The NFL, the NFL Players Association, and Browns Quarterback Deshaun Watson reportedly discussed the terms of a negotiated suspension under the Personal Conduct Policy. Those conversations allegedly “fell apart† It is not believed that they will be reassembled.
According to a league source, the current expectation is that the NFL will propose a suspension of Watson and that the case will be referred to arbitration, chaired by the disciplinary judge. Commissioner Roger Goodell would then have the final say on any appeals filed by either side.
Several factors have made a negotiated solution difficult. First, the league cannot afford to give the impression that it was too lenient with Watson. If the NFL, NFLPA and Watson agree on a suspension that would be acceptable to all, the end result could be viewed as unsatisfactory by media and fans. To appease those who would criticize the league for being too weak, the league must propose a long-term suspension. A settlement could possibly be reached afterwards. If that happens, the league will still have made a clear, strong statement about a significant penalty for Watson.
Second, under Section 46 of the collective bargaining agreement, the union may argue that Watson can only face one sentence for the same conduct, even though he continues to be charged with sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions by previously unknown plaintiffs. This will potentially force the league to impose an even longer suspension to account for the possibility of additional claims.
While Rule 46 can be interpreted as meaning that Watson may be disciplined for the cases already filed and to re-penalize him for new cases that may arise, the league may not want to risk a future suspension being dropped due to a technical . But waiting for all statute of limitations to expire is not an acceptable alternative, especially if Watson resolves the other four pending lawsuits.
That said, a settlement over the suspension could leave the door open for future sentences, if new claims emerge. This leads the competition back to the original problem. Any settlement reached before the league proposes a suspension could create the impression that the league didn’t do enough – and it was the impression that the league didn’t pay Ray Rice enough almost the whole operation knocked down in 2014.
So perhaps the best chance of a settlement will come after the league proposes a lengthy suspension, with the agreement that the door will be left open if other lawsuits are filed in the future.
Negotiated suspension of Deshaun Watson seems very unlikely at the moment originally appeared on Pro Football Talk