Source: Two of Deshaun Watson’s 22 civil cases could be scheduled for July — or they all may be pushed to 2023

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A source familiar with 22 pending civil suits against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has told Yahoo Sports that the opposing legal camps have discussed beginning trial proceedings in July — or possibly moving all of the suits into the 2023 calendar.

The source said Rusty Hardin, who represents Watson, and Tony Buzbee, who represents the 22 plaintiffs in the suits, have had exchanges about getting as many as two of the lawsuits into a courtroom prior to a mutually constructed moratorium on trying cases, which is slated to pause legal proceedings from August 1, 2022 to March 1, 2023. However, scheduling roadblocks could be issues for both attorneys and may force all of the litigation into next year.

“The real difficulty will be scheduling any trials that can be completed before August 1,” the source said, adding that the 22 cases are currently in 13 different courts. The 22 lawsuits are alleging a range of sexual misconduct or assault.

Hardin and Buzbee previously agreed on the moratorium for litigation, which will remove Watson from having to travel for legal proceedings during the entire 2022 NFL season, but also presents the possibility that a league sanction could be delayed to the 2023 season. That’s significant, given that Watson’s base salary of $46 million in 2023 would translate into more than $2.7 million in per-game losses if he were to be suspended.

There could be legal advantages for both sides depending on when the cases are ultimately tried. For Hardin, taking one or two preferred cases to trial in July could weaken the optics of the remaining litigation if he were to successfully defend Watson prior to the August 1 deadline. Conversely, Buzbee’s leverage for potential settlements could be bolstered if all the cases are moved into 2023, as it could put Watson’s base salary that season into play for NFL sanctions.

As it stands, both sides continue to contend an intent to take the cases into court rather than engage in further settlement talks.

Two of the 22 civil lawsuits against Deshaun Watson may be scheduled for July, before the 2022 NFL season. (Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)
Two of the 22 civil lawsuits against Deshaun Watson may be scheduled for July, before the 2022 NFL season. (Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)