If the third day of the Deshaun Watson hearing begins, with no information on the evidence or arguments making their way to the media, the process moves toward a decision by Judge Sue L. Robinson. Now or anytime before that happens, the two sides can agree on an agreed-upon punishment.
Efforts have been made before. They failed, reportedly because the league wanted nothing less than a one-year suspension.
It can still happen. Below is an idea to get it done.
When I recently went through Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement, I noticed section 5. It reads: “Players who are placed on the exempted list by the commissaire prior to the determination of disciplinary action and any appeal against it under the policy for personal conduct will be paid while he was on the exempted commissaires’ list and credited for the missed regular and post-season games against any suspension ultimately imposed Notwithstanding anything else in this Agreement, if such suspension is eventually imposed, the player must return immediately and shall have no further entitlement to any salary for the games for which he was paid while on the list of exempt commissioners and which were attributed to the suspension (i.efor some matches not exceeding the duration of the suspension).
In English, this means that a player who has been placed on paid leave and is eventually suspended will receive credit for the missed matches while on paid leave. He just has to hand in the money he earned during his paid leave.
Technically, Watson was not on paid leave in 2021. The league never had to decide whether to appeal to the list of exempted commissioners, because he de facto paid leave; he didn’t want to play for the Texans and the Texans didn’t want him to play. He got $10 million from the Texans for not playing.
Now for the idea. The NFL and the NFL Players Association, acting on Watson’s behalf, were able to agree that 2021 will be treated as a suspension, with Watson losing the $10 million paid to him. He will also miss eight games to start the 2022 season.
He missed all of 2021. That has to count for something. In addition, this approach would give the league a way to give the impression that it is inflicting a significant penalty on Watson: 25 games in total, with no pay.
Collecting the $10 million he received in 2021 would also help dispel the impression that the Browns have structured a deal to minimize the financial impact of a 2022 suspension, as his base salary is just $1,035 million. Instead, he would lose a total of $10.46 million in salary. (He may also be required to turn in 8/8 of his allotment of a $9 million signing bonus for 2022; that’s another $4 million gone for good.)
Some would say this makes too much sense to ever happen. It makes perfect sense for both parties to try to come up with ideas for an agreed-upon solution that works for everyone.
Barring a deal, there is nothing in the CBA that would stop Judge Robinson from basing a decision on the idea that 2021 should be treated as a suspension in retrospect, with Watson losing $10 million and getting credit for 17 missed games.
While Watson’s absence in 2021 was not technically related to the problems off the pitch, he would certainly have been traded had it not been for the allegations against him. If he is willing to give up the $10 million he made in 2021, why shouldn’t 2021 be treated as part of the final penalty?
Here’s a proposed deal to resolve the Deshaun Watson case originally appeared on Pro Football Talk