Fri Jul 1 7:23pm ET
By ROB MAADDI
AP Pro Football Writer
Now that Deshaun Watson's disciplinary hearing has concluded, the best solution for the NFL and the quarterback's legal team is to reach a settlement before retired judge Sue Robinson issues a decision.
Watson was accused of sexual misconduct by 24 women and has settled 20 of the civil lawsuits. Two separate Texas grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints stemming from the allegations.
A settlement between the NFL and Watson would avoid an appeal that undermines the collectively bargained process with a disciplinary officer and prevents a potential federal court case. The longer the process drags on, the uglier it can get for the league and the QB.
The NFL is insisting on a suspension of at least one year and Watson's team has argued there is no basis for that punishment, four people with knowledge of the case, including two who were present during the hearings, told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details of the three-day proceedings were not publicly released.
Holding firm leaves little wiggle room for a settlement agreement and both sides are sticking to their strong positions.
Robinson, a former U.S. District Judge who was jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players' Association, will decide whether Watson violated the NFL's personal conduct policy and whether to impose discipline - and most importantly, how severe. Both sides believe she will impose a suspension. The question is how many games and whether either side would appeal her decision, putting it back in NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's hands.
When a person familiar with Watson's defense team was asked what would be an acceptable suspension, the person told the AP: ''Our goal is to get him back on the field this year.''
A 6-8 game suspension would fulfill that goal and allow Watson to play for the Cleveland Browns in 2022. So would 10 games, for that matter.
But then the next question is what's acceptable for the NFL. The league is well aware of public perception. Fallout from its decision in the Ray Rice case in 2014 (in which the league increased its suspension only after video of Rice hitting his fiance emerged) led the NFL to vow it would levy harsher penalties in cases involving violence and sexual assault against women.
A person familiar with the hearing told the AP the league believes it presented sufficient evidence to warrant keeping Watson off the field this season. The person said the league's investigation determined Watson committed multiple violations of the personal conduct policy.
If Robinson doesn't impose a suspension suitable to the NFL, the league still has the power to do so on its own. Per terms of Article 46 in the collective bargaining agreement, Goodell or his designee ''will issue a written decision that will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute,'' if either side appeals.
However, Watson's team could try to challenge a Goodell ruling in federal court.
That's another reason a settlement is the best way to resolve the dispute.
But it's unclear how many games the NFL would view as an acceptable number. The league can continue to insist on a one-year suspension but that's an obstacle to a mutually beneficial settlement.
There are varying opinions within the NFL.
Some league staffers didn't want Watson on the field for OTAs and minicamp after the Browns acquired him in a blockbuster trade with Houston. They want him to express remorse in his actions and willingly seek counseling before it's mandated through the disciplinary process.
But Goodell didn't exercise his right to place Watson on the Commissioner's Exempt list because the league typically uses that designation to prevent players from suiting up for games.
With the NFL and Watson's legal team on opposite ends of the suspension spectrum, and seemingly far apart in any private negotiations, a settlement may not be an option.
In which case, Robinson will make the first call - which may not be the final verdict.
The Baltimore Ravens activated cornerback Marcus Peters (knee) from the Physically Unable to Perform list on Monday less than a year after he tore his ACL in 2021. Peters is back on the practice field at training camp, but he's expected to be eased into action this summer. Peters missed all of the 2021 season as a result of his knee injury, but his return in 2022 will be a gigantic boost to a Ravens secondary that was absolutely decimated by injuries last year. The 29-year-old defensive back has made the Pro Bowl five times and is a four-time All-Pro in his six NFL seasons. Peters, a former first-round selection in 2015 by the Kansas City Chiefs out of the University of Washington, isn't on the fantasy radar in IDP leagues, but he's an extremely important piece of Baltimore's secondary.
The San Francisco 49ers released cornerback Darqueze Dennard on Monday. Dennard played in just two games last year, one with the New York Giants and one with San Francisco. Dennard was originally the 24th overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2014 out of Michigan State, and he spent six solid seasons with the Bengals before playing with the Atlanta Falcons in 2020. The 30-year-old hasn't played in double-digit games in a season since his second-to-last season in Cincinnati in 2018. Dennard will be hoping to latch on with another cornerback-needy team before the start of the 2022 regular season.
Cleveland Browns starting center Nick Harris (knee) will likely need season-ending surgery on his right knee for an injury that he suffered in Friday's preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, according to head coach Kevin Stefanski. Harris was replaced in Friday's game by Ethan Pocic, who signed a one-year, $1.187 million deal in March. Brock Hoffman, an undrafted rookie from Virginia Tech, is the only other center on the team's training camp roster. It remains to be seen if the Browns will look to re-sign JC Tretter, their starter the last five seasons, after they released him in a cost-cutting move in March. Pocic was a second-round pick in 2017 by the Seattle Seahawks, and he started 40 of his 57 games played in Seattle. It's bad news for the Browns offense, especially with quarterback Deshaun Watson's potential season-long suspension looming.
The Cleveland Browns activated cornerback Denzel Ward (foot) off the Physically Unable to Perform list on Monday, clearing him to begin practicing with the team at training camp. Ward wasn't able to practice with the team to begin camp this summer, but the expectation is that he'll be ready to go for the start of the regular season in Week 1. The two-time Pro Bowler finished his fourth NFL season in 2021 with 43 tackles (34 solo), three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 10 passes defensed and half a sack in 15 starts. While Ward isn't really on the radar in IDP fantasy leagues, he's a very important piece of Cleveland's secondary.
The Indianapolis Colts activated wide receiver Mike Strachan (knee) from the Physically Unable to Perform list on Monday. Strachan began training camp on the PUP list after having offseason knee surgery, but the Colts will now start working him into practices. In his rookie season, the seventh-round pick caught only two of his three targets for 26 yards in six games for Indy, but he'll be looking for a bigger role as a depth option for the Colts, behind the likes of Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell and rookie Alec Pierce. Strachan will be competing with Dezmon Patmon and Ashton Dulin for the fourth receiver spot in Indy to begin the 2022 season.
The Denver Broncos activated pass-rusher Randy Gregory (shoulder) off the Physically Unable to Perform list on Monday, according to a source. Gregory had offseason shoulder surgery and was one of the team's big free-agent signings of the offseason. The expectation is that he'll be ready for Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks. The 29-year-old is likely to be eased into training camp practices and preseason games, but barring a setback with his shoulder, he should be ready for the start of the regular season. Gregory is very injury-prone and hasn't played a full season since being taken in the second round of the 2015 draft by the Dallas Cowboys, but he also had 15.5 sacks over the last three years and could be on the IDP radar if he can stay healthy all year.
The Denver Broncos signed veteran free-agent linebacker Joe Schobert to an undisclosed deal on Monday, according to a source. Schobert starred for the Cleveland Browns and was most recently with the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, when he recorded 112 tackles (70 solo), one interception, six passes defensed and one forced fumble in 16 games. He will help fill the void created by an injury to Jonas Griffith (elbow), who will miss at least a month of action. The 28-year-old Schobert is expected to compete for a backup spot with Justin Strnad in Denver. Schobert brings plenty of experience to an already strong Broncos defense, and he's recorded 100-plus tackles in five of his six NFL seasons.
Dynasty | Falcons rookie running back Tyler Allgeier was listed as a riser in a recent camp report Dynasty Analysis: The rookie rushed for 25 yards on three carries in his first preseason action and also had a nice blitz pickup showing that he is picking up more than just yardage on the field. As noted in the attached link, the team is going to have a make a tough cut at some point at running back but Allgeier is certain to remain. He's still expected to play behind hybrid player Cordarrelle Patterson. He's listed as DLF's RB56 and is an intriguing second-round dynasty rookie draft selection.
Dynasty | Falcons running back Damien Williams was listed as a "faller" in a recent training camp report Dynasty Analysis: Williams only managed 10 yards on three carries in the team's first preseason game and it's likely too early to make any calls on his ability to stick on the roster. The team is going to have to make a tough cut or two at the position and it means Williams or Qadree Ollison could be the first to go. Given Ollison's better performance, Williams would seem to be more on the bubble. He's very sparsely ranked as DLF's RB79.
Dynasty | Bills rookie tight end Jalen Wydermyer has been released Dynasty Analysis: It's a bit of a surprise as Wydermyer had gained a bit of a following prior to the 2022 NFL Draft and he's certain to catch on elsewhere. For now, there's no need to roster the rookie until after we see him resurface and have impact with a new team. He's unranked on DLF's tight end rankings.
Dynasty | Vikings running back Kene Nwangwu was listed as a "riser" in a recent camp report Dynasty Analysis: Nwangwu looked decisive and agile in his first preseason action as he rushed for 41 yards on seven carries while converting both of his targets for 18 yards. Fellow backfield mate Ty Chandler rushed for more yardage and also looked strong but it was Nwangwu who looked more decisive and agile. With Dalvin Cook aging and Alexander Mattison a free agent in 2023, there's change on the horizon. Nwangwu, DLF's RB76, is a well valued dynasty stash for 2023 and beyond.
Minnesota Vikings kicker Greg Joseph made both of his field goal and extra point attempts in the team's preseason opener against the Las Vegas Raiders, connecting on 20-yard and 23-yard attempts in this one. The 28-year-old made 33-of-38 field goal attempts and 70-of-78 extra point attempts during the 2021 season, so he should be a reliable option for fantasy managers in 2022. After finishing as the sixth-best kicker in fantasy a season ago, Joseph seems like a safe weekly starting option as the Vikings offense should have no trouble putting him in a position to score points this season.
Minnesota Vikings running back Kene Nwangwu carried the ball seven times for 41 yards and caught two passes for an additional 18 yards in Sunday's preseason loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. The second-year back out of Iowa State will look to earn a role in the Minnesota offense this season, as he carried the ball just 13 times for 61 yards in his rookie year. Nwangwu was mostly used in the return game, showcasing his game-breaking speed on multiple occasions. As of now, he seems like a safe bet to be the RB3 behind Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, so his fantasy value could increase significantly if anyone ahead of him on the depth chart misses time this season.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Albert Wilson caught two passes for 22 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's preseason opener against the Las Vegas Raiders. Wilson saw just two targets in this one as he clearly made the most of his opportunity. The former Miami Dolphin will look to carve out a role in the offense as the preseason continues, but it is hard to envision him earning a role that will make him fantasy relevant. Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn are locked in as the top-three wide receivers, so Wilson will need to fend off Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Bisi Johnson for WR4 duties in the high-powered Minnesota offense. Wilson can be left off the fantasy radar for now.
Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler carried the ball five times for 50 yards in Sunday's preseason loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. The fifth-round pick out of North Carolina will need to continue to impress if he wants a role in the Minnesota offense, as Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, and Kene Nwangwu currently sit atop the depth chart. Head coach Kevin O'Connell praised the rookie after his strong performance, saying "he's pretty decisive in the run game, putting his foot down, getting north and south." Still, it is hard to envision Chandler having any fantasy value given that he is likely the fourth option in the backfield. The 24-year-old would need a lot to go his way to be considered for fantasy rosters this season.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kellen Mond completed 9-of-14 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns in the team's preseason opener against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. The Texas A&M collegiate product will look to gain the edge over Sean Mannion for QB2 duties throughout the rest of the preseason, as there have been reports that the 23-year-old has struggled in training camp. However, he outperformed his competition in this one, as Mannion completed 8-of-12 passes for just 79 yards. Mond won't have any fantasy value for the time being, but if he wins the backup job and Kirk Cousins misses time this season, he could be an interesting option with the Vikings' loaded supporting cast.
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor will miss the entire preseason, according to head coach Frank Reich. The star running back was rested during the preseason opener. Now, the organization has decided to have Taylor sit out the rest of the preseason. The Colts aren't expected to use any of their starters next week because of a joint practice with the Detroit Lions. The lack of reps for Taylor shouldn't be much of a concern for fantasy managers heading into the regular season.
Detroit Lions tight end Garrett Griffin has been released by the organization. The 28-year-old was reunited with head coach Dan Campbell earlier this offseason. They overlapped with each other during their time in New Orleans. Regardless, it doesn't sound like Griffin made the first round of cuts. That is not a good sign for the veteran blocking tight end. He played in a career-high 13 games last season with the Saints. Although, he couldn't make the Lions roster who lacks serious depth at tight end. Griffin is unlikely to be fantasy relevant on any roster. Fantasy managers should expect T.J. Hockenson to be the focal point at tight end in Detroit.
Cleveland Browns defensive back Greg Newsome II (hamstring) won't be sidelined for long, according to head coach Kevin Stefanski. The 22-year-old hasn't practiced since Tuesday and sat out the preseason opener. Despite that, the Browns don't expect Newsome to miss Week 1 of the regular season. The former first round pick battled multiple injuries last season. Although, he still had success with 37 tackles and nine passes defended through 13 games. Fantasy managers who have the Browns defense rostered shouldn't be worried about Newsome missing significant time from this injury.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara is unlikely to face a suspension, according to Adam Schefter. It seems increasingly more likely that Kamara won't be suspended before the regular season begins. That being said, it could happen down the road or even during the 2023 campaign. The 27-year-old is facing felony battery charges resulting in substantial bodily harm. The hearing is supposed to happen on September 29th, but it has also been postponed three times already. Kamara should be a fine RB2 after getting a career-high in touches last season. Although, the threat of a suspension is always looming, which does somewhat hurt his value.