This matter now goes to appellee Peter Harvey, whom Roger Goodell appointed to hear the league’s appeal. Harvey helped the NFL draft its personal conduct policy, and the fact that Goodell chose him to hear its appeal of Watson’s six-game suspension suggests the league is confident more games will be set on the Browns’ ban. – quarterback.
That happens puts the NFLPA in a place where a a court battle seems likely. Because the union did not appeal Sue Robinson’s six-match ban, Watson will miss the first six games of this season. However, a court battle could have him on the field right after. A preliminary injunction, as courts deal with that matter, would put Watson in a position to play and — assuming the league’s CBA holds up in court — would serve two separate suspensions. Or, the union’s legal effort fails before that Week 7 window and Watson serves a longer suspension that covers most or all of the 2022 season. Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliott played under bans, but each served the Goodell-determined suspensions at later dates.
The NFL is again seeking a full-season suspension, its target for the past few weeks. Robinson ruling Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy by committing a sexual assault during massage therapy sessions gives Harvey the power to increase his suspension. Without a full-season suspension, the league wants to substantially increase Watson’s fine. The Browns’ structuring of Watson’s contract, giving the former Texans Pro Bowler a league minimum salary to minimize his financial penalty in the event of a suspension, did not sit well with the NFL.
Negotiations between the NFL and NFLPA occurred periodically, and more clarity emerged about what each side was willing to accept. The NFLPA spent weeks arguing that Watson shouldn’t have been suspended at all, but ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano reports the union was willing to accept an eight-game ban. The shortest absence the NFL was willing to allow was 12 games. If the 12-game suspension was put through a compromise, Graziano adds that the NFL also wanted Watson fined in the $8MM range.
Watson’s camp didn’t want to go along with the NFL’s push for an indefinite suspension, per NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo, who describes that component as a primary driver in stalling the settlement talks (video link). As it stands now, Watson is set to lose less than $500K due to his six-game ban. A full season absence would only cost him his $1MM base salary.
This process, which involved 25 civil lawsuits filed against the recently traded quarterback, will be designed to end quickly, ESPN.com’s Jeff Darlington relays (in Twitter). No additional hearings are forthcoming, just Harvey’s decision. After that, it could spill over into court. The Browns are ready to give his starting job to Jacoby Brissett during Watson’s absence, with Josh Dobbs and Josh Rosen serving as backup options.