CLEVELAND, Ohio — In today’s Hey, Mary Kay, I answer questions about Deshaun Watson, the Browns’ second-year defenders, and more.
Hey, Mary Kay: Could Deshaun Watson be suspended indefinitely until his civil suits are settled? — Eric Franklin, Columbus, Ohio
Hey, Eric: An indefinite suspension is one of the options on the table for the NFL under terms of its Personal Conduct Policy. It can suspend Watson for a specific number of games or indefinitely, or banish him from the league with a chance to apply for reinstatement. The league can also add fine him and place him on probation.
With the 24 civil suits pending and at least two more due to be filed, the league might decide to leave the suspension open-ended and place certain conditions on Watson that he’ll have to meet to get back on the field. With so much uncertainty surrounding Watson, the league might deem it the best option to work through the discipline and restitution while the cases play out.
That would also give Watson a chance to go to trial sooner than later, or to settle the cases, which to this point he hasn’t wanted to do. As it stands, the trials won’t take place from Aug. 1 to March to enable him to play the season.
The NFLPA is bracing itself for an “unprecedented” suspension, but will vigorously fight it. The league could hand down a decision in the next couple of weeks, and then Watson will likely appeal. At the NFL meeting in March, Roger Goodell removed the Commissioner’s Exempt List — paid leave — as an option because there have been no criminal charges.
Hey, Mary Kay: Which second-year player has the biggest chance to impact the defense because of his versatility, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah or Greg Newsome II? A few months ago, it would have seemed slam-dunk JOK, but with Newsome getting a bunch of reps inside at OTAS, you could see a scenario where he gets close to Denzel Ward’s level as an outside guy and then with shutdown slot ability, he’d be incredibly valuable as well. — Joe, London, Ohio
Hey, Joe: A case could be made for either one of these two excellent second-year defenders making more of an impact because of their versatility, and I expect both to make at least one Pro Bowl at some point. But I’ll say Owusu-Koramoah because I expect Joe Woods to put much more on his plate this season. I think you’ll see him blitz more, drop into coverage more and otherwise make more plays all over the field. I do think Newsome will see more time in the slot, but I think other defensive backs will as well. I believe he’ll have an excellent season, especially if he can grab some interceptions and force some fumbles. It will be a photo finish for these two.
Dear Mary Kay: If the Texans were dishonest in their dealings regarding the trade, would the Browns have recourse to change the terms of the deal? Perhaps get one of their first-round picks back? — Tyson from New Braunfels, Texas.
Hey, Tyson: It’s highly unlikely the Browns would have any recourse on the trade terms unless the NFL investigated the Texans and discovered that they knowingly engaged in misconduct regarding Deshaun Watson that would prevent him getting on the field for an extended period of time. Even then, it would be an extreme long shot for the Browns to recoup anything from the trade, which included their first-round picks in 2022, 2023 and 2024.
Even though attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the 24 massage therapists suing Watson, plans to add the Texans to the suit for allegedly enabling Watson’s alleged misconduct, there’s still virtually no chance any part of the trade can be undone.
Hey, Mary Kay: With Myles Garrett going into his sixth season, will the Browns rotate more at defensive end to keep him healthy? – Sean N., Chicago
Hey, Sean: I do think the Browns will rotate third-round pick Alex Wright and Chase Winovich in a fair amount at end to keep their two former No. 1 overall picks (including Jadeveon Clowney) healthy and fresh not only for the fourth quarter but for the 17-game season and what they hope is a deep run in the playoffs. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that Garrett won’t match or exceed his club-record 16 sacks. The chance to take some plays off could mean more production for Garrett, including more of the game-changing plays he’ll undoubtedly emphasize this season. It could have the same impact on Clowney, who’s heading into his ninth season.
Hey, Mary Kay: If Greg Newsome II plays more in the slot this season, will that diminish his role on the outside? — Ben Jones, Macon, Ga.
Hey, Ben: I still think Newsome’s primary role will still be as the outside corner opposite Denzel Ward, but he will also serve as the nickel back in some sub-defenses. The Browns are cross-training all of their defensive backs to play inside, and most will handle the chore more often than they did in 2021. Some of it will depend on how it looks in the first quarter of the season. If a player or two emerges as a natural nickel back, that could dictate who covers the slot receiver most often.
Hey, MK: Can you describe a bit what access is like to cover the team this year? Have restrictions or access to players changed compared to last season? (Thanks to everyone for the great work!) — Dan, Washington, DC
Hey, Dan: Thanks! The NFL announced at the annual league meeting in March that locker rooms will be open this year for the first time since 2019, which is a huge development. All COVID-19 restrictions have been dropped in the NFL, and the players seem much more relaxed and upbeat this season.
Locker rooms won’t be open until the regular season because of the amount of players in training camp, but that’s how it’s been in the past. The rules are always subject to change, but the plan is for pre-COVID access, which will mean better interviews, stories and insight. Fans will hear from many more players each weekday and after games. Looking forward to it.
Hey, Mary Kay: With Kareem Hunt making it public that he wants to end his career here, will the Browns try to accommodate that Request? I would imagine Hunt would take a lower cost to stay with Nick Chubb! Thanks – Zach from Tallmadge
Hey, Zach: Hunt told me he wants to finish his career here and continue playing with Nick Chubb and this great group of players. He feels that the Browns have a legitimate chance to go to the Super Bowl this season if Deshaun Watson plays. Therefore, I do think he would take something of a hometown discount to remain with the Browns. The two sides could do an incentive-laden deal the way they did the past two years. The Browns might also decide to let Hunt hit the market to set his price and go from there. Now that he’s healthy, he can be a key piece to a Super Bowl run.
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