Deshaun Watson

Falcons Shopped Matt Ryan Before Deshaun Watson Decision; Team Expected To Land Watson

Matt Ryan trade buzz picked up in the days following Deshaun Watson‘s decision to waive his no-trade for the Browns, but the Falcons had begun discussing its 14-year quarterback with teams before Watson committed.

As the Falcons pursued Watson, they shopped Ryan, Zak Keefer of The Athletic reports (subscription required). This came as most among the Falcons assumed the embattled Texans quarterback “was theirs.” Watson is from Georgia and spent time as a Falcons ball boy as a child.

This gibes with what came out in March, when a report indicated Watson was speaking with free agents — Jarvis Landry and Leonard Fournette among them — about joining him in Atlanta. Jadeveon Clowney later said he would probably have signed with the Falcons had Watson chosen to waive his no-trade clause to be dealt to Atlanta. The Falcons were also competing with the Panthers and Saints for Watson, but on the night before the trade went down, the Falcons had expected to land the Pro Bowl quarterback. The Browns’ fully guaranteed $230MM contract — a price point that pushed the Falcons and Panthers to stand down — changed everything.

Prior to Watson’s Cleveland choice, Falcons assistant GM Ryan Smith contacted Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds regarding Ryan interest, Keefer adds, and Colts brass then watched every Ryan game from 2020-21 as they determined if he would be a fit. The Colts had agreed to trade Carson Wentz to the Commanders on March 9, leaving them without a clear-cut option for a stretch. They had also held discussions with Jameis Winston, with Baker Mayfield showing interest in Indianapolis. The Falcons and Colts agreed to terms on a Ryan trade — which sent a third-round pick to Atlanta for the former MVP — March 21.

Ryan, now 37, did his own homework on the Colts, calling Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers to gain intel on, respectively, the organization and Frank Reich‘s offense. Other teams were also interested in Ryan, per Keefer, but the Falcons wanted to send their longtime franchise cornerstone to a destination he preferred.

Despite Watson choosing the Browns as the Colts shopped Ryan, the Falcons stayed the course on a trade by continuing negotiations. On the Colts’ end, Jim Irsay, who had a few negative things to say about Wentz this offseason, instructed GM Chris Ballard to complete the trade. Shortly after the Falcons sent Ryan to the Colts, they signed ex-Arthur Smith Titans charge Marcus Mariota. While third-round pick Desmond Ridder should be expected to make starts for the rebuilding team this season, Mariota will begin the campaign as Atlanta’s starter.

The Colts, whose issues with Wentz began during the 2021 offseason, have been pleased with Ryan thus far. They are eyeing at least a two-year partnership. This would stop a revolving QB door for the Colts, who are about to the join the Broncos and Commanders in starting a different Week 1 QB in each of the past six seasons. Ryan’s contract, which handed the Falcons an NFL-record $40MM dead-money charge, has since been restructured. It checks in with $18.7MM (2022) and $35.2MM (’23) cap numbers.

Latest Following Deshaun Watson Settlement

The reactions have been plentiful concerning the settlement reached between the NFL and the NFLPA last month on the punishment for Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. The settlement came after the NFL decided to appeal the initial ruling from retired judge Sue Robinson of a six-game ban. Many thought the ban too lenient but the NFLPA threatened to take the matter to court if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell decided to make the ban last for a full season. Thus, the two parties arrived at the negotiated settlement for an 11-game ban, a $5MM fine, and mandatory counseling. 

There is still one victim of Watson’s actions who, unlike the NFL, refuses to settle with the new Browns’ quarterback. Lauren Baxley is the only one out of 24 plaintiffs who refuses to settle with Watson. In a statement article released by, Baxley delineated what keeps her from signing the dotted line.

“I have rejected all settlement offers, in part because they have not included any sincere acknowledgment of remorse and wrongdoings,” Baxley explained. “Watson still refuses to admit that he harassed and committed indecent assault against me. Any settlement offer he has made has been a dismissal of his evil actions.”

This is not an uncommon sentiment. An NFL senior advisor offered similar remarks in an article by Mary Kay Cabot of Rita Smith, a former 23-year executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence who now advises the NFL on matters of domestic violence and sexual assault, was disturbed by the heel-turn Watson made last month. Watson appeared to offer an apology to his accusers before the team’s preseason game on August 12, but, in a press conference about the settlement six days later, continued to remark on his own innocence in the matter, effectively wiping out any good will from what seemed to be an apology less than a week before. Smith told that she feels “like he’s playing us.”

Once again, this is not an uncommon sentiment. Reportedly, a high-ranking owner has become increasingly provoked by Watson’s lack of contrition, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. Volin reports that one of the terms of the settlement was that Watson would “publicly show remorse” while Watson continues to “stand on [his] innocence.” Like Smith above, this owner also claims to “feel played by Watson.” The owner asserts that, should Watson continue not to show remorse, they may push for Goodell not to reinstate Watson at the conclusion of his 11-game ban.

The sentiment to push for a full-season ban is one not all owners share, though, according to Peter King of NBC Sports. According to King, some owners didn’t want Watson suspended for the full year. Instead, they preferred a suspension shorter than 17 games so that the Browns might be penalized for the fully-guaranteed structure of Watson’s contract. If Watson were to be suspended for all of the 2022 season, his contract would rollover one year, through the 2027 season. If Watson becomes eligible for some of the season, though, the Browns will owe him $40MM despite him only appearing in what is currently six games, and his contract will expire on time after the 2026 season.

All of this is yet to be seen. He may in the future show remorse, allowing him to settle with Baxley, the last remaining plaintiff, and endearing him to the league’s advisor on domestic violence and sexual assault. He may continue to stand on his innocence and provoke the NFL to extend his ban for not upholding the terms of the settlement.

For now, though, it appears that Watson has begun his league-mandated counseling, according to a more recent King article from NBC Sports. The hope seems to be that, through counseling, Watson will be able to understand “why he sought treatment from 66 massage therapists in 18 months;” that there’s a very real possibility that he did something wrong. While it may take years to reach any closure on the matter, Watson fulfilling the counseling mandate is as productive an action as we can hope to expect at this time.

Browns Trim Roster To 53

The Browns are one of the first teams to slash their roster from 80 to 53 players. Here is how Cleveland reached the NFL’s regular-season roster max:




Placed on reserve/suspended list:

After seeing an NFL-NFLPA settlement increase his suspension to 11 games, Watson cannot return to game action until Dec. 4. He can return to the Browns’ facility in October and begin practicing in November.

With Jimmy Garoppolo recommitted to the 49ers, Jacoby Brissett is seemingly Cleveland’s locked-in QB1. While Brissett bombing in the role could prompt the Browns to pursue Garoppolo’s cheaper contract before the trade deadline, the veteran now has a no-trade clause again. The 49ers also may be interested in retaining the veteran arm in case of an injury to Trey Lance or if the much-hyped prospect struggles.

Receiving a fair amount of hype as a prospect three years before Lance, Rosen has not panned out. He signed with the Browns late in the offseason but, barring a practice squad stay, will be bounced from another team. The former Cardinals No. 10 overall pick has moved from Arizona to Miami to Tampa to San Francisco to Atlanta to Cleveland since 2019.

Hance started eight games for the Browns last season and has been with the team since 2020, arriving as a UDFA. Having been in Kevin Stefanski’s system for three years now, the 26-year-old blocker would make sense as a taxi squad stash — especially with starting center Nick Harris on IR.

Deshaun Watson Fallout: Treatment, Haslam, Garoppolo, Brissett

Deshaun Watson will not make his Browns debut until December, thanks to the 11-game suspension he received Thursday. While the quarterback expressed some degree of remorse in an interview before the ban came down, his comments Thursday took a different tone.

After Watson continued to insist he did nothing wrong,’s Dianna Russini noted (via Twitter) those close to the recently traded passer indicated his acceptance of a $5MM fine and mandatory counseling “has nothing to do with an admission of guilt” and is not an apology to the dozens of women who accused him of sexual assault and/or sexual misconduct. This stance and Watson’s comments during his Thursday press conference contrast from his official post-suspension statement and surely did not please those on the NFL’s side of this drama.

Watson, 26, cannot return to the Browns’ facility until October and cannot resume practicing until November. These dates, along with the Dec. 4 Texans game, are contingent upon Watson’s counseling. Compliance with a third-party behavioral expert is mandatory for Watson’s reinstatement, per’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Additional punishment would come Watson’s way if he fails to meet these standards.

Critically, however, the settlement covers the four cases that Judge Sue L. Robinson ruled upon as well as any “substantially similar” violations that took place before the date of settlement (August 18). So even if more therapists make allegations against Watson, the QB’s status with the NFL would be unaffected, as long as the allegations stem from incidents that occurred prior to August 18 and are similar in nature to those that have already come to light (meaning, for instance, that they don’t include claims of force) (Twitter links via Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network).

Prior to the settlement, Watson had moved closer to the NFL’s 12-game offer and roughly an $8MM fine by being willing to accept an eight-game ban and a fine in the $5MM range. Watson, who signed a $230MM fully guaranteed deal after the blockbuster March trade, was open to paying what it took to return to the field sooner,’s Jeremy Fowler tweets.

Watson would likely have been willing to pay more in fines if it meant the eight-game suspension would be the punishment, Fowler adds. The NFL had sought a full-season penalty for months but likely backed off to prevent this matter from dragging into a lengthy court battle. Despite the backlash that has come out since this revised suspension emerged, a league source viewed Thursday’s punishment as “significant, definitive and final,” per the Washington Post’s Mark Maske (on Twitter).

The Browns have withstood the constant criticism of their decision not only to acquire Watson but to authorize a groundbreaking extension — less than 18 months after Watson signed a lucrative Texans contract. The former No. 12 overall pick ended up playing just 16 games on that $39MM-per-year deal. GM Andrew Berry, whom owner Jimmy Haslam said pitched the idea of the fully guaranteed deal, said the Browns would make the trade again. Citing the second chance the team gave Kareem Hunt after his 2018 assault of a woman was captured on video, via Pelissero (on Twitter), Haslam called this a similar opportunity for Watson.

I think in this country, and hopefully in the world, people deserve second chances. I really think that,” Haslam said. “… Is he never supposed to play again? Is he never supposed to be a part of society? Does he get no chance to rehabilitate himself? That is what we are going to do.”

Although Watson will not play in Cleveland’s final two preseason games, he took snaps with the Browns’ second-string offense in a Thursday joint practice with the Eagles. His upcoming absence puts Jacoby Brissett in place to take over for the fill-in role he was signed to play. Brissett should be expected to remain the Browns’ starter going into the regular season. The Browns are not believed to be interested in Jimmy Garoppolo, per’s Tony Grossi. Kevin Stefanski said he has been “very impressed” with Brissett, via’s Jake Trotter. The Browns have yet to name Brissett their Week 1 starter, however.

NFL, NFLPA Reach Settlement; Browns QB Deshaun Watson Banned 11 Games

The NFL and NFLPA moved to decide the Deshaun Watson matter via settlement. After off-and-on talks for months, the league and the union came to an agreement Thursday. Watson will be suspended 11 games and fined $5MM, Aaron Wilson of reports (on Twitter).

Counseling will also be mandatory for the Browns quarterback, per the settlement. Watson said last week he had begun counseling. This agreement, a five-game bump from the original suspension announced by disciplinary officer Sue Robinson, will prevent this saga from spilling into court — long rumored to be the NFLPA’s course of action if a full-season ban came down.

Although Watson will not be permitted to play in games until December, he can return to the Browns’ facility Oct. 10, Adam Schefter of tweets. The recently traded quarterback can resume practicing Nov. 14.

Settlement talks did not progress too far ahead of Robinson’s initial suspension, but with appeal appointee Peter Harvey expected to bring stronger punishment, the NFLPA became more amenable to negotiating with the league. Prior to Robinson’s ruling, the league was willing to drop its push for a full-season ban. The NFL was open to a 12-game penalty and a fine of at least $8MM. While this suspension and the fine are not quite what the league wanted initially, the NFL’s desire to see Watson sidelined for much of this season will come to fruition.

While Watson’s absence will obviously hinder the Browns’ hopes at a successful 2022 season, this settlement does open the door to his debut being in Houston. The Browns, who have a bye in Week 9, will travel to face the Texans in Week 13. Watson, 26, was with the Texans for five seasons — the last of which as a non-playing member on the 53-man roster.

It remains to be seen if Cleveland will stick with Jacoby Brissett for the duration of Watson’s suspension, as Jimmy Garoppolo connections have increased in recent days. Andrew Berry would not yet confirm Brissett would start Week 1, with Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed noting the third-year GM only expressed confidence in the Watson fill-in (Twitter link).

Unless a Garoppolo trade happens soon, or in the unlikely event Sam Darnold retains his starting Panthers job, Week 1 will feature a Brissett-Baker Mayfield matchup. The Browns will not have Watson for games against the Jets, Falcons, Chargers, Patriots, Dolphins, Bills, Buccaneers and initial games against each of their three AFC North rivals.

One of the 24 women who filed civil lawsuits against Watson alleging sexual assault and/or sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions has not settled her case. Absent a settlement, that matter will be tabled to 2023. Unless more lawsuits come down, this saga is on the homestretch regarding punishment. Two grand juries did not bring charges against Watson, but Robinson ruled he violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy by committing nonviolent sexual assault. Roger Goodell said last week the league found the Browns QB committed multiple violations of the policy, leading to the appeal.

With the CBA giving Goodell power to appeal and ultimately, via Harvey, follow through with a 17-game ban, the league would have been favored to prevail in a court case. It did so against Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliott, who served their suspensions — after delays — despite court fights. The Watson drama, due to the volume of accusers and the nature of the alleged misconduct, became one of the highest-profile off-field matters in NFL history. Thus, it is unsurprising to see the league go forward with a settlement that prevents a weeks- or months-long court battle.

In the leadup to this settlement, Watson appeared to show more remorse for the alleged off-field misconduct. A Goodell statement Thursday indicated Watson “committed to doing the hard work on himself that is necessary for his return to the NFL.” The sixth-year QB has never admitted wrongdoing, however, and continued to lean in that direction Thursday, saying (via CBS Sports’ Aditi Kinkhabwala, on Twitter) “I have always stood on my innocence” and that he “never assaulted or disrespected anyone.”

I’m looking forward to just moving forward with my career and being able to get back on the field as soon as possible,” Watson said. “That’s the plan, to continue to grow as a person, an individual, and keep moving forward.”

Watson, who missed much of his rookie season due to an ACL tear, will end up missing 28 games in connection with these allegations. The Texans held off on trade talks for much of last year, after Watson had requested to be dealt just before his off-field saga began, and the three-time Pro Bowler’s market cooled once the controversy erupted. Houston deactivated its former starter for all 17 games last season. The Dolphins came closest to trading for Watson in 2021; at that point, the QB was only believed to have waived his no-trade clause to go to Miami. But the now-Mike McDaniel-led Dolphins moved forward with Tua Tagovailoa this year, opening the door to one of the most unusual trade sweepstakes in NFL history.

The Browns, Falcons, Saints and Panthers met with the embattled quarterback this year, and while Carolina was in on Watson the longest, Atlanta was believed to be the passer’s preference. That is, until the Browns came down with their historic five-year, $230MM fully guaranteed contract offer. The Texans traded Watson to the Browns for a package headlined by three first-round picks. Watson’s former employer is now in position to see the quarterback whose off-field actions led to the franchise being sued — producing 30 settlements with Watson accusers — come December 4.

Thursday’s settlement will prevent Watson’s contract from tolling. The NFL also increased the monetary penalty for a quarterback attached to a $1MM 2022 salary — a point of contention among the league and its 31 other teams. Watson will lose the $5MM and a $632K of his 2022 base salary. His 2023-26 salaries — which are in line to produce league-record cap numbers ($54.99MM) — will be unaffected.

NFL, NFLPA Remain In Deshaun Watson Settlement Discussions

Nearly two weeks have passed since the NFL appealed Deshaun Watson‘s suspension, and with the prospect of a Peter Harvey appeal ruling that comes down much harder on the Browns quarterback, settlement talks appear to be ramping up in earnest. A resolution could come by Wednesday or Thursday, Dan Graziano of tweets.

While settlement talks between the NFL and NFLPA took place before the initial hearing before Sue Robinson in June, no resolution emerged. With Harvey expected to add games to Watson’s ban, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes a settlement is back in play. Talks have persisted over the past few days and could well produce a long-elusive settlement, per’s Aaron Wilson and’s Mary Kay Cabot. Although settlement talks are producing optimism, per Wilson, the NFL is negotiating from a position of strength due to the expectation Harvey would side with the league regarding Watson punishment.

An expedited Harvey ruling has been expected, but Roger Goodell‘s appointee has been in the spotlight for two weeks now. Settlement talks are not playing into Harvey’s timetable, Cabot adds (on Twitter). Watson’s camp is, however, hopeful an agreement can come to pass before Harvey rules, Graziano adds.

A settlement would potentially prevent Watson from being sidelined for all of 2022. The recently traded passer is willing to accept an eight-game suspension that accompanies a substantial fine. Long tied to wanting a yearlong ban, the NFL was believed to be willing to move to a 12-game penalty as long as a hefty fine — in the neighborhood of $8MM, though’s Albert Breer notes the NFL wanted the fine to be around $10MM — and treatment came along with it.

In deeming Watson committed nonviolent sexual assault during massage therapy sessions, Robinson ruled the quarterback violated the league’s personal conduct policy. As such, the NFL would mandate treatment in any settlement offer, Breer adds. After being dinged throughout this process for a lack of remorse, Watson shifted in tone Friday, saying (in an interview with WEWS-TV’s Aditi Kinkhabwala, video link) he wants to continue counseling. A $10MM fine would be in line with what Watson made in 2021, when he collected a $10.54MM base salary while not playing for the Texans.

The effort to hand down a considerable financial punishment is also connected to the Browns’ contract structure — in which Watson’s $230MM extension calls for a veteran-minimum salary in 2022, largely to shield the former No. 12 overall pick from losing much of that money — irking the NFL. Watson’s cap numbers spike to record-setting places come 2023; he will be tied to $54.99MM figures from 2023-26. If Watson does not play in 2022, his contract tolls to 2023 and thus runs through 2027.

A settlement would also prevent this matter from being dragged into court. The league has wanted Watson off the field this season, but it would surely appreciate not seeing this matter spill over into court the way Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliott‘s 2010s suspensions did. The NFL prevailed in both cases, but both players saw preliminary injunctions lead them to the field while those court cases played out.

If Watson’s suspension “significantly increases,” a Browns trade for Jimmy Garoppolo could reenter the equation. Conflicting reports have emerged on the team’s interest in the 49ers trade chip, and it would be interesting to see how the Browns proceed if a settlement moves Watson’s penalty to the 10- or 12-game range.

Latest On Deshaun Watson Settlement Talks

2:26pm: Rumored as possible to happen Friday, in an effort 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 looks to be brewing on that front, Mary Kay Cabot of tweets. Harvey’s decision almost definitely will not happen Friday, Dan Graziano of adds (on Twitter). Despite being set to miss at least the Browns’ first six games, Watson is expected to start for his new team against the Jaguars tonight.

1:35pm: Although they have sporadically taken place for more than two months and produced no resolution, Watson settlement talks still are not off the table. The league and the union coming to an agreement should not be ruled out, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk tweets.

11:50am: With the Browns set to begin their preseason tonight, a decision from league designee Peter Harvey could be coming very shortly regarding the NFL’s appeal of the Deshaun Watson suspension. In the hopes of avoiding the league’s desired outcome, the Browns QB is reportedly willing 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, per 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 face no financial penalties aside from the $345K in salary he will forfeit as a result.

The attempt to settle at a middle ground between the original ban and the one the league is arguing for through its appeal raises the question of settlement talks. 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 has never seemed particularly close. The league’s closest offer to what the union could agree to was a 12-game suspension along with a fine of roughly $8MM.

Per the AP report, “it’s not clear if the sides are in active discussions” to reach a settlement which will end this saga. Earlier this week, it was reported that a significant increase in Watson’s punishment – which could very well manifest itself as Harvey agreeing with the league’s push for an indefinite suspension – was considered likely. The leverage the NFL is therefore likely to now have could significantly hinder any further settlement talks.

In the event of a lengthier ban being handed down, the Browns could turn to Jimmy Garoppolo. Cleveland initially seemed committed to Jacoby Brissett as a short-term solution, but Watson being sidelined for the entire season – or at least a more significant portion of it – as a result of the appeal could lead them to trade for the outgoing 49ers signal-caller.

The NFL has been attempting to have Watson made ineligible for preseason action as well, but with the Browns’ first game now hours away, that seems unlikely. How deep into the fall he is banned for, though, remains very much in question.

Browns To Consider Trading For Jimmy Garoppolo Pending Deshaun Watson Appeal

The sagas surrounding Jimmy Garoppolo and Deshaun Watson have run their courses simultaneously during the 2022 offseason. Events in the near future could cause them to be intertwined to a greater extent than they already have been. 

Mary Kay Cabot of reports that the Browns “will consider acquiring” Garoppolo in the event that Watson’s suspension “significantly increases.” The latter was handed a six-game ban for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. That fell roughly in line with what the Browns had been anticipating, leading many to believe that they would turn to backup Jacoby Brissett for the beginning of the season.

As expected, however, the league has appealed the suspension. Just as it did during Watson’s disciplinary hearing, the NFL will once again push for a year-long ban while appealing to designee Peter Harvey. That process is expected to result in a significant increase in the number of games Watson will be made unavailable for. With the Browns built for immediate playoff contention, that would add to their level of urgency in acquiring a more proven signal-caller.

The possibility of Cleveland trading for Garoppolo isn’t new, of course. It was reported last month, however, that the Browns were not considering a move to land the veteran 49er. Garoppolo, 30, has one year remaining on his current contract with a non-guaranteed salary of just over $24MM. That figure has led to recent speculation that San Francisco will hold on to him as long as possible to see if any significant trade market materializes in the coming weeks.

On that point, NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco confirms that it is “unlikely at this point” that any team would trade for Garoppolo without him negotiating a new contract lowering his 2022 cap hit. The one potential exception to that, though, remains Cleveland; with nearly $49MM in cap space, the team could comfortably absorb Garoppolo’s contract and use him as a placeholder in Watson’s absence.

With the league looking to keep Watson sidelined during the preseason, an announcement on the appeal could be coming very soon. Once it does, attention will once again turn to the Browns’ QB plans, and where Garoppolo could fit into them.

Significant Ban Expected For Browns’ Deshaun Watson On Appeal; NFL Trying To Keep QB Off Field In Preseason

3:29pm: Barring an indefinite suspension that takes Watson off the field immediately, the Browns announced they do plan to start their big-ticket acquisition Friday.

12:50pm: Roger Goodell took a public stance on the Deshaun Watson matter, saying disciplinary officer Sue Robinson’s report indicated the Browns quarterback committed multiple violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Appeals appointee Peter Harvey’s ruling could well come down week, Jeremy Fowler of notes.

With Robinson determining Watson violated the policy, the NFL appealed. The league’s appeal is expected to produce a much longer ban than six games. One league source called it a “slam dunk” Harvey will enforce the league’s preferred one-year ban, Aaron Wilson of notes, and others would be surprised if the sixth-year QB’s ban is not significantly lengthened.

We’ve seen the evidence,” Goodell said, via’s Jeff Legwold. “[Robinson] was very clear about the evidence, should we enforce the evidence. That there was multiple violations here, and they were egregious, and it was predatory behavior.”

The league is trying to move on this appeal ruling before the Browns begin their preseason slate, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, who tweets the NFL has indeed asked for an indefinite suspension that keeps the controversial QB off the field for Cleveland’s preseason as well. The NFLPA said a ruling Friday could indeed shelve Watson for the Browns’ preseason opener against the Jaguars.

Preseason competition is not exactly consequential in this grand scheme, but the league would avoid additional PR backlash by keeping Watson sidelined before his suspension starts. If a suspension does not prevent it, the Browns would like to give Watson some game action Friday,’s Mary Kay Cabot tweets.

Watson, who has not taken the field since Week 17 of the 2020 season, cannot return to action until at least Week 7 of this season. The NFLPA not appealing Robinson’s decision takes Watson off the field for the Browns’ first six games. This matter becoming a courtroom drama — which is the expectation — would only affect Watson’s availability for Week 7 and beyond.

The sides have discussed a settlement off and on for several weeks, but Peter King of NBC Sports adds a resolution between the NFL and NFLPA before Harvey’s ruling is unlikely. A union move to settle would make more sense at this point, with the league having a clear opportunity to see its long-held hope — a 17-game ban — come to fruition via Harvey. Absent a full-season suspension, the NFL has sought a heavy fine — in the $8MM range — that helps account for the wildly unpopular contract the Browns authorized.

The contract structure has not only irked the NFL, but King adds the deal, which dropped Watson’s 2022 base salary to the league minimum to protect him against a suspension, has not sat well with the other 31 teams as well. Multiple owners also expressed to’s Ed Werder that Robinson’s ruling was too light (Twitter link). If Harvey’s suspension sidelines Watson throughout the 2022 season, his contract tolls to 2023. The QB’s deal would, then, run from 2023-27. Watson playing in 2022 keeps him signed through 2026.

NFLPA Responds To NFL’s Deshaun Watson Appeal

The NFLPA had two business days to file a brief responding to the NFL’s Deshaun Watson appeal. The union has, as expected, followed through on filing a reply brief (Twitter link).

This matter now goes to appellate appointee Peter Harvey, whom Roger Goodell designated to hear the league’s appeal. Harvey helped the NFL craft its personal conduct policy, and the fact Goodell has selected him to hear its appeal of Watson’s six-game suspension suggests the league is confident more games will be tacked onto the Browns quarterback’s ban.

That taking place puts the NFLPA in a spot in which a court battle seems likely. Since the union did not appeal Sue Robinson’s six-game ban, Watson will miss this season’s first six games. However, a court fight could have him on the field immediately after. A preliminary injunction, as courts deal with this matter, would put Watson in position to play and — assuming the league’s CBA holds up in court — serve two separate suspensions. Or, the union’s legal effort fails ahead of 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 injunctions, but each served the Goodell-determined suspensions at later dates.

The NFL is again seeking a full-season suspension, its goal for the past several weeks. Robinson ruling Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy by committing sexual assault during massage therapy sessions gives Harvey the power to increase his suspension. Absent 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 punishment in the event of a suspension, has not sat well with the NFL.

Settlement talks between the NFL and NFLPA have occurred periodically, and more clarity has emerged on what each side was willing to accept. The NFLPA spent weeks arguing Watson should not be suspended at all, but Dan Graziano of 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 to be put in place via a settlement, Graziano adds the NFL also wanted Watson fined in the $8MM range.

Watson’s camp was not willing to go along with the NFL’s push for an indefinite suspension, per Mike Garafolo of, who describes that component as a lead driver in breaking off the settlement talks (video link). As it stands now, Watson is set to lose less than $500K from 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 conclude expeditiously,’s Jeff Darlington relays (on Twitter). No additional hearings are forthcoming, only Harvey’s decision. After that, it could spill over into court. The Browns are set to give their starting job to Jacoby Brissett during Watson’s absence, with Josh Dobbs and Josh Rosen serving as reserve options.