Sickening to see NFL teams tripping over one another to land Deshaun Watson | Habib

Hal Habib
Palm Beach Post
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Someday I’ll reflect back on how crass the Dolphins looked for their flirtation with Deshaun Watson. Not today.

Someday I’ll marvel at how stacked the AFC looks, and how insane the playoff race will be in 2022. Not now.

The NFL would love for the spotlight to be on free agency and the draft and how spring spreads seeds of hope. Sorry.

Let me come out and say it: I’ve never been more sickened by this league than right here, right now.

More:Deshaun Watson chooses Cleveland and Dolphins face brutal path to AFC playoffs | Schad

Former Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is headed to Cleveland.

Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are coming back, some of the NFL’s biggest stars are changing teams and many of the rich are getting richer, yet Watson’s shadow hovered over the entire week.

And Friday afternoon came the news that he was joining the Cleveland Browns, meaning a team said to be crossed off his list never stopped groveling. Finally, he anointed them worthy of his talents. And so the Browns not only are paying him $230 million, they're guaranteeing every cent.

And then there’s the piece de resistance.

Watson’s base salary for 2022 is $1 million, NFL Network revealed. Why should that footnote matter? Because if he’s suspended by the league, the money he’ll forfeit comes only out of his salary.

Eat your heart out, Putin.

Women accusing Watson get shoved aside

Speaking of footnotes, that’s exactly what the NFL made of the 22 women who have accused Watson of sexual misconduct. As soon as a grand jury decided not to indict Watson, teams rushed to take numbers as if they were at the deli counter.

Quick legal lesson: A failure to indict is not a statement of innocence. It also doesn’t mean Watson is off the hook in civil suits brought on by those women. It doesn’t mean he won’t be suspended by Commissioner Roger Goodell even if Goodell can’t dig deep into Watson’s pocket.

“Any transaction would have no effect on the NFL’s ongoing and comprehensive investigation of the serious allegations against Deshaun Watson,” the league said in a statement. “Nor would it affect his status under the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Personal Conduct Policy. If the league’s investigation determines that Watson violated the Personal Conduct Policy discipline may be imposed pursuant to the policy and the CBA.”

Of course, teams couldn't wait until after the league's investigation is complete. Certainly not.

Goodell was the commissioner who thought Baltimore running back Ray Rice needed to sit out just two games after being arrested and charged with assaulting his fiancée. Then a video — you might call it indisputable visual evidence — was produced showing how revolting the attack was.

No such video exists of Watson’s alleged misconduct with massage therapists, at least as far as we know. The Rice incident occurred back in 2014, and fortunately since then, the league has stiffened such penalties to include a possible lifetime ban, it has welcomed women into the coaching and officiating ranks and recently held another symposium on the variety of employment opportunities within the NFL available to women.

Then comes along a handful of NFL teams so eager to land that precious franchise quarterback that they couldn’t have come close to performing due diligence on Watson.

Then again, one wonders: If they did uncover proof, would it have mattered?

Texans recoup much of what they gave away in Laremy Tunsil trade

Things eventually worked out for the Houston Texans, who received those three first-round picks as the centerpiece of the trade. In a way, it helped erase the memories of their trade with the Dolphins for left tackle Laremy Tunsil, which involved a somewhat similar package including two first-rounders and a second-rounder.

Staggering as it seems, Watson could write a $1 million check to each accuser and still have $208 million for himself.

Although the Browns guaranteed their end of the deal, what guarantee is Watson giving the Browns? What guarantee can he give them? In their haste to hand Watson $230 million, perhaps the Browns bothered to write an “out” clause in the contract should things go south.

There’s plenty of collateral damage, too. There’s quarterback Baker Mayfield, whose divorce from the Browns was inevitable as soon as he got wind of their flirtations with Watson. There’s Atlanta QB Matt Ryan, who also was left twisting in the wind through no fault of his own.

At least they were placed in this awkward position in the offseason, unlike Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa, who lived through the drama midseason and now gets to relive it the week the Browns visit Miami in 2022.

There’s a segment of fans in Cleveland celebrating today. A larger segment will celebrate the first time Watson dances away from a collapsing pocket and fires a strike on the run into the end zone.

A still larger group will cheer if and when Watson has confetti raining down on him.

That makes it all worthwhile in today’s NFL, remember.

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