NFL, Deshaun Watson settlement still possible, but not likely (for the moment).

Six days ago, Deshaun Watson was disciplined by the Browns after a hearing.

NFL, Deshaun Watson settlement still possible, but not likely (for the moment).

Six days ago, Deshaun Watson was disciplined by the Browns after a hearing. In five days, both sides will present written documentation to Judge Sue L. Robinson explaining their positions. A compromise can be reached through negotiation in the interim. Theoretically.

There have been arguments about the wisdom of a settlement. It would make sense. It is possible to resolve legal disputes without ever receiving a formal ruling. Both sides will be a bit pissed at the final decision, which is the best outcome. It eliminates the possibility of either side becoming extremely upset over the final decision.

P.R. is the problem for the league. P.R. is the problem for the league. Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL can't afford not to be seen as too soft on Watson, despite all the flaws in Judge Robinson's case. The league demands a minimum suspension for one year. The brief updates that were provided during the hearing consisted mainly of reminders that Watson is still wanted suspended for at most one year.

How can the league convince people to believe that there is anything less? It would not be simple. While many cases like this can be resolved through agreement, the suggestion that Watson could be involved in the suspension decision was ridiculed. Even if the league leaks their reasoning to reporters, who will present it to public without skepticism, or Goodell holds a press conference to explain it without the usual stream non-answers it will be difficult for the league sell something like a 4-game, 6-game or 8-game suspension.

Right now.

After Judge Robinson's decision, a settlement might make more sense for the NFL. The league could appeal to Goodell if she imposes any discipline. If he so desired, he could impose a suspension for the entire season or even a longer period. Once Watson is notified by someone else, it becomes easier for Watson to negotiate with the league.

Let's suppose Judge Robinson suspends Watson for four games. This is her decision. It will be communicated to Watson through a well-written decision that will make it clear to anyone who may be inclined to believe that the discipline is not sufficient. With Goodell now holding the hammer that would allow his to increase the punishment up to a full-year, settlement talks could take place. A suspension that is longer than Judge Robinson's would be seen as the league trying to get a more severe punishment.

Many would argue that Goodell holds all the cards and Watson is subject to any discipline imposed by Judge Robinson. Why should Watson be allowed to do less than the best he can? This would eliminate the chance of Watson losing in court, however slim. If it ever gets there.

After the Ray Rice scandal of 2014, the league is not known for being gentle with players. This is the first case under a process to minimize Goodell's influence. His influence is actually minimized until an appeal occurs.

Last week, someone from the league suggested that the NFL might not be appealing if Judge Robinson suspends Watson six to eight times. Perhaps if Robinson suspends Watson for less than six to eight games, the league will appeal and accept six to eight games as a negotiated settlement. Perhaps Watson's absence from 2021 could be used as time served. He would have been traded to another club and played the entire season if there hadn't been the 10 criminal complaints and 24 civil lawsuits.

If he is granted a full season on de facto paid leaves, he would have to forfeit the $10 million he earned for not playing last. He might do it if it meant he could get on the field sooner rather than later. He might make the right choice if it meant sacrificing his 2021 pay and missing four, six, or eight games in 2022.

It will be easier for the league and fans to sell such a product to the media and fans once Judge Robinson issues a ruling explaining, from the perspective a true outsider why the Personal Conduct Policy, as it was applied to the facts, may not justify what the league wants. It would be logical for both sides to reach an agreement, even though the league may choose to remain firm. To suspend him for one year. Then to go to court.

Waiting for Judge Robinson's ruling is the biggest risk that the league takes. If she doesn't impose any discipline, then there's nothing else that can be done. Watson will be free to play in Week One, as the NFL has lost.

They could settle it all at any time. It would be difficult for the league, even without Judge Robinson's ruling, to not give the impression it didn't go far enough to punish Watson.

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