Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry thought he had fixed the team’s quarterback situation in the offseason.
Berry first landed a true starting quarterback by swinging a trade with the Houston Texans for Deshaun Watson. If anyone doubted that the Browns viewed Watson as a clear QB1, all doubt was removed when Cleveland signed Watson to a five-year contract with a fully guaranteed $230 million.
Next came free agency, where Berry filled the veteran backup role by signing Jacoby Brissett and the third-string, only active on game days if there is an emergency, role by signing Joshua Dobbs. (We are just going to pretend the signing of nothing more than a camp arm Josh Rosen never happened if that is OK with everyone.)
The one major flaw in the plan is that the Browns knew that Watson would likely be facing some form of discipline from the NFL if it found he violated the league’s personal conduct policy over 30 massage therapists accusing him of sexual misconduct during appointments.
That indeed came to pass when Watson was issued a six-game suspension on August 1 by independent disciplinary officer Judge Sue L. Robinson. The NFL subsequently appealed the ruling, as is their right under the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association and Watson’s fate is now in the hands of former New Jersey attorney general Peter C. Harvey, who was designated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to hear the appeal.
While everyone waits for Harvey to issue a ruling that will either increase, decrease or leave the suspension as is, the two sides have started to float out some ideas on how this could ultimately play out.
On Tuesday at a league meeting, Goodell said the league is looking to suspend Watson for at least a full year, hit him with what has been termed a “significant fine” and require him to undergo some form of evaluation and medical treatment as part of the process to be reinstated at some undetermined point the future.
That obviously does not sit well with Watson or the Browns, and on Thursday someone who is “familiar with his defense” told The Associated Press that Watson would be cool with an eight-game suspension and a $5 million fine to close the matter.
While the NFL wants a longer suspension than just six games, an additional two games and a fine that would not appear to be “significant” to someone with $230 million in guaranteed money waiting for him is probably not enough to appease them.
But it is a starting and could be a signal that the two sides are willing to work out a settlement rather than let Harvey set the punishment and then possibly see the NFLPA take the whole sordid mess to federal court.
This could also explain, in part, why Harvey has yet to make a ruling despite having Robinson’s 16-page report for more than a week now. If settlement talks are ongoing, Harvey could be under instruction to take his time while the NFL and Watson’s camp see if they can work something out.
Until then, everyone is in a holding pattern with Watson slated to start Friday night’s preseason game between the Browns and the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Cleveland reportedly warming up to the idea of acquiring quarterback Jimmy Garappolo from the San Francisco 49ers five years after taking a pass on him when he was with the New England Patriots.
Basically just another typical day for the Cleveland Browns.