Deshaun Watson Set for Highly Anticipated Return

Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson faces off against his former team, the Houston Texans on December 4th amidst controversy regarding sexual misconduct allegations.


Pictured at a press conference in 2016, Watson’s rookie season, he answers questions pertaining to his future NFL career. Little did Watson, or anyone for that matter, know that these allegations would surface in the middle of his prime. (Atlanta Falcons)

Deshaun Watson, quarterback for the struggling Cleveland Browns, makes his season debut as he returns from his suspension this Sunday, facing off against the Houston Texans. Interestingly enough the Texans were Watson’s former team and have an unusual role to play in this sexual misconduct dilemma. Watson was first accused of sexual misconduct, or at least legally accused, in March of 2021 by massage therapist Ashley Solis. Over the past seventeen months, twenty-three more women have filed lawsuits accusing Watson of similar offenses. This roller coaster of a situation dates back to January 28, 2021, when Deshaun Watson formally requested a trade out of Houston.

Watson’s last time in regular season action was January 3, 2021, when he faced off against the Tennessee Titans. (Keith Allison)

The Texans had a rough couple of seasons leading up to the event, as they had poor campaigns in 2019, and 2020. The front office made some questionable decisions when they decided to trade away Watson’s number one target, Deandre Hopkins, for essentially a bag of chips. A rebuild for the franchise was imminent, but a trade request from their star quarterback wasn’t something anyone expected. At first, Houston was adamant that they would repair relations with Watson in order to keep their hopes of contention alive. Two months later, a massage therapist by the name of Ashley Solis came out and filed lawsuit against Watson, accusing him of sexual assault and sexual misconduct. This came as a shock to the NFL, parties involved in the matter, as lack of information left a gaping hole in the credibility of Watson’s alleged actions. Both the NFL and the Houston Texans investigated the situation, an endeavor that would take close to two years to find an explanation. While investigations were taking place, lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit came out from different women that Watson had received physical and massage therapy from. In total, twenty-four total lawsuits were filed, along with other informal accusations. The Texans relieved Watson of his duties as their quarterback, but he still remained a part of the team. Contrary to previous statements claiming that the franchise would look to keep Watson as an integral part of their club, they began taking calls from teams who were interested. The most notable of teams were the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, and the Cleveland Browns. The unique thing about Watson’s contract with the Texans was that it consisted of a no-trade clause, which essentially meant he could choose which team he wanted to go to, as long as they had an offer on the table. Throughout this entire ordeal, lawsuits against Watson were awaiting hearings and being investigated by the NFL. Eventually, March 11, 2022, the court declared Watson not guilty of any offenses, and did not find the evidence worthy of charging him in response to the allegations. After months of waiting and calls being taken by the Texans, they narrowed their options to the said four teams. Watson individually met with each team, who all pitched what they had to offer to the Pro-Bowl quarterback.

Before his suspension was enforced, Watson was a heavily involved member of the team, participating in practices and getting to know his new teammates. (Erik Drost)

At one point in the meetings, reports surfaced that stated the Browns were out of contention in acquiring Deshaun Watson. In fact, they were the first team he eliminated from trade discussions. As Browns fans mourned the loss of losing the chance of gaining an elite offensive weapon, Brown’s General Manager Andrew Berry took the keys of the franchise and made an offer to Watson that he simply couldn’t turn down. The franchise went all in and offered Watson a five-year 230-million-dollar contract with a nearly forty-five million dollar signing bonus. March 18th, 2022 went down as one of the greatest days in Cleveland sports history, as Deshaun Watson waived his no-trade clause to the Cleveland Browns, signing the most potent contract in football history at the time. The streets of Cleveland erupted with celebratory enthusiasm for the coming season.

I should know, as my father and I were in Cleveland the day of the historic trade. Although things looked good for the Browns now, the NFL was still investigating the matter themselves. After finding evidence that implied the Texans facilitated actions made by Watson, they still decided to suspend the star quarterback. He would be suspended for eleven games and would be unable to practice with the team until mid-November. On top of his suspension, Watson was fined five million dollars, pocket change with his new contract. Since he returned to practice, Watson has split first team reps with backup Jacoby Brissett, whose noble efforts have kept the Browns somewhat relevant. As December 4 approaches, Browns fans across the country ready themselves for the debut of their beloved quarterback, predator or not, as they hope to see him deliver them back to the playoffs, and hopefully to a Super Bowl. As many Browns fans have said, “In Deshaun we trust.”