With the NFL now appealing Deshaun Watson's six-game suspension, there's a very real chance that his punishment could get worse in the coming weeks.
The NFL originally wanted Watson suspended for at least a year, and now, the league will be gunning to actually make that happen, according to CBS Sport NFL Insider Jonathan Jones. Although Judge Sue Robinson ordered the six-game suspension, Roger Goodell on Thursday appointed former New Jersey AG Peter C. Harvey to oversee the appeals hearing, Jones has confirmed. Harvey will now have final say in the case.
The NFL filing an appeal in a case where the NFL is in charge of the appeal process makes it hard to imagine a scenario where the NFL doesn't add a substantial amount of games to Watson's suspension.
Watson could have avoided all of this if he had settled his case with the NFL and he had a chance to do just that before Robinson delivered her judgement on Monday. According to ESPN.com, in the days leading up to Robinson's verdict, both the NFL and Watson's camp tried to work out a settlement.
Although the NFL wanted to see Watson suspended for a full year, the league was willing to trim that number down in a settlement. According to ESPN and Sports Illustrated, the NFL's final settlement offer was this: Watson would be suspended for 12 games and would also be fined $8 million to $10 million.
Watson's side shot down the offer because it wasn't willing to accept any deal that was going to suspend the quarterback for more than six to eight games. Watson also wasn't willing to accept a heavy fine, according to ESPN.com.
Basically, Watson took a gamble by not accepting the NFL's offer and it's looking more and more like he's going to lose that gamble. If Watson had accepted the 12-game suspension, he could have put all of this behind him, but instead, he might now be hit with an indefinite suspension of at least one year.
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At this point, it feels like the best-case scenario for Watson is now a 12-game suspension. With his six-game suspension currently under appeal, that actually gives the two sides more time to work out a possible settlement, which means Watson might get another chance to make a deal with the NFL.
The fact that the NFL was willing to agree to a 12-game ban in a potential settlement -- instead of a one-year suspension -- isn't a coincidence. According to Yahoo Sports, the NFL absolutely doesn't want to see Watson play the Texans in Week 13 and one way to keep him from doing that would be to suspend him for 12 games (If he got a 12-game suspension, the Texans game would be the final game that he'd have to sit out).
If there's no settlement and Watson's suspension ends up getting extended by the NFL, there's a very real chance that this case will end up in federal court. However, CBS Sports NFL Insider Josina Anderson reported on Thursday that Watson's camp hasn't made a decision on whether to file a federal lawsuit. According to Anderson, Watson's legal team will wait to see what happens in the appeal. If the suspension is bumped up to 12 games, they might just go along with it and not file a lawsuit. On the other hand, if he gets a ban of one year or more, it won't be surprising at all to see a lawsuit get filed.
No matter what happens, this is far from over. As for the appeal process, Watson's camp has until Friday to respond to the NFL's appeal. After that, the decision on Watson's suspension will fall squarely into the hands of Harvey.