Deshaun Watson's immediate NFL future currently lies in the hands of former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey, of initial disciplinary recommendations for the Browns quarterback. With Harvey's deliberation looming, however, the NFL and NFL Players Association are in "active settlement negotiations," according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones and the result likely to allow him to take the field in 2022.
Former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson, jointly appointed by the NFL and NFLPA to recommend discipline for Watson, initially proposed a six-game suspension for the QB, who faced 24 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct this offseason. The NFL quickly appealed the ruling, with commissioner Roger Goodell seeking at least a full-season ban for Watson after a league investigation revealed a pattern of "predatory" behavior from the former Texans QB in dozens of private massage sessions.
Harvey, a former prosecutor who previously upheld the NFL's suspension of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott in 2017, is expected to lengthen Watson's suspension in his forthcoming appeal ruling, per Aaron Wilson. It's possible he could even institute an indefinite ban, which the league reportedly sought during Robinson's initial hearing. Meanwhile, a potential settlement between the NFL and NFLPA, representing Watson, could theoretically lengthen the six-game ban without forcing the QB to miss all of 2022.
Robinson declared in her initial findings that Watson's "pattern of conduct," though not criminally charged, "is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL." The QB, who's confidentially settled all but one of the 24 lawsuits he faced, has maintained his innocence, though he only recently expressed remorse for his actions during the investigated string of private massage sessions. The Browns, who committed a record $230 million guaranteed to Watson as part of a trade for the Pro Bowler this spring, have publicly defended Watson and his character since acquiring him.