The Cleveland Browns are inching towards the start of the 2022 regular season, but they still don’t know how many games quarterback Deshaun Watson will be on the field for.
He was originally handed a six-game suspension by independent arbitrator Sue Robinson as a result of his sexual misconduct allegations, but the league appealed the decision.
Commissioner Roger Goodell appointed Peter C. Harvey, the former attorney general of the state of New Jersey, to hear the appeal.
Reportedly, the league has been pushing for Watson to be suspended for the entire season, if not longer, plus a hefty fine.
Just days ago, it was reported that Watson and his camp were willing to settle for an eight-game suspension and a fine of $5 million.
— NFL Rumors (@nflrums) August 12, 2022
It seemed unlikely the league would be willing to negotiate with the three-time Pro Bowler, but that stance could be changing.
NFL and NFL Players Association are conducting active settlement negotiations in the Deshaun Watson disciplinary matter, per league sources. Whether compromise will be reached before designee Peter C. Harvey rules on appeal remains unclear w/ some optimism expressed by sources
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) August 17, 2022
In fact, a resolution could be coming very soon on this issue.
Sources close to the Deshaun Watson situation believe a resolution could come today or tomorrow. Recent talks between NFL and Watson's reps have heightened hope that they can reach a settlement without Peter C. Harvey having to rule, but it's unclear how much longer he will wait.
— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) August 17, 2022
A quick resolution would be helpful for the Browns, as it wouldn’t only give them some certainty on when Watson would be available, but it may perhaps also mean that Watson will receive a lighter sentence as part of a settlement.
The Browns’ Season May Be Riding On The NFL’s Decision
If Watson isn’t allowed to play at all this season, Cleveland may have to kiss its hopes of reaching the playoffs goodbye.
It would be a shame because executive Andrew Berry has assembled a fairly talented roster on both sides of the football.
The Browns have a very strong running game behind Nick Chubb, who some believe is poised for a monster year, and Kareem Hunt, who recently asked to be traded.
Amari Cooper gives them perhaps their best wide receiver since a healthy Odell Beckham Jr., and they have a few interesting prospects who could become a legitimate WR2, such as Donovan Peoples-Jones and rookie David Bell.
Defensively, Myles Garrett is one of the game’s very best pass rushers, while Denzel Ward is a proven Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback.
It’s a team Watson could certainly take to the playoffs.
If he is lucky enough to receive a lighter suspension, especially if it’s the eight-game sentence he is reportedly hoping for, the Browns could possibly remain in the playoff hunt.
In that scenario, they would have to get through September and October with a minimum of mishaps, but they have the benefit of a relatively easy schedule during the first four weeks of the schedule.
Cleveland will absolutely need Watson following its bye week, which will come in Week 9.
After that, it will face the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in succession, and it will have contests against division rivals in the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15, the Baltimore Ravens the following week and the Pittsburgh Steelers to close out the schedule in Week 18.
First place in the AFC North may come down to those games, and the Browns may need to win the division in order to reach the postseason.