Judge Sue L. Robinson determined Monday that new Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson should be suspended for the first six games of the 2022 NFL season. This offseason Watson faced civil lawsuits from 24 different women accusing him of sexual assault or misconduct. The NFLPA announced in a statement Sunday night they would not appeal the looming decision, but the NFL still could. This six-week suspension is not set in stone just yet.
What the Browns will do at QB moving forward
With Watson set to miss six (or more) games, what will the Browns do at quarterback? Cleveland currently has two quarterbacks on roster that have been in the building for several months: Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs. It appears it will be Brissett who takes the field in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers. He went 2-3 as the starter for the Miami Dolphins last season while Tua Tagovailoa was out due to injury. There are certainly worse quarterbacks than Brissett. He's gone 14-23 as a starter in six NFL seasons, and last served as a full-time starter with the Indianapolis Colts in 2019, going 7-8.
Is it possible Cleveland adds another quarterback? Cleveland.com reported a couple weeks ago that in the event Watson was suspended for a lengthy period of time, the Browns would sign a quarterback. However, the Browns didn't even wait for an official decision on Watson to add another signal-caller, as they former first-round pick Josh Rosen just over a week ago.
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It's always possible the Browns could add another quarterback, but at this point it feels rather unlikely. Cleveland.com reported that the Browns would act if Watson were suspended for a "lengthy" period of time. The general consensus by reporters and fans alike is that a six-game suspension feels very light considering what Watson has been accused of by dozens of women.
Again, the six-game suspension is not cemented just yet, but it doesn't seem like the Browns will add another quarterback. Brissett should be in line to start the first six weeks of the 2022 season.
Browns' odds in 2022
Now that we have a little bit more clarity on the Browns' 2022 season, let's take a look at some odds. It's unknown what Watson will look like once he presumably takes the field in Week 7 vs. the Baltimore Ravens, and it's certainly unknown how Brissett will fare as the starter. However, the Browns do have a great offensive line, a dynamic duo at running back and a solid wide receiving corps to rely on. The other side of the ball doesn't look bad on paper either.
The Browns' first six weeks of the season look like this: at Panthers, vs. Jets, vs. Steelers, at Falcons, vs. Chargers, vs. Patriots. The first thing that stands out about the beginning of the schedule is that four of the first six games of the season are at home, which is beneficial for Brissett. Additionally, Cleveland faces just one divisional opponent in the first third of the season.
Most of these games are winnable. Having to face off against a healthy Baker Mayfield hellbent on revenge in Week 1 is a bit sketchy, but the Jets, the Steelers with a brand new quarterback and the Falcons are certainly games Cleveland can win. If I had to predict a record for the Browns with Brissett under center, I would say 3-3.
Now, let's look at some future odds via Caesars Sportsbook.
Super Bowl LVII champions
AFC North champions
The question is, is there any value in these odds? I highly doubt Watson and Co. will be hoisting the Lombardi at season's end, so we can skip that prop. The Browns have also never been AFC champions, and it's hard to believe they would be in 2022 with their starting quarterback missing one third of the season.
The AFC North is expected to be one of the best divisions in the NFL this year, with the reigning AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals and a healthy Lamar Jackson returning for the Ravens. However, if there's one futures bet I would consider placing concerning the Browns, it would be Cleveland to win the division at +250. We have to figure out if Jackson can remain healthy and find success with what appears to be a rather green wide receiving corps, if the Bengals' 2021 campaign was just a flash in the pan and if the Steelers can find success without Ben Roethlisberger.
If Brissett can keep the ship afloat for six games and Watson can come in and find success, the Browns will have a shot at competing for a division crown. But if we are talking about going to the Super Bowl or winning the Super Bowl, you can't convince me that will happen for the Browns this season.