With the Browns set to begin their preseason tonight, a decision from league designee Peter Harvey could be coming very shortly regarding the NFL’s appeal of the Deshaun Watson suspension. In the hopes of avoiding the league’s desired outcome, the Browns QB is reportedly willing to accept a stricter punishment than the one he was initially given.
Watson would be willing to accept an eight-game suspension and a $5M fine, per Rob Maaddi and Tom Withers of the Associated Press. As things currently stand, the three-time Pro Bowler will be sidelined for the first six games of the season and face no financial penalties aside from the $345K in salary he will forfeit as a result.
The attempt to settle at a middle ground between the original ban and the one the league is arguing for through its appeal raises the question of settlement talks. The NFL and NFLPA have discussed a compromise at various points in this process, but an agreement avoiding the possibility of further appeals or legal action has never seemed particularly close. The league’s closest offer to what the union could agree to was a 12-game suspension along with a fine of roughly $8M.
Per the AP report, “It’s not clear if the sides are in active discussions” to reach a settlement which will end this saga. Earlier this week, it was reported that a significant increase in Watson’s punishment – which could very well manifest itself as Harvey agreeing with the league’s push for an indefinite suspension – was considered likely. The leverage the NFL is therefore likely to now have could significantly hinder any further settlement talks.
In the event of a lengthier ban being handed down, the Browns could turn to Jimmy Garoppolo. Cleveland initially seemed committed to Jacoby Brissett as a short-term solution, but Watson being sidelined for the entire season – or at least a more significant portion of it – as a result of the appeal could lead the Browns to trade for the outgoing 49ers signal-caller.
The NFL has been attempting to have Watson made ineligible for preseason action as well, but with the Browns’ first game now hours away, that seems unlikely. How deep into the fall he is banned for, though, remains very much in question.