2:26 p.m.: Rumored as it may be on Friday to keep Watson off the field for the Browns’ preseason opener, Harvey’s appeal ruling may not come until at least next week. As of this afternoon, nothing appears to be brewing on that front, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com tweets. Harvey’s decision almost certainly won’t happen Friday, adds ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano (at Twitter). Despite missing at least the Browns’ first six games, Watson is expected to start for his new team against the Jaguars tonight.
1:35 p.m.: Although they have occurred sporadically for more than two months and produced no resolution, Watson negotiations are not off the table yet. The league and the union coming to an agreement shouldn’t be ruled out, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio tweets.
11:50 a.m.: With the Browns set to begin their preseason tonight, a decision from league spokesman Peter Harvey could come very soon regarding the NFL’s appeal of the Deshaun Watson suspension In the hope of avoiding the desired result of the league, the Browns QB is said to want to accept a stricter punishment than the one he was initially given.
Watson would be willing to accept an eight-game suspension and a $5MM fine, via 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 will face no financial penalties other than the $345K in salary he will lose as a result.
The attempt to settle at a middle ground between the original ban and the one that the league argues through its an appeal raises the question of settlement negotiations. 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 never seemed particularly close. The closest offer of the league to which the union could agree was a 12-game suspension along with a fine of approximately $8MM.
According to the AP report, “it is not clear whether the sides are in active discussions” to reach an agreement that will end this saga. Earlier this week, it was reported that a significant increase in Watson’s punishment – which could very well manifest itself when Harvey agrees to the league’s push for an indefinite suspension – was considered probable. The leverage the NFL likely now has could significantly hinder any further negotiations.
In the event of a longer ban being handed down, the Browns could turn to Jimmy Garoppolo. Cleveland initially seemed committed Jacoby Brissett as a short-term solution, but Watson being sidelined for the entire season – or at least a more significant part of it – as a result of the appeal could lead them to trade for the outgoing 49ers signal caller.
The NFL also tried to make Watson ineligible for preseason action, but with the Browns’ first game now hours away, that seems unlikely. How deep into the fall he is banned, however, remains highly questionable.