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Ruling on Deshaun Watson suspension reportedly on hold for settlement negotiations

Matt Johnson

As the Cleveland Browns and quarterback Deshaun Watson await a definitive outcome on how many games he will be suspended in 2022, it appears everything could be on hold with renewed hope for a settlement.

The NFL and NFL Players Association have engaged for months in negotiations regarding potential discipline for allegations of sexual misconduct against Watson and the league’s claims he damaged the sport’s integrity. However, the two sides have long remained far apart in terms of the exact punishment he should receive.

Before the hearing in front of the jointly-appointed appeals officer, the NFL wanted Watson to serve a 12-game suspension and to receive a substantial fine. The Pro Bowl quarterback was adamantly opposed and ultimately awaited a ruling from Sue Robinson.

While Robinson found merit to the NFL’s case that Watson committed indecent and wrongful acts that the NFL viewed as ‘predatory behavior’ to his accusers, she used the league’s precedent to issue a six-game ban. The NFL immediately appealed the decision to commissioner Roger Goodell, who appointed former prosecutor Peter Harvey to issue a ruling

Related: Deshaun Watson settlement with NFL still possible

Now staring down the likelihood of a far more substantial suspension, potentially one that could sideline him for the entire 2022 season, Watson is receptive to a settlement and it appears that is the reason for Harvey’s delayed decision.

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Harvey is reportedly waiting for the NFL and Watson to determine if a settlement can be reached before making a decision.

Notably, per Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network, the league and players union are in active negotiations on a settlement. While there is no word on how close the two sides are to an agreement, there is at least some optimism something could be done.

  • Deshaun Watson contract: $690,000 base salary in 2022, $44.965 million signing bonus.

This is familiar territory for both sides. Following the appearance before federal judge Sue Robinson, who served as the independent arbitrator, the NFL and NFLPA discussed a settlement. Robinson held off on making her ruling until it became clear that a resolution wasn’t happening.

Now, with the 2022 NFL season closing in, history is repeating itself

Related: NFL insider calls year-long Deshaun Watson suspension ‘slam dunk’

Why the NFL, Deshaun Watson might reach a settlement

Syndication: Florida Times-Union
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Unio / USA TODAY NETWORK

From Watson’s perspective, the change in perspective can be tied entirely to his desire to play for the Cleveland Browns this year. There is an increasing belief that Harvey would meet what the NFL originally asked for, a year-long suspension that also required Watson to appeal for reinstatement in 2023.

By returning to the negotiating table, represented by the NFLPA, the Browns’ quarterback now might be willing to serve a 10-game suspension and would accept a substantial fine that might equal what the Washington Commanders received following the league investigation into their toxic workplace.

From the NFL’s perspective, there is also incentive to settle. It avoids the worst-case scenario, the players union filing a federal appeal to Harvey’s ruling. In that scenario, Watson could petition for a stay of his suspension and be allowed to play in Week 1 and beyond. in that scenario, the NFL would still be dealing with a saga that has gone on for more than a year and it would create an unwanted storyline as Watson played.

Just weeks after even the idea of a settlement between the two sides seemed impossible, it now appears to be a realistic outcome. If that happens, expect Watson to serve a 10-game suspension at minimum with Jacoby Brissett starting in his place.