The most-discussed quarterback in the AFC North may never even play in 2022. And we’re certainly not talking about any backup. The only battle the Cleveland Browns’ Deshaun Watson is facing as it pertains to his job is whether or not he will be allowed to be on the field at all during this upcoming season.
As reported yesterday, Watson is scheduled to meet with joint NFL-NFLPA disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson on Tuesday, during which time the two sides will pose their arguments for what course of action they believe is appropriate.
Reportedly, the NFL intends to argue for an indefinite suspension for Watson that spans at least one year, which, if they end up having their way, would mean of course that he would not be eligible to play at all in 2022, and which would have the effect of having his contract toll by one year, meaning that it would restart in 2023, putting him under contract through 2027 rather than 2026.
On the flip side, the Players’ Association, as you would expect, intends to argue a much different case. Indeed, they may argue that no suspension at all should be carried out, according to reports that came out last night.
Although Watson is facing two dozen lawsuits and counting, the NFL intends to focus on just a handful of specific vases within its argument, ones that they believe “are objectively provable and establish a clear and disturbing pattern of behavior from Watson”, according to Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal.
Now, I find it quite hard to imagine that Watson will manage to avoid suspension altogether. We already have established precedent for somewhat similar allegations made against players with no criminal charges field, and, frankly, we’ve never seen a case count anywhere near as extensive as we’re seeing now in Cleveland.
I also sense that the climate more than ever will put the pressure on the league to do whatever is within its power to ensure that Watson is suspended in some form or fashion, even if they don’t get everything out of it that they argue for. Indeed, they may shoot beyond their intentions in the hope of landing where they want to.
The case that the NFLPA will make is one that is not without validity. Part of their argument in defense of Watson will be that the league has not similarly disciplined non-player members of the NFL for matters of violations of the Personal Conduct Policy, such as owners Robert Kraft, Daniel Snyder, and Jerry Jones.
This is, of course, an excellent argument for why owners need to be held equally accountable for their actions rather than an argument in favor of leniency to better reflect the privileges received by the owners. But if it were my job to defend Watson, that would logically be the argument I look to attack.