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.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers won't play in the team's preseason opener on Friday against the San Francisco 49ers. Head coach Matt LaFleur said that Jordan Love will get the start. It's not a big surprise that the 38-year-old future Hall of Famer will be rested in the team's first preseason game, especially after he didn't play at all in the preseason last fall. The Packers are considering giving Rodgers some repetitions in the final preseason game on Aug. 25 against the Kansas City Chiefs this year. With All-Pro receiver Davante Adams gone, Rodgers' fantasy stock has fallen quite a bit to the low-end QB1/high-end QB2 range for the 2022 season.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield has the inside track on the starting job over Sam Darnold to open the 2022 regular season. Mayfield and Darnold opened training camp in an open competition and have been splitting first-team repetitions pretty much down the middle. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport says it's clear that it's Mayfield's job to lose. Darnold might be the more steady and safe option, but Mayfield has more ability and more "wow" plays. Mayfield should only gain more of an edge as he gets a better grasp of the team's playbook as well. The best-case scenario for the Panthers is if Mayfield wins the job outright. In the end, Carolina will be a defense-first team, and whoever wins the QB competition will be just a low-end QB2 for fantasy purposes.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Christian Kirk limped off the field at training camp practice on Monday with a trainer with an undisclosed injury. We'll get you more details when we know what is ailing Kirk. The 25-year-old didn't suit up for the Hall of Fame game last Thursday against the Las Vegas Raiders, and it remains to be seen if he'll play in the team's second preseason game this Friday against the Cleveland Browns. The Jags spent big on Kirk in the offseason to give second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence some more firepower. Consistency might be a problem for Kirk and the rest of Jacksonville's pass-catchers, though, even if Lawrence takes a step forward with new head coach Doug Pederson.
Philadelphia Eagles OT Le'Raven Clark (hamstring), DL Javon Hargrave (groin), CB Jimmy Moreland (ankle), SS Jaquiski Tartt (personal) and CB Kary Vincent Jr. (groin) were added to the injury report and did not practice Sunday, Aug. 7.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt was spotted doing 11-on-11 work during Sunday's practice. The veteran didn't participate in team drills over the last few days and recently requested a trade. However, with the Browns denying the demand, it appears Hunt has already raised the white flag. Although the 27-year-old is listed behind Nick Chubb on the depth chart, a spot he's very familiar with, he has historically been a relatively reliable PPR option due to his pass-catching ability. Still, he's dealt with injuries and off-the-field issues over the years, which remain concerns for fantasy managers heading into the 2022-23 campaign.
New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll reported he expects everyone healthy to suit up for Thursday's preseason opener against the Patriots. Daboll hopes to expose his players to as many live reps as possible, allowing everyone to become familiar with the new coaching staff. Although it's unknown how much work guys like Daniel Jones, Tyrod Taylor, and Saquon Barkley, among others, will receive versus New England, it will offer a small glimpse of what's to come for fantasy managers heading into the regular season.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson has been featured in different parts of the field throughout training camp. In an attempt to exploit opposing defenses this year, head coach Kevin O'Connell, who served as the Rams offensive coordinator last season, plans on utilizing Jefferson the same way Cooper Kupp was showcased in 2021-22. The 23-year-old has been a fantastic addition to fantasy rosters, accumulating 3,016 yards and 17 touchdowns off 196 catches since being drafted in 2020. Although Kupp should continue to be a reliable asset for managers in all formats, Jefferson's skill set could allow him to finish as the year's top fantasy wideout.
Miami Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin isn't a lock to be the No. 1 option on the depth chart. With the Dolphins having a crowded backfield consisting of Salvon Ahmed, Sony Michel, Chase Edmonds, and Raheem Mostert, it's anyone's guess who has the edge during training camp, especially with head coach Mike McDaniel remaining non-committal to reporters. While Gaskin may end up as McDaniel's preferred runner, it's unlikely he'll be a week-to-week fantasy option this season. As a result, fantasy managers may want to avoid this situation altogether, although Gaskin, Edmonds, Mostert, and Michel could have some potent showings in 2022-23.
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs isn't on the trade block, at least for now. After the 24-year-old was on the field for multiple series throughout the exhibition bout against the Jaguars, rumblings began to swirl about a potential move. However, head coach Josh McDaniels was quick to squash any rumors, indicating his preference to subject his players to "live hits" during the preseason, which can't be replicated at practice. Jacobs, whose fifth-year option was declined this offseason, had a down year running the ball in 2021, finishing with only 872 yards and nine touchdowns off 217 carries. Yet, he compiled a career-high 54 catches for 348 yards. While some fantasy managers expect the Alabama alum to bounce back this season, doing so may prove difficult with Kenyan Drake and Zamir White forecasted to also receive touches out of the backfield.
Seattle Seahawks CB Sidney Jones (concussion) remained sidelined at practice on Sunday, Aug. 7, due to a concussion.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt shocked many when he decided to request a trade from the organization. He started skipping team drills in camp while he seeks a new contract. The organization has responded by fining Hunt and declining his request for a trade. This ultimately might backfire on Hunt since the Browns do have depth at the running back position. Nick Chubb is a stud and D'Ernest Johnson has proven himself to be a capable option. The Browns would likely move Hunt if the team received real assets in return. However, it seems unlikely that the Browns are going to move Hunt just because he requested a new deal.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been on the trade block all offseason long. Despite that, there doesn't appear to be a clear trade partner for the veteran quarterback. At this point, it sounds like the team is fine with waiting until cutdown day to make a final decision on Garoppolo. There isn't much of a market for Garoppolo, so the team is waiting to see if another quarterback suffers an injury in camp. It's also worth noting that Garoppolo is working his way back from injury, so that could be part of the reason his trade market is slow. Regardless, fantasy managers shouldn't expect this situation to be resolved anytime soon.
Free-agent DBs Darryl Roberts (Commanders), Daryl Worley (Ravens) and Ken Crawley (Saints) worked out for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Aug. 7.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. could very well move up the depth chart quickly during training camp. The rookie wideout has reportedly hit the ground running in Chicago. The Bears took Jones in the third round, so clearly they believe in his ability on the field. It's also worth noting that Byron Pringle (quad) and N'Keal Harry (ankle) are sidelined right now. The Bears have little reliable depth, so they might be forced to use Jones to begin the season. He'll be a possible late-round target on draft day.
Chicago Bears wide receiver N'Keal Harry (ankle) was forced to exit Saturday's practice due to an ankle injury. It has now been revealed that Harry suffered a high-ankle sprain, which is not good news. The former first round pick was already having to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster. There is a good chance he misses a few weeks from this injury. The loss of Harry should mean more snaps for players such as Velus Jones Jr. and Dazz Newsome. This is a tough blow to a player who has struggled to make a name for himself in the league. Hopefully, Harry won't miss too much time, but it'll likely mean more looks for some younger players.
Dynasty | With no bell-cow running backs on the roster, there's fierce competition between all of them for the Dolphins starting role. Dynasty Analysis: The Dolphins currently roster Myles Gaskin, Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel and Salvon Ahmed so there's no shortage of noteworthy backs competing for the top spot. Gaskin and Ahmed have history with the team and are likely on the outside looking in due to prior experience. Newcomer Chase Edmonds is/was the favorite to receive the bulk of the regular-season work but fellow new back Raheem Mostert is said to be looking explosive in camp. It's anyone's guess who will emerge on top early in September but our money remains on a combination of Edmonds and Mostert leading the way in a rotation. Edmonds is found as DLF's RB35 while Mostert comes in at RB65.
Atlanta Falcons DT Vincent Taylor (Achilles) was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Sunday, Aug. 7, with a ruptured Achilles' tendon.
Cleveland Browns RB Kareem Hunt participated in team drills on Sunday, Aug. 7, after not doing so in previous practices because of his desire for a new contract or trade.
Fantasy Spin: Despite Hunt's demands, the Browns reportedly won't oblige, and his participation in practice on Sunday may mean he's accepted that fact. This situation still bears monitoring, but Hunt will be a borderline RB2 in a contract year.
Dynasty | Bears receiver N'Keal Harry suffered what appeared to be a significant ankle injury during practice Dynasty Analysis: After washing out in New England, Harry caught in with the receiver-needy Bears in an attempt to get a fresh start. No word yet on the severity as the team is awaiting further evaluation and results but best case scenario would seem to suggest at least a multiple week injury. We'll hope for the best for Harry and his loss would be another blow to an already suspect receiving corps. in the Windy City. Harry has fallen from the dynasty radar and remains unranked on DLF's receiver rankings.
Dynasty | No signing is imminent for free agent receiver Odell Beckham Dynasty Analysis: Expected to miss at least the first half of the 2022 regular season, Beckham will continue to rehab while waiting for his next best opportunity to present itself. Now in his age-30 season, OBJ would seem to be a fit for the Rams once again though the Packers are also said to be interested. As DLF's WR64, he's a dynasty "hold" while we wait and see where the mercurial receiver ultimately ends up. In any case, he's best rostered by competitive dynasty teams looking for late-season magic due to bye weeks or injury.