The Browns waived quarterback Joshua Dobbs in a corresponding move.
Watson served an 11-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy by committing sexual assault, as defined by the NFL, on massage therapists. He was also fined $5 million and has had to undergo a mandatory treatment program.
Watson’s return Sunday will mark exactly 700 days since he last played in a regular-season game (with the Texans on Jan. 3, 2021).
Watson has been accused by more than two dozen women of sexual assault and other inappropriate sexual misconduct during massage sessions. Over the summer, he agreed to settle 23 of the 24 lawsuits against him. A 25th lawsuit was dropped by the plaintiff when the judge ruled that her petition had to be amended with her name. Two other women filed criminal complaints against Watson but did not sue him. On Oct. 13, another woman filed a lawsuit against Watson, claiming he pressured her into oral sex during a massage session in 2020.
Two grand juries in Texas declined to pursue criminal charges against Watson earlier this year. Watson has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said people haven’t been interested in hearing his side of the story.
He still hasn’t spoken publicly since his suspension was announced in August, though he is expected to later this week.
The Browns traded for Watson in March, sending the Texans three first-round draft picks. Cleveland also signed Watson to a five-year deal worth $230 million guaranteed, the richest contract in NFL history.
Watson has been practicing with the Browns since Nov. 16 and has been sitting in on team meetings and working out at the team’s training facility since Oct. 10.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Monday that the team is “excited” to see him play.
“He’s done a nice job with his time away, physically staying sharp, mentally staying sharp,” Stefanski said. “I think he’ll be ready to roll.”
Cleveland is 4-7 after Sunday’s overtime win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.