns organization did not reach out to me. I did not expect them to do it, and can understand why they did not do it. But knowing what I know, they probably should have done it,” the lawyer said. Tony Buzbee to ESPN.
The NFL could suspend Watson for at least six games through its Code of Conduct for Sexual Assault Offenses. The league confirmed in a statement that any trade would have “no effect on the NFL’s ongoing and comprehensive investigation into the serious allegations against Watson. If the league’s investigation establishes that Watson violated the personal conduct policy, discipline may be imposed under the policy.”
However, a league source told ESPN that as part of Watson’s new deal, he will only earn $ 1 million in his base salary for 2022. This means that if he is suspended by the NFL for violating its code of conduct on sexual assault, he will he would lose less than $ 60,000 per. lost game.
Cleveland’s announcement of the deal came just nine days after a Texas grand jury refused to charge Watson with criminal charges after a police investigation sparked by civil lawsuits. The prosecutors in the trials ranged from touching women with his genitals to forced oral sex. Eight of the women who sued Watson filed criminal charges against him with Houston police and had been put on trial before the grand jury.
Two other women who did not sue Watson also filed police charges.
The Browns met with Watson in Houston on Tuesday, shortly after answering questions under oath in civil litigation.
On Thursday, the Browns were informed that they were no longer in the fight for Watson. But on Friday, he had changed his mind and agreed to waive his no-trade clause to get to Cleveland.
“Our organization did a tremendous amount of background work on Deshaun,” Brown coach Kevin Stefanski said in a statement. “We understand the concerns and issues that exist, but are convinced of the extensive work Andrew and his staff have done to make us feel confident that he has joined our organization. It was important for us to meet with Deshaun in person. as part of our team evaluation process, we had an honest conversation about his approach to getting into our organization and community.I look forward to the opportunity to coach Deshaun, he is ready to provide the hard work needed to to help our team improve and have a positive impact on our community. “
ESPN’s Sarah Barshop contributed to this report.