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Deshaun Watson to Start Preseason Opener

The Cleveland Browns have announced quarterback Deshaun Watson is to start Friday's preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In a move first reported by ESPN's Field Yates, Watson has been announced as the preseason starter even though he is expected to be suspended for at least six games this season following allegations of sexual misconduct.

Watson was suspended for six games on August 1 after a lengthy process by former federal judge Sue L. Robinson as a jointly appointed arbiter by the NFL and NFL Players Association. The NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell have since appealed that suspension and are reportedly seeking a significantly longer punishment, saying that Watson's actions were "egregious" and "predatory behavior."

The league has appointed former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to hear their appeal.

“This is their collectively bargained right," said Mike Tannenbaum, Former NFL Executive and Co-Founder of The 33rd Team. "While I’m sure they wish they didn’t have to appeal the Federal Judge’s first decision, I’m sure they felt like they had no alternative given the fact that Watson only received a six-game suspension. This saga has a long way to go.”

Watson signed a massive five-year, $230,000,000 fully guaranteed deal with the Browns this past offseason, including a $44,965,000 signing bonus and an average annual salary of $46,000,000. What's more, the Browns backloaded Watson's contract into future years—a move that will effectively mitigate the financial penalty for games missed this season.

"Other players around the league have been suspended for longer than six games for actions that—albeit, still improper—are far less egregious than 30 accusations of sexual deviancy," said Joe Banner, a former NFL Executive and Co-Founder of The 33rd Team.

"For Watson to receive a lesser suspension than these three, after facing more than 30 individual accusations, is an indictment on the new system implemented by the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement."

The Watson saga continues for now, and only time will tell how long he is to be suspended and when that suspension will become effective. For now, the Browns have their franchise passer under center—at least for this preseason game. After that, the Browns will need to eventually find out how backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett and a Watson-less offense will fare.


Michael Schottey contributed to this report