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NFL Suspending Watson Full Season Causes Unintended Positives For Browns

The NFL is currently negotiating a suspension length with quarterback Deshaun Watson and the NFLPA, and a season-long suspension may not cause the effects they want.

While, in theory, a season-long suspension for quarterback Deshaun Watson seems practical, the NFL likely doesn't want that to happen. If Watson cannot accrue an entire season in 2022, the Browns would likely become heavy Super Bowl favorites in 2023 and beyond.

Yes, Watson may have committed deplorable acts. If he committed those actions, he should be punished accordingly. However, Watson is a talented football player, and once teams knew he wouldn't face criminal charges, it was inevitable that he would play again.

Furthermore, the NFL may not have the jurisdiction to enforce an unprecedented suspension. Several owners around the league have been subject to sexual misconduct allegations, including Dan Synder, who is currently under investigation.

The NFLPA could take the league to court if they deem that Watson's punishment is disproportionate to the discipline levied on owners. In that case, a judge may reduce Watson's suspension, causing a chain reaction of awful PR for the league office.

Those reasons make a season-long suspension unlikely, but it is in their best interest for Watson to accrue an entire season of playing service even if they ignore them. 

Watson must participate in six contests in a given season to accrue an entire season on his contract. Unless the NFL finds a loophole to ensure that he would miss the whole year while earning a season towards his contract, the Browns would be able to get an entire season of Watson in 2023 for just $1 million in base salary.

The team would then use the copious amounts of rollover cap they have saved to bring in premier talent from free agency. They would have around $80 million in cap space while having some of football's best players under contract long-term.

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For example, the Buffalo Bills brought in edge rusher Von Miller to help them contend for Super Bowls in the short term. Cleveland would be able to make several of those signings if Watson misses the entire year, making an already talented roster that much more competitive.

The worst-case scenario for Cleveland is an eleven-game suspension. That would minimize Watson's impact on the field while ensuring they cannot maximize the first-year base salary in the future.

On Thursday, CBS Sports' Josina Anderson reported that there was a roadblock in suspension negotiations between the league office, the NFLPA, and Watson's representation. The three parties reportedly had a dispute regarding the length of a suspension, and it's unclear when a verdict will be reached.

The NFL must be careful in these proceedings. They want to level enough discipline to save face with the general public but can't afford to have this situation go before a court.

The league wants this situation to be resolved so people can move forward. That's why they only gave the Browns two primetime games this year; they want Watson out of sight and out of mind. However, until they levy discipline, the national media will continue to cover the story daily.

Watson and the NFLPA may prefer for proceedings to go before a judge. They are reportedly building a solid case underscoring the hypocrisy the league office has shown in their dealings with Synder, Robert Kraft, Jerry Jones, and more.

They also likely want to know the length of a suspension, but if it is too harsh for their liking, they are more incentivized to hold out of negotiations. There are many moving parts to this equation, and things seem to get more complex with each passing day.

Whether the NFL or Watson's team was unsatisfied with the length remains unclear. July 1 always seemed to be the target date for suspension news, but as more new wrinkles unfold, that may not be the case.