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NFL ‘not likely’ to reach a settlement for Deshaun Watson suspension

Matt Johnson

As both the NFL and NFL Players Association finalize their post-trial briefs before submitting them to disciplinary officer Susan L. Robinson ahead of the July 11 deadline, there is still time for the two sides to negotiate a Deshaun Watson suspension. While it could help both sides avoid a lengthy lethal battle, it is reportedly unlikely to happen as of now.

Watson, represented by the NFLPA, appealed to the independent arbitrator during a three-day hearing at the end of June to not face any discipline for more than two dozen allegations of sexual misconduct. Meanwhile, the NFL argued for an indefinite suspension for the Cleveland Browns quarterback with the requirement of at least a one-year absence.

Related: Ruling on Deshaun Watson suspension unlikely until mid-July

The two sides engaged in settlement talks before the hearing, with the NFL offering a one-year ban and Watson’s representation only willing to accept a much shorter suspension. While they now await a ruling from Robinson, a former federal judge, there is still a window to negotiate discipline.

However, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, a settlement is unlikely at this time. One big concern for the league is the optics of Watson having a say in how long he is suspended and the public backlash from a shorter ban.

Related: NFL ‘more likely’ to accept’ 6-8 game ban for Deshaun Watson

If the NFL goes from insisting on the Pro Bowl quarterback missing the entire 2022 season and then suddenly settles for a six-game ban, it will result in an avalanche of criticism. It would also be a bad look for the NFL in the same offseason that saw Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley suspended a year for betting on games when he was inactive.

There is one potential path that could result in negotiations between the NFLPA and the league. If Robinson believes there is enough evidence to suggest Watson violated the personal conduct policy and rules he should be suspended, then commissioner Roger Goodell holds the power.

If Robinson decides that a four- or six-game suspension is warranted, the NFL can appeal the ruling directly to Goodell. He would then have the authority to impose a suspension length of his choosing. With the league holding the power in that instance, then a settlement becomes possible.

In that circumstance, Watson could hypothetically offer to sit out 10 games this fall instead of a full ban for the entire season. As a result of taking a 10-game ban instead of fighting a ruling for a shorter sentence, Watson would also agree to not challenge the NFL’s decision.

For now, everyone is left to wait for a ruling. Once that domino falls, the football world should learn a lot more about the league’s investigation into Watson and get a clearer timetable for when he will play again.